Memoir of a Visionary: Antonia Pantoja

By Antonia Pantoja; Henry A. J. Ramos | Go to book overview

Fourth Part
The Puerto Rican Forum (1957–1964)

I had received advice from Dr. Horne and Mr. Sol Markoff that it was urgent that we move “the project” for the Puerto Rican community out of the commission. Horne explained that if the project was organized on the commission’s time and with the commission’s resources, it belonged to the city of New York. He urged that the project should be born as a Puerto Rican initiative. He advised me to organize a board of directors that would take the leadership. Markoff agreed completely and further added that the board should be made up of Puerto Ricans. It was much later that I fully understood the significance of this, when we were challenged from the outside, and even within our own group, to integrate the board.

I organized the group that had been working with me to develop a youth program into an organization called the Puerto Rican-Hispanic Leadership Forum. In our discussions, we aspired to developing more than one institution, because the Puerto Rican community in New York did not have its own institutions. Other ethnic and racial communities had organized themselves to offer services and to fight for the rights of their people, such as the Urban League, the NAACP, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League. We foresaw that the Puerto Rican Forum could become the founder of needed Puerto Rican institutions. The name “Forum” came out of the story that Dr. Horne had told me of the group to which he belonged. The word “leadership” was included because we all thought that we needed to develop a group of committed leaders who would engage in the work needed to service our problems and fight for our rights. The

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