46th Anniversary of the New York Young Lords

On July 26, 1969, the New York Young Lords announced themselves to a public audience at a Tompkins Square Park rally. The next day, they were blocking the streets of El Barrio with trash, protesting both their unsanitary living conditions brought on by willful neglect of their community and the sanitizing force of “the system” — it’s capacity to nullify resistive movements and homogenize difference.

The first New York-rooted, radical Puerto Rican group of the post-McCarthy era, the Young Lords were central to a set of transformations in their community and beyond. This group of young people spoke truth to power and mobilized thousands of supporters in the communities to which they anchored themselves and their activism.

But why, after all of these years, has still so little been written on the New York Young Lords (and even less on the original Chicago chapter or the branches in Philadelphia, Bridgeport, etc.)? Appearing as the main subject of only a handful of articles and book chapters — and appearing, more frequently, as an aside or summation — the memory of Young Lords has circulated like a ghost for leftist Puerto Rican academics. Is it because the group, ultimately, wasn’t instrumentally “successful” in many of their specific interventions? Is it because so much of the scholarship coming out of Puerto Rican studies has focused on older histories, literary and cultural studies, and so on? Who knows; but more work needs to be done.

Cover Small

My recently released book, The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation (Temple University Press), is one such effort at filling out the history of the Young Lords in New York. Focused largely on the group’s early activism, I craft a critical-interpretive history of the Young Lords to help introduce them to a broader audience. Beyond the historical point, the book is also an effort to enrich our understandings of decolonial praxis and its potentials. Decolonial theory — especially as engaged by scholars from Latin American and Latin@ contexts — has evolved well over the last couple of decades. I believe it can be pushed further via engagement of particulars, of the grounded ways in which people and groups seek to delink from modernity/coloniality in their lived environments.

In the fourth chapter of book, I examine the Young Lords’ “garbage offensive” as an activist moment that speaks to/through multiple gestures of decolonial praxis. As their first direct-action campaign, the Young Lords helped craft the space of El Barrio as a colonized place, one in which broader based efforts at politicizing the residents would be necessary. Crucially, rather than merely asserting themselves in El Barrio, the Young Lords listened to the people in order to discern their needs, which is how they came to the issue of garbage in the first place. In listening to the cries of the dispossessed, the Young Lords engaged in a key practice of decolonial love and went on, further, to model such love in the immediate community and beyond.

Now, there is some question as to how unique activism around garbage was to the Young Lords. As I talk about in the book, there is evidence that a branch of the Real Great Society has engaged in similar garbage protests earlier than the Young Lords. What’s important here, however, is not the question of who did it first, but the different issue how they came about the idea, gave it priority and presence, and cultivated political transformations in the community that could transgress constructions of Puerto Ricans as a political, docile, and so on.

Although my book engages in detailed analyses surrounding the garbage offensive, the church offensive, their transformations surrounding gender, their articulation of revolutionary nationalism, and their engagements of history, more work remains to be done. Aside from a brief mention, I devote little attention to their takeover of Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. I barely write about the branches that sprouted up outside of New York City. My hope is that others will continue to add to the breadth of the Young Lords’ history in ways that scholars have done with the Black Panthers, the Chican@ movement, and beyond. As one recent report puts it, “The time is ripe for a look back at one of the most potent and political organizations of the 20th century.” Running now through October, ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York is a multi-site exhibition of Young Lords art and activism at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, and Loisiada Inc. Through such exhibitions and more scholarship — not to mention reporting in outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera America, and the New York Times — my hope is that memory of the Young Lords can live on and continue to inform public debates and activism now and into the future.

 

**A version of this post first appeared on the Temple University Press Blog.

What is the National Puerto Rican Day Parade to a Boricua in Iowa?

I’ve never lived in a Puerto Rican stronghold. Aside from my three years in Texas and a postdoc in a Latina/o studies program in Illinois, I’ve never really lived or worked in a big Latin@ community, either. And somehow — despite all the research and other trips over the years — I’ve never been in New York City in mid-June. While I’ve watched, in awe, the glorious spectacle that is the Puerto Rican Day Parade, I’ve never experienced it in person. So what does the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade today mean to me? Continue reading “What is the National Puerto Rican Day Parade to a Boricua in Iowa?”

The Young Lords and Malcolm X

On what would have been the 90th birthday of Malcolm X, it behooves us all to remember the impact that great man had for many different communities. Although they blazed their own path in many significant ways, the Young Lords owed a great debt to the ideas and leaders from the Black and Third World Left.

So important was Malcolm X to the New York Young Lords — a group of, primarily, Nuyorican, radical youth fighting for freedom and justice in their community — that in the first issue of Palante published in New York City (in late 1969), their initial biographical feature was not on a great Puerto Rican leader. It was on Malcolm X and the relevance of his legacy.

Malcolm(Click image for a larger version in a  new tab.)

In this short call to action, the Young Lords connected Malcolm X to the Black Panther Party, to the politics of Pedro Albizu Campos, and the need for Puerto Rican and African American solidarity in the nascent struggle against racist, classist oppression.

