Interview with the Young Lords

The Young Lords attempted to set up a free breakfast program for children, daycare, and political education at a local conservative church. The church was left unused during most of the week, and didnt have any kind of social justice programs. Here’s a fantastic interview with the Minister of Information of the Young Lords, explaining why they chose that church and explaining parts of their ideology.

Q: Why was the First Spanish Church chosen to present your demands that they serve the community? Will you make similar demands of other community churches?

A: The First Spanish Church was chosen because it was right smack dead in the center of El barrio. it’s a beautiful locatio right in the middle of the community that has consistently closed itself up to the community. It’s only open for a few hours each week and for the rest of the week it turns into one big brick that sits on 111th St and Lexington. It’s not just the Young Lords or our political beliefs that they responded to – they don’t even deal with the anti-poverty organizations in the community.

Most of the other churches like St. Cecilia’s and Good Neighbor and some of the Catholic churches have some kind of program. TThey could do a little more brushing up, be a little more effective, but at least they try, they have something – they have kids come and play in the gym, they have head start programs or something. This church used to have 40 – 50 young people in the church. Now they’ve lost all their young people – their own sons and daughters. This church has been around for about 10 years. They had a gym and then there was a fire and they rebuilt the church and had a gym in there. They had a basement and a sub-basement and then took it out a few years ago.

The young people started coming back when we started doing our thing in the church and there’s a conflict going on in the church now between the young people and theboard of directors. The young people are also put off by us, but they know there’s nothing wrong with breakfast programs, so they’ve been helping us a lot.

Q: On Sunday you made a statement that you were unarmed and if the police came in they would be killing innocent people – are you always unarmed?

A. We believe that eventually we will have to arm ourselves, and the people will have to arm themselves, when we make our move for liberation. Right now that’s not a probability – that would be suicidal at this point because what we are right now is a propaganda unit. We’re educating the people to what it is to be born in Kenyan, what it is to be Puerto Rican, and also to the contradictions in the society. We don’t need guns to do that. We don’t have any guns in this office – to do so would be to invite the police to come in to have a massacre, to have a riot.

We know they have their agents, their spies. They’ve been checking us out. They know darn well we don’t have any guns, but they’re just trying to be funny. Last Wednesday at 3:00 PM they surrounded the office with 150 police and out here on Madison Ave police cars lined up. They were on the rooftops across the street and they just sat there for 15 minutes, just checking us out. It was to intimidate us, to have us provoke something. The people came out into the street and were behind us. They asked what are they here for and we told them what they were here for. Our explanation made a connection with what happened to the Black Panther party a week before and the people said “Why? You haven’t hurt anybody.”

So it’s obvious that what’s going down is just this mad provocation and that’s the only conspiracy. There’s a tirla in Chicago they call the “Conspiracy 8” but the only conspiracy in this country is that of a small ruling class that just puts down poor people and that’s the conspiray that we just want to move out of the way.

Q: Do you think that the concept of reparations as expressed by James Forman is a valid one for Puerto Rican people?

A. James Forman’s basic concept is that the churches have been a helping hand and a willing partner in the oppression of black people. This also holds true for Puerto Rican people, especially the Catholic church since most Puerto Ricans are Catholic.

The other issue that has been brought us is that organized religion has got to respond to the needs of the people. Now the Board of Directors and members of that church say that we imposed ourselves on them by speaking up and asking for space during their service. We say that they have imposed themselves on the community by putting their church in the middle of the community and then not opening their doors to the people. That’s the true imposition that they fail to see. Some other people and the press just like to play up this thing that we disrupted the service. We were upholding ancient Christian tradition since the time of Paul, that says anybody that comes to a service has the right to speak p. In true Christianity the rights of the minority have always been respected.

There are certain people in organized religion who have become established that feel that theirs is the only way to serve God, tos erve the people. That’s not quite right. The contradictions of an organized religion that can permite someone like Cardinal Spellman to belss the troops before they go out and commit something like the Song My massacre makesit obvious that there is no separation between church and politics.

We know that within the church there’s a small revolution going on – Ivan Illych in Mexico is a beautiful brother who’s taking care of a lot of business and educating the people and exposing the contradictions that exist in capitalism. Camilo Torres died in Latin America for what he believed in, so there are some. The hierarchy of the church has got to come down from up there in the sky and see what’s happening with the people.

Q: Can you tell me what is your relationship with the Black Panthers and the Patriot Party?

A: You see, if we’re attacked we’re going to defend ourselves. Huey Newton brought that principle up and it’s true. Anybody in the street knows that for a long time our people have been beat, we’ve been brutalized, killed, raped and the only way we’re going to stop that is by defending ourselves. Now the police came into Fred’s home and murdered him in his bed in Los Angeles – they claim the Panthers came out and started shooting. There’s 300 police surrounding the office and right away the Panthers are going to start shooting at the 300 policemen. Why? Because they’re crazy. That doesn’t make any sense.

The police obviously provoked the whole thing and started it. If you just sit there you’re going to get wiped out, and if you’re going to go down you might as well take somebody with you – you’ve got to defend yourself. That’s human instinct, survival instinct.

The Rainbow Coalition consists of the Patriot Party, Young Lords Organization and the Black Panther Party. If you’re not familiar with the Patriots, that’s a revolutionary white organization. We call it the Rainbow Coalition because it’s a rainbow of culture and colors. We also say there’s a rainbow existing in the Puerto Rican community because Puerto Ricans can be as dark as I