This weekend marks the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the
revolutionary community organizing group the Young Lords. The group
called for self-determination for all Puerto Ricans, community
control of institutions and land, freedom for all political prisoners
and the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, Puerto Rico and other
areas. The Young Lords would also play a pivotal role in spreading
awareness of Puerto Rican culture and history, leaving a legacy still
felt today. We play excerpts of the documentary Palante, Siempre
Palante!: The Young Lords and speak to three of the group's original
members: Luis Garden Acosta, Mickey Melendez, and Democracy Now!
co-host Juan Gonzalez.
Juan Gonzalez, New York Daily News columnist and Democracy Now!
co-host. He served as the group's first Minister of Education.
Luis Garden Acosta, former member of the Young Lords. He is the
founder, president and CEO of El Puente, a community human rights
institution in Brooklyn, New York.
Mickey Melendez, former member of the Young Lords and author of the
book We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords.
AMY GOODMAN: The year was 1969, remembered by many as the summer of
Woodstock and the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was also the year when a
group of young Puerto Rican activists formed the New York chapter of
the Young Lords Organization. The Young Lords were a revolutionary
group modeled on the Black Panther Party.
In late July 1969, the group staged their first action in an effort
to force the City of New York to increase garbage pick-up in East
Harlem. The Young Lords would go on to inspire activists around the
country as they occupied churches and hospitals in an attempt to open
the spaces to community projects.
JUAN GONZALEZ: The group called for self-determination for all Puerto
Ricans; for independence for the island of Puerto Rico; community
control of institutions and land; freedom for all political
prisoners; and the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, Puerto Rico
and other areas. The Young Lords would also play a pivotal role in
spreading awareness of Puerto Rican culture and history. While the
group disintegrated in the mid-1970s, its impact is still felt today.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, this Sunday, members of the Young Lords are
planning to come together to mark the fortieth anniversary of the
group's founding. The event will take place at the First Spanish
Methodist Church in East Harlem, the same church on East 111th Street
that the group took over in late 1969 to house free breakfast and
clothing programs, health services, a daycare center, a liberation
school and community dinners. The occupation ended in January 1970,
when police raided the church, arresting 105 members of the Young Lords.
Attendees on Sunday will include Democracy Now! co-host Juan
Gonzalez, who served as the first Minister of Education for the Young Lords.
We'll speak with Juan and two other former members of the Young Lords
in a few minutes, but first we want to turn to excerpts of a
documentary called ¡Palante, Siempre Palante!: The Young Lords by
filmmaker Iris Morales.
PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: Inspired by world events and their experiences in
the civil rights, antiwar and student movements, Latinos responded
with direct action and political organization.
MICKEY MELENDEZ: I was one of the original five or six people in New
York City that started the Sociedad de Albizu Campos, that eventually
became the Young Lords organization and then the Young Lords Party.
JUAN GONZALEZ: The Sociedad had been meeting since the winter of '68,
'69, to try to form some kind of a political group for Puerto Ricans.
DENISE OLIVER: Around about that time, the Panthers were in existence
in New York, and we were all reading The Black Panther paper. We were
sort of fascinated with what they were doing. In that issue of the
Panther paper was a very interesting article about this group of
Puerto Ricans in Chicago, the Young Lords.
PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: The Chicago Young Lords pressured institutions to
respond to concerns of the surrounding Latino community. Led by Cha
Cha Jimenez, they occupied a local church in the fall of 1968.
CHA CHA JIMENEZ: We're starting opening up a daycare center for
welfare mothers, mothers that are on welfare that want to work, or
just mothers whether they're on welfare or not and want to work, you
know, something like that. So we take care of the children. We go
outwe're planning to go out in the morning and pick them up, you
know, because of the wintertime, the snow and that, and take them back.
PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: In New York, young Latinos were inspired by the
Chicago Young Lords.
DENISE OLIVER: And a decision was made by some of the guys to hop in
a car and drive to Chicago and go and meet Cha Cha. And when they got
back from Chicago, they were very excited. They had met Cha Cha. They
were very impressed with him. And they had made an agreement to start
an East Coast branch of the Young Lords organization at that time.
PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: The organization followed a military structure.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We then chose a central committee of five people,
which at that time was Felipe Luciano was Chairman, Pablo Guzman as
the Minister of Information, myself as the Minister of Education,
David Perez as the Minister of Defense, and Juan Fi Ortiz as the
Minister of Finance.