In a later issue of Palante, they published another piece on Malcolm that makes similar calls for imagining connections between the Puerto Rican and Black struggles against “amerikkkan” oppression.

Malcolm 2(Click image for a larger version in a  new tab.)

So on this 90th anniversary of Malcolm X’s birth, I choose to remember his important deeds and words; but I also choose to remember some of the ways in which those deeds and words had uptake outside of African American and Black communities and served as a touchstone and rallying point for revolutionary politics in communities of color across the nation. The Young Lords were one, I think important, point of uptake in the Latin@ community that helped Malcolm X’s legacy live on.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about the New York Young Lords, check out The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation, which is due out from Temple University Press next month.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Angela Davis

I decided to dig through my archive a little bit to pull out a couple of pieces from the Young Lords’ newspaper, Palante, on Angela Davis. The Young Lords worked in coalition with the Black Panthers, Young Patriots, and other radicals — individuals and groups — committed to liberation across the Global South.

This first piece was published in the September 11, 1970 issue of Palante, which was shortly after Davis was initially charged with kidnapping and murder (charges, as everyone knows or should know, that were proven false after a lengthy trial and imprisonment):

palante_v2n11-Sept11-1970(click on the image to enlarge)

This second piece was published in the March 31-April 14 issue of Palante, shortly after Davis’s trial finally began:

palante_v4n07-April14-1972

(click on the image to enlarge)

More On the New Edition of Palante

A couple of days ago, I posted with glee that my copy of Palante had shipped. Having just arrived home from doing some work, I was delighted to see the box containing the book sitting on my front porch. What follows are some initial thoughts on the text, which underscore my prior belief that everyone needs a copy of this historic and affordable book.  Continue reading “More On the New Edition of Palante”

The New Palante Is Out (and Why You Should Care)

Perhaps I order too many books, which Is probably an occupational hazard for folks in my line of work. As such, I often don’t pay close attention to emails with the subject line “Your Amazon.com order has shipped.” Today, I’m glad that I looked because my copy of Palante: Voices and Photographs of the Young Lords, 1969-1971 is on its way. This re-release and re-naming of the 1971 Palante: Young Lords Party, which has been out of print for a long time, adds an introduction by Iris Morales, filmmaker and Young Lord, and promises to be a great addition to the resources available on the organization. So why should you care? Here are a couple of reasons.  Continue reading “The New Palante Is Out (and Why You Should Care)”

Digital Meets Analogue: The iPad and the Archives

Archives are heterogeneous institutional spaces that contain documents of historical significance. Often, but not always, housed within libraries, every archive has its unique little quirks: different policies for access, photography, and photocopying; different levels of friendliness and usefulness of the employees; different kinds of lighting and seating; etc. Given those differences, about the only things that hold true across all the archives with which I’m familiar are three truths: (1) you may bring in paper and pencil, (2) you may use a piece of technology for taking notes (laptop, iPad, etc.), and (3) you must be patient.

As promised in an earlier post, I wanted to do a process piece explaining and evaluating a method for using the iPad in an archival setting. Having just returned from New York last month, the methods, advantages, and disadvantages are relatively fresh in my mind; however, I’ve also had some time and distance to reflect on how well things worked and to share those thoughts with y’all. The post will slip between a summary and evaluative voice (looking back at what I did) and a prescriptive one, indicating practices that I think one ought to consider enacting/adopting. So here goes…. Continue reading “Digital Meets Analogue: The iPad and the Archives”

Finishing Things in New York

Okay … so in case it wasn’t perfectly clear before, y’all should know now that I’m a bad blogger. Here I am, sitting in a coffee shop just hours before I leave the City, and I’m realizing that I haven’t posted a single blog entry in over a week. Let me take a little bit of time to catch y’all up so that, in my next entry, the kinds of reflections I have about doing technologically enhanced archival research have some context. Continue reading “Finishing Things in New York”

Day 2: First Day Actually Researching

After begging and pleading, first thing this morning, with management about letting me keep my room despite the overbooking situation (a plea that was successful!), I headed off to the Tamiment for some good old fashioned archival research. To my rhetorician friends: if you haven’t done a project that requires you to get dirty in an archive, and to physically handle old documents that few even know exist, then you’re really missing out! I knew, in doing prior research, that the Young Lords flyered a lot, made numerous pamphlets, etc. Those kinds of things don’t survive, or so I thought.  Continue reading “Day 2: First Day Actually Researching”

Reflecting on Archives (with a Bib-in-Progress)

As I’m preparing to head to New York City to hit up a few archives — some for the first time, some again/”just to make sure” — I’m reflecting a little on “the archive” and its role or place in communication scholarship. I’ve been doing archival research since the eighth grade, thanks to a wonderful teacher who taught us how to use and required us to use places like the Washington State Archives and the Northwest Room and Special Collections at the Tacoma Public Library. Since then, I’ve done a lot more archival research and have crafted an archive of my own, which gathers perhaps the most comprehensive collection of materials on the Young Lords. Still, I probably don’t stop often enough to think about the status and function(s) of the archives and institutions I visit, and the archive of my own that I have constructed.  Continue reading “Reflecting on Archives (with a Bib-in-Progress)”