The Young Lord Organization

We’ve been celebrating Latinx Heritage Month through our 4-part email series and webinar. To commemorate the month, we joined forces with @HBCUPalante to bring a wide-ranging look at the African Diaspora — honing in on intersectionality, specifically those of Latinx descent.

For part 3 of our 4 part email series, HBCU Palante talks terminology of AfroLatinx to AfroLatine and The Young Lord Organization.

To start with AfroLatine: Replacing all gendered words in the Spanish language with their more inclusive alternatives — whether that be an “x” or an “e” — can be a challenge. The term Latinx was created to include non-binary persons into numerous dialects whose language has customarily utilized constructs that are male or female. However, it does not follow Spanish grammar which can appear to not honor the culture, as language is a part of culture. Latine acknowledges non-binary persons while observing rules of Spanish grammar. This idea is native to the Spanish language and can be seen in many gender-neutral words like “estudiante”.

Now, let’s talk about the Young Lord Organization! This organization was established in 1968 through a transformation from a Puerto Rican gang in Chicago, to a civil and human rights organization. The Young Lords were inspired by Latinx movements in the Southwest and the movements of the Black Panther Party.

Growing momentum, it spread to New York City which at the time had one of the largest Puerto Rican populations; they established the Young Lord Party (YLP). Leadership largely composed of AfroLatine, YLP saw itself as part of the African Diaspora. They weren’t limited to Puerto Ricans either, there were Dominicans, Cubans, Panamanians, and Mexicans, as well as Black folks putting in work for the movement.

They organized street cleanings in El Barrio and demanded hospital upkeep. This prompted a complete overhaul of the Bronx medical system and brought healthcare to the underserved. Moreover, the Young Lords Party enacted the 13-Point Program and Platform, focusing on liberation, removal of the military in Puerto Rico, and historically accurate education in the school system.

One of the cofounders of the Young Lords Party — New York Branch Party is Felipe Luciano. An AfroBoricua radio, television, and journalist. He credits his grandmother, Margo, with instilling in him cultural pride of his AfroLatine ancestry.

Upon establishing the NYC chapter of YLP in 1969, YLP polled the East Harlem residents as to their most pressing issue. Residents said — la basura (the trash). Luciano was stunned, he thought it would have been housing. But understanding YLP was there for the people, they spent time cleaning the streets with their house brooms and bagging garbage calling their first public campaign — Garbage Offensive.

The campaign required quality supplies like industrial brooms. Luciano asked the neighborhood sanitation officer — but he refused. Luciano pushed him aside and got the broom himself. YLP grew tired of the disregard shown by police and sanitation workers in El Barrio. They responded with the “garbage riot” in the summer of 1969.

They built five-foot-tall barricades across Third Avenue, halting traffic. Then they set the garbage on fire. As a result, the garbage service showed some improvement. On December 7, 1969, Luciano and 12 other Young Lords were beaten and arrested inside First Spanish Methodist Church in East Harlem after requesting to use the space for a breakfast program. They returned on the 28th for an eleven-day occupation, renaming it the People’s Church. There, they provided free breakfast and clothing programs, health services, a day care center, and a liberation school from the church. The occupation attracted celebrity visitors and food donations from business leaders. Interestingly, their local legal counsel was a young Jerry Rivers (now known as Geraldo Rivera) who also served as Chair.

Felipe Luciano was also a member of the Original Last Poets, a coalition of Black and AfroLatine poets. He remains committed to community empowerment, ethnic pride, and civil rights. You can follow him at @felipejluciano and also catch him on WBAI NYC 99.5, where he plays some of the best salsa, discusses Latin roots, and takes on important issues in the Latin community.

You can read more about the Young Lord Organization and their activism through this op-ed by the New York Times.