The Chicago Young Lords: (Re)constructing Knowledge and Revolution

By Lazú, Jacqueline | Centro Journal, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

The Chicago Young Lords: (Re)constructing Knowledge and Revolution


Lazú, Jacqueline, Centro Journal


abstract

The Young Lords are widely recognized for having paved the way for the politicization of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. mainland and for their entry into the Civil Rights Movement. This study repositions the dominant historical narrative to focus on the origins of the Young Lords Organization in the city of Chicago. Organizing around the issue of gentrification in a notoriously schematized city, the Chicago Young Lords adopted an educational strategy that was the pragmatic imperative of a trans-cultural and transnational social justice movement. The YLO newspaper was the principle crusader for their message of local and global justice and community empowerment. Its didactic content and revolutionary aesthetic stand out as part the affecting rhetorical strategy in their urgent call for Puerto Rican empowerment, coalition, local and global action. [Key words: Young Lords Organization, Chicago, Puerto Ricans, gentrification, civil rights, sixties]

the young lords papers is a collection of materials that document the history of the chicago chapter of the young lords organization (ylo). Housed in the Latino Archives and the Latino Chicago Oral History Project at DePaul University's Center For Latino Research and the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Collection and Young Lords Newspapers at the John T. Richardson Library, with additional public records and private correspondence in the Chicago History Museum, and most recently at the Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives, the documents can be read individually or as a singular body of work to build breadth and complexity into our knowledge of the Puerto Rican history in the US, the Civil Rights Movement and global social justice movements. Two major themes that emerge from a comprehensive reading that are keys to expanding the common historical narrative about the YLO are gentrification and popular education. In fact, the issue of housing within a city notorious for nefarious political behavior and a landscape being transformed by the Civil Rights Movement actuated the politicization of the Young Lords. At the core of their liberal nationalist philosophy for organizing was a critical pedagogy that included a transcultural, transnational and global praxis. One of their main vehicles for pushing through these efforts was the YLO newspaper, also published under the name Pitirre and The Young Lord, which ran in Chicago from April 1969 through the spring of 1971. The YLO newspaper was a crusader for the community, a timing to liftthe self-image of the people through its didactic content and revolutionary aesthetic.

The formation, contributions and evolution of the Young Lords has been the subject of study by many scholars over the decades. The fairly extensive bibliography includes several autobiographical sources and collaborations like the Young Lords Party and Michael Abramson's Pa'lante: The Young Lords Party (1971), a collection of political essays by members of the organizations along with Abramson's historical photographs. Iris Morales's film Pa'lante, siempre pa'lante!: The Young Lords (1996), and Miguel "Mickey" Melendez's book We Took To the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords (2005) are also among the more readily accessible historical autobiographies of the Young Lords. More recently, Enck-Wanzer's edited The Young Lords: A Reader (2010), which consolidates significant primary materials and includes a foreword by Iris Morales and Denise Oliver-Pérez. Scores of essays, book chapters, websites and even very early accounts like Robert Leroy Wilson's The First Spanish United Methodist Church and the Young Lords (1970) published by the Board of Missions of the United Methodist Church, demonstrate the breadth and impact of the Young Lords' activism from multiple perspectives. In fact, while the Young Lords experienced a shorter lifespan than many other organizations involved in the Civil Rights Movement, the ongoing discussions about their ideologies and political strategies prove that they were, as Andrés Torres states in The Puerto Rican Movement, the undisputed catalyst for the second generation's baptism into radical politics (1998: 7). …

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