To me, the most amazing thing about everything that happened
afterwards is that a group of young people, young Puerto Ricans,
could have the kind of impact and effect the kind of changes that
were done in the city, I think, speaks, one, to the tremendous
potential that any young people have, once they decide to do something.
At a certain point, after the Young Lords had developed and we were
beginning to become known, Pablo started saying, "We need a program."
PABLO GUZMAN: We needed to have something that we could constantly
refer to, a point of reference, not only for the people out there
that we were organizing around, but for ourselves.
PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: The thirteen-point program was written. It called
for self-determination, an end to racism, community control of
institutions, armed self-defense, and a socialist society. The Young
Lords expanded their activities to provide free breakfast programs
and free clothing drives. Through serve-the-people programs, they
developed a strong relationship with the community.
PABLO GUZMAN: We went very innocently looking for space for our
breakfast programs and some of our other programs that were beginning
to expand, and we needed more space. And there was this building that
was empty pretty much most of the time in El Barrio, and we just went
knocking on the door, saying, "Excuse me. I mean"and we figured it's
a church, you know, and they're going to, you know, greet us with
open arms. Felipe found out that there was a Sunday coming up that
was a testimonial Sunday. And knowing how this worked in these
churches, in Protestant churches, he knew that anybody could get up
FELIPE LUCIANO: When I stood up to speak and asked them why they
refused, I went to the front of the altar. I remember women trying to
hit me with candelabras. One guy, who we now know was an agent,
pulled the plug off the organ. They were playing "Onward Christian
Soldiers," and as they were playing "Onward Christian Soldiers," six
policemen beat me from the front of the altar all the way to the end.
I remember I was slipping on my own blood. Thirteen of us, I think,
were arrested, handcuffed and thrown into police cars. The police
don't know this, but at that point we already knew that we had won.
We literally kidnapped the church.
FELIPE LUCIANO: Now, we want to make it very clear once again why the
Young Lords have occupied the church. One, the First Spanish
Methodist Church is empty six days a week. Two, it has the largest
space available for community service programs. Let it be understood
that we never askedand these are the myths that must be destroyed
right nowwe never asked to take over the institution. We never asked
to control the church. We only asked for cooperation in terms of
running a breakfast program for needy children. We'd like to make it
very clear, however, that this is going to happen to any institution
in any oppressed community that does not respond to the needs of the people.
CROWD: Right on!
PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: In New York, the Young Lords continued to grow
and directed their efforts to community health issues. They launched
a lead poisoning detection program.
DENISE OLIVER: Ultimately, we found out that about a third of the
children in East Harlem had high levels. And as a result of this
program, legislation was passed here in New York City banning the use
of lead-based paints in tenements and in apartment buildings, and
also a law was put into effect that landlords would have to go back
and take that lead paint out of the apartments, which has not been
followed up on.
MICKEY MELENDEZ: We had been doing TB testing throughout the
community, in the projects, in housing and in apartments. And what we
found out was that there was a high percentage of people testing
positive. The city at the time had this TB truck that it would park
in very obscure places, and maybe they would see twenty, thirty,
forty people a day. We got into negotiations with the city, of
saying, "Why park it there? We have a location. We'll get the people
that have tested positive the week before," because we would go out
every Saturday and do the TB testing. Anyway, to no avail. They
wanted to park the carthe truck where they had been parking it, and
they were ready to budge from that. We planned an action. We took
over the TB truck.
MINERVA SOLLA: And we brought it into the community, because they
were not servicing the committee at that time. They were servicing
other areas in the city.
MICKEY MELENDEZ: That day, we had over 150 people taking x-rays. The
technicians stayed there and were very pleased on how we dealt with
PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: The Young Lords and the Health Revolutionary
Unity Movement, a group of hospital workers and doctors, joined
forces to organize for decent conditions. They targeted Lincoln
Hospital, the sole facility available to the people of the South Bronx.
UNIDENTIFIED: That building was condemned twenty-five years ago.
Condemned because it was unsafe for human habitation. Condemned for
rich people and opened up for poor people. That's what always happens.
PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: The Young Lords took over Lincoln Hospital to
address community health issues.
