Poll: Did Young Lords leave positive legacy?

September 18, 2008

At Chicago Public Radio's West Side bureau, we're working with a few community volunteers. Two of them, social worker Josƒ© Madera and aspiring journalist Ian Fullerton, are helping develop content for this blog. That content will include, for starters, polls and community discussions on local topics that aren't getting much attention in other media. We won't generally have time or space to announce events here, but a couple commemorations this weekend (below) did get us thinking about the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican group in Chicago that eventually spread to some 20 U.S. cities. Before taking our poll, consider this background: After years as a street gang, the Young Lords began organizing on social issues in 1968. In several Chicago neighborhoods, especially Lincoln Park, the group pushed for what it called Puerto Rican self-determination. The Young Lords fought tenant evictions, created a People's Church and protested police approaches they described as brutal. Methods ranged from sit-ins and picketing to vandalism and seizure of land slated for urban renewal. The group aligned with a movement in Puerto Rico that wanted to end U.S. control of the island. Taking a page from the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords also set up community services such as a child-care center, a health clinic and a breakfast program. Law-enforcement officials tended to view the Young Lords as leftwing subversives or, at least, thugs who disrupted public order. Young Lords Chairman Josƒ© ("Cha-Cha") Jimƒ©nez faced charges ranging from assaults on police to mob actions. (The photo, courtesy of Carlos Flores, shows Jimƒ©nez addressing a 1975 rally on the corner of Wilton Avenue and Grace Street.) In the 1970s, the movement dissipated, due partly to infiltration and other aggressive tactics of the FBI and local governments. In Chicago, the Young Lords faced Mayor Richard J. Daley's Subversive Activities Unit, a police arm known widely as the "red squad." Here are the events: On FRIDAY, DePaul University's Center for Latino Research opens a photo exhibit with a 6 p.m. reception in the Richardson Library, 2350 N. Kenmore Ave., in Chicago. The exhibits come from two collections: "Radicals in Black and Brown: Palante, People's Power, and Common Cause in the Black Panthers and the Young Lords Organization" and "Chicago's Original Rainbow Coalition 1969-1975: The Young Lords Organization, the Black Panthers, and Rising Up Angry." On SUNDAY, former Young Lords members will lead a rally at 2 p.m. at San Lucas United Church of Christ, 2914 W. North Ave., in Chicago. Speakers include Jimƒ©nez (now an Ohio youth counselor), former member Carlos Flores (a Chicago artist), former New York chapter leader Felipe Luciano, and former Black Panther Communications Secretary Kathleen Cleaver (a senior lecturer at Emory University School of Law). After taking the poll, please post a comment. We'd like to hear about any signs, positive or negative, of a Young Lords legacy in Chicago today. [poll id="8"]
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