MICKEY MELENDEZ: The politicians and the city administration had
earmarked monies for a new hospital. It was taking ten or fifteen
years. In the South Bronx at the time, in 1970, the statistics were
something like one out of every five people were addicted to heroin.
VICENTE ALBA: We all took over Lincoln Hospital. And the second time
we took it over, we started a drug program called the Lincoln detox.
MICKEY MELENDEZ: We would see an average of 600 to 700 people a week
at Lincoln Hospital for those first couple of years that we were
doing it. We would put people on a ten-day detox.
PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: In 1976, a new Lincoln Hospital was finally built
in the South Bronx.
AMY GOODMAN: Excerpts from the documentary ¡Palante, Siempre
Palante!: The Young Lords by filmmaker Iris Morales, a former Young
Lord herself. Well, for more on the film, you can go to the website
But to talk more about the Young Lords on this fortieth anniversary,
we are joined by three of its members. Juan Gonzalez, co-host here at
Democracy Now!, served as the group's first Minister of Education.
We're also joined by Luis Garden Acosta. He is the founder, president
and CEO of El Puente, community human rights institution in Brooklyn,
New York. And Mickey Melendez is also with us. He is the author of
the book We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords.
Mickey, talk about the beginning.
MICKEY MELENDEZ: You know, I think that the beginning goes back to
our individual stories as first-generation Puerto Ricans born, raised
and educated in this country, you know, our parents living out
theirthe dream through us, and us being exposed to this countrythe
assassination of Kennedy, Malcolm, and Don Pedro died in '65, the
assassination of Martin Luther King and Kennedy, and just the
groundswell of civil rights movement in this country. And we were
part of that. You know, I think we were part of an international
youth movement that was going on at the time.
I think if we did anything, we changed everything about ourselves. We
defined how we wanted to be looked at, and we defined to the rest of
the world how we wanted to be looked at as Puerto Ricans.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Mickey, of course, you were theyou've always been
known as the convener, as the person who brought everyone together.
Many of us did not know each other at the time. And the difficulties,
because it was an extremelyas I've always said, a brilliant group,
but very disparate in their viewpoints and their outlooks. The work
of bringing people together, could you talk about that some?
MICKEY MELENDEZ: Well, you know, it's like I had known these people
from different parts of my life. And to me, I felt thought they were
the, you know, brightest, young, energetic bunch of guys that I had
known. I met Felipe at Queens College when I was at the SEEK Program,
and he was just coming out of jail. I met Juan Gonzalez on the steps
of Columbia University, the Low Library. I had played baseball with
his two cousins, so that gave me some credibility with him. Pablo, I
met at Westbury. David Perez, I met when I went to Chicago to recruit
for the state university at Westbury.
And, you know, we started off as a study group. We started off as a
study group trying to get connected to our history, because we were
actually a generation disconnected from our history. And by "our
history," I'm talking about the history of struggle going back to
1868, anti-colonialism, anti-slavery, the rise of the Nationalist
Party, the struggles of independence for Puerto Rico, understanding,
you know, colonialism.
And once we got a hold of that history, it wasyou know, this group
of young men began to understand that history and began to talk
about, well, what do we do? What's going to be our expression? You
know, the Black Panthers were there. The Brown Berets were there. And
we then basically modeled ourselves around those organizations with a
platform and a program.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break, and then Luis Garden Acosta and
Juan, we're going to come back to all of you, as we talk on this
fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Young Lords. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, I want to play some archival footage of you
speaking at a Young Lords rally in the early 1970s.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We entered this church a year ago. We were evicted. A
hundred and five of us were arrested, and nothing has changed.
We seized a tuberculosis truck that the city was misusing. We used
that tuberculosis truck to test our people, one of the diseases of
oppression they suffer the most. That was taken away from us. And
again, our people still have a highest incidence of TB.
And now, finally, not only do they continually slap in our faces
basic reforms that we ask for, now they have killed one of our
members. And we've seen what's happened to political parties in the
past. We've seen what happened to the Nationalist Party in Puerto
Rico that was wiped out by the United States. We've seen what's
happened to the Black Panther Party, as, year in and year out, police
departments across this country has little by little killed, until
now it's thirty Black Panthers. And so, we asked ourselves after the
death of Julio, do we have to wait for number two or number three or
number five or number fifteen, before we realize that that's all that
this system has in store for us?
So we felt now is the time for us to say exactly how we're going to
respond to the killings of our people. We're not going to sit by and
allow more Julios and allow more Carmen Rodriguez abortion deaths. We
have to begin to stand up as a people, the Puerto Rican people, and
say, "That's enough." That's enough.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that's Juan Gonzalez almost forty years ago. Juan,
set the context.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, that was the Second People's Church in October
of 1970, when one of our members who had been arrested on a minor
charge, Julio Roldan, was found hanged in his cell in the Tombs, and
mysteriously hanged, because supposedly he should have had his belt
removed before he was put into this particular wing. And this had
been after a period when about, I think it was fifteen or sixteen
blacks and Latinos had been found hanged in their cells in a variety
of jails in New York City. It was a rash that many suspected were
actually guards actually hanging black and Latino inmates.
So we then did a second takeover or occupation of the People's
Church. This time it was an armed takeover of the church, and it
lasted for several days, and demanding justice in the case of Julio Roldan.
Eventually, what happened is the Lindsay administration agreed to
establish a commission. It was called the Vanden Heuvel Commission.
William vanden Heuvel was chosen as the head of the commission.
AMY GOODMAN: Katrina vanden Heuvel's father.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Katrina vanden Heuvel's father, exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: Head of The Nation.
JUAN GONZALEZ: He was chosen to head the Vanden Heuvel Commission to
investigate the conditions in the New York City prisons. That was a
direct result of our protest.
And we actually were able to negotiate with the Lindsay
administration and the police department for us to remove the weapons
from the church and leave the church, and no one actually was arrested.
And I'm often reminded by Ray Kelly, the current police commissioner
of New York, who was a sergeant in the East Harlem police precinct at
the time, that he remembers all of us from those days and that he's
known us for forty years, even though we didn't know him for forty
years. And so thatyeah, Kelly was just a sergeant then in East
Harlem at the time and was part of the police detail that was
assigned to the Second People's Church at the time.
AMY GOODMAN: Many of you went on to become journalists. You're a
columnist in the New York Daily News, were at the Philadelphia Daily
News; Felipe Luciano on the networks in New York; Pablo Guzman.
Luis Garden Acosta, you started the Young Lords chapter in Massachusetts
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: when you were at Harvard Medical School?
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Yes, yes. You know, I was part of the Health
Ministry of the Young Lords. I joinedyou know, I'm a Catholic social
activist, antiwar person who had spent time as part of John Lindsay's
Mayor's Office. So I come to
AMY GOODMAN: The mayor.
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: this movement seeing the inadequacies of
government and also looking at the antiwar movement as being rather
segregated and not connecting to the issue of racism and poverty and
the dehumanizing services by government institutions in our communities.
So, I went to Harvard Medical School, because I felt, well, I really
can't do it in New York. I can't go to medical school in a city that
has so much need and so much struggle. Let me go to Boston, where
there are no Puerto Ricans.
And lo and beholdand he didn't warn me either. I think Juan knew.
There were 40,000 Puerto Ricans, no doctor, no services. Only three
had graduated from high school in the previous four years. Total
abandonment. And, of course, I knew immediately that we had to
continue our movement there.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Luis, talk a little bit about how you got
involved, because the People's Church was reallyyou weren't there
with the group that originally formed, but then you joined
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Right.
JUAN GONZALEZ: soon after the People's Church.
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Here I am, very much involved in Catholic Social
Action. I am a former seminarian for the Catholic priesthood, a
former monk. And so, the question of liberation theology was very
much a part of my life, and my whole struggle was against this war in
Vietnam. But at the same time, as I said, there were many missing
issues that weren't connecting, I thought.
And then I heard that young people, who were trying to feed the
hungry, clothe the naked, deal with the imprisoned, who were actually
trying to perform the Christian mandate of what we call the Corporal
Works of Mercy, had been bloodied in a church by police officers who
had come in. That is an unprecedented thing. It sent chills up my
spine. In a church! A sacred space.
So I immediately, the next Sunday, went to investigate and be part of
it. I remember Richie Perez also went, and both of us sat in the same
pew. By the end of that morning, afternoon, I turned to Richie and
said, "Richie, are you thinking of joining?" And he says, "I'm
thinking about it." I said, Well, if you join, I'm joining."
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you mention Richie Perez, who has since died.
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: A well-known human rights activist
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Puerto Rican activist, activist against police brutality
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Right, right.
AMY GOODMAN: here in New York. Let's go back to the documentary for
a minute, ¡Palante, Siempre Palante!: The Young Lords, a film by the
Young Lords member herself, Iris Morales. This is the late Richie Perez.
RICHIE PEREZ: One of the things that distinguished us was our
constant insistence that the independence of Puerto Rico was a
primary concern of Puerto Ricans in this country. Our button said,
"Tengo Puerto Rico en mi Corazon." We always talked about
independence. Our role models and people we saw as our leaders were
the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico.
IRIS MORALES: Concretely, what that meant for us was that in all of
our political undertaking, we sought to connect with the struggle for
independence for Puerto Rico. We held a student conference where we
organized students from all around the New York area and students
from outside the New York area to come. And the specific purpose was
to develop Free Puerto Rico Now committees on every campus.
RICHIE PEREZ: It could not have been done had there not already
existed a network of Puerto Rican clubs on campus, the Puerto Rican
Student Union. Without that group, we couldn't have done this. And we
got a sense of how strong the potential of them was, and we had a
demonstration at the United Nations calling for the independence of
Puerto Rico, freedom of the Puerto Rican Nationalists, and an end to
police brutality in our communities.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Richie Perez.
Juan, how did you get involved? I mean, Mickey was just talking about
seeing you at Columbia. You were a key leader of the Columbia
University strike of 1968.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, this was actually in the summer of '69,
whenactually, the spring of '69, when Mickey started contacting me.
And I was still a member of SDS at Columbia in '69, but that was the
period when SDS was going through all of these internal battles and
which eventually ended up with the creation of the Weathermen faction
and of a variety of other factions. And I pretty much had decided to
leave SDS and go back to my own community, where I had been raised as
a child, in East Harlem.
And as Mickey said, he knew both my cousins, who still lived in East
Harlem. They played ball together, were all great ball playerson the
Billikens, was it?
MICKEY MELENDEZ: That's right.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And so, Mickey convinced me to start going to a group
of meetings in East Harlem with Felipe Luciano and with Pablo Guzman
and several other folks in something called the Sociedad de Albizu
Campos. We then read about this group in Chicago, the Chicago Young
Lords, in an SDS newspaper, and they decided to take a trip out there
to meet with Cha Cha Jimenez, the leader of the Young Lords. And basically
AMY GOODMAN: Who had met Fred Hampton, the Black Panther, in prison?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Who had been inspired initially and politicized by
Fred Hampton while he was in prison, while Cha Cha was in prison. And
Cha Cha was trying to turn the Young Lords gang in Chicago into a
political organization. So we thenhe sort of gave us the go-ahead to
start the East Coast branch of the Young Lords, which we did on July
25th of 1969.
But then the group grew dramatically. Within a year, there were
branches in Philadelphia; in Newark; in Bridgeport, Connecticut; in
Boston, the one that Luis started in Boston; and Detroit; and the New
York group grew into hundreds and hundreds of full-time members
throughout the East Coast.
But I often say that probably the most audacious and long-lasting
action that we ever took was the occupation of Lincoln Hospital
inwas it August of 1970?
MICKEY MELENDEZ: That was the first one, yeah.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, and the first occupation of it, where we
actually took over a wholeI think it was a fourteen-story building,
including the emergency room area. And we gathered about sixty or
seventy Young Lords in the middle of the night, piled them all into a
truck, drove the truck about 4:00 in the morning up the ramp of the
emergency exit, all piled out, and barricaded and seized the whole
wing of the hospital.
This was a hospital that had been condemned for twenty-five years,
that was known as a place where Puerto Ricans went to die. And the
city was delaying the building of a new hospital. So we took over the
hospital in protest, demanding the construction, final construction,
of the new Lincoln Hospital. And the Lindsay administration, by then,
was so embarrassed by all of our various occupations that they
actually negotiated within a day.
AMY GOODMAN: Mickey Melendez, you hijacked a TB truck?
MICKEY MELENDEZ: That wasyeah, that was before that. That was all
part of our work that we used to do in the community around TB
testing. At the time, there wasn't, you know, translation and, you
know, people sometimes couldn't get downtown. We would do TB testing
and would come back two or three days to see if it was negative or
positive. The ones that were positive needed a follow-up x-ray.
AMY GOODMAN: For tuberculosis?
MICKEY MELENDEZ: For tuberculosis. The city had this grey truck that
would, you know, go around the city, park and do these x-rays. And,
you know, we tried to negotiate with the city, which we always did.
We always tried to, you know, deal with the powers to be and, you
know, again, as I said, you know, to no avail. We then started to
watch the truck and see how thewhere the truck parked and what was
the routine. Never more than twenty, thirty people a day.
So, on one particular day, when we called, and we knew they were
going to be in East Harlem, myself and two of the defense people,
Jose Pai Diaz and Huey, took over the truck. And we parked it in
front of the office. And that day, on the way there, the task of the
two other peopleI was driving the truck. I had never driven anything
bigger than a Volkswagen up until point. Their task was to convince
these two technicians to stay on. And, in fact, by the time we got to
our office, the technicians stayed on, and over 150
peopleunprecedentedhad been x-rayed with positive TB tests as a
result of some of the medical work that we did in our community.
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: What I think was very important about that was
the fact that
AMY GOODMAN: Luis Garden Acosta.
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: the people themselves who were hijacked, at the
end of it all, when reporters asked themthis is filmed and
documented, by the way"What do you feel about being hijacked?" they
said, "You know what? They were right. We were in the wrong place. We
should have been here." And so, a sort of a myth grew about us being
the polite revolutionaries, because we would actually, "Excuse me,
we're about to hijack your truck. Everyone, be safe now." So, but
almost in every instance, whenever we did anything, people would
actually come out and say, "You know, they're absolutely right.
Someone should take a stand." So I think that differentiated the
Young Lords from a lot of different groups.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Luis, talk aboutbecause Mickey mentioned at the
beginning it was a bunch of young men who got together and organized
the group, but women played a very important role in the Young Lords.
Can you talk about some of the battles and
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: You know, I came out of a seminary, so I never
went to a prom, I never went on dates, I never had any of that kind
of usual social interaction. So the world of feminism, of women's
liberation, was absolutely new to me.
But let me tell you, Iris Morales, particularly, and Denise, they led
a movement to really challenge our thinking. I went into the Young
Lords thinking that I was a very liberated male, you know, open to
everything, you know? And they forced me to sort of challenge and
look at my sort of attitudes. And I, in that weeklyweeklysession on
women's liberation in the Young Lords, began to really understand
some of the ingrained aspects of my culture that really was a barrier
to that equality.
AMY GOODMAN: Sonia Sotomayor, the new Supreme Court justice, Juan,
she was what? At Princeton at the time?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, she was in the early '70s, I think, a student at
Princeton. And I have to think that she, like many of the major
political figures in the Puerto Rican and Latino community today,
were heavily influenced by what the Young Lords did. In fact, her
senior thesis at Princeton was on the Puerto Ricanthe Puerto Rican
political movement on the island and the whole question of the
island's self-determination. But I've also, you know, talk to
Congressman Jose Serrano often and Fernando Ferrer, who ran for mayor
of New York. All of them were deeply influenced, because they were
all around the same age or even younger than some of us, and they
were in high school or in college at the height of the Young Lords.
And they all say that they were deeply influenced by the awareness
that the Young Lords created, in general.
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: I think Juan said it once, I think for our
twentieth anniversary or twenty-fifth. He said, "You know, we have
accomplished a lot. We may have not made the kind of revolution that
we were talking about totally, but one thing we did, we liberated our
minds." And that was a clear manifestation of the impact of the Young Lords.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we will leave it on that note on this fortieth
anniversary of the founding of Young Lords. Sunday, a big event,
Democracy Now! will be filming up at the First Spanish Methodist
Church, the scene of the takeover on East 111th Street. It begins
around 11:30-12:00, goes 'til about 3:30. You'll have a march, the
Young Lords, to the church. With the minister?
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Yes.
MICKEY MELENDEZ: Yes.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, with the current minister.
AMY GOODMAN: With the current minister.
LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for being with us. Mickey
Melendez has written a book about the Young Lords called We Took the
Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords. Luis Garden
Acosta is the head of El Puente. And Juan Gonzalez, co-host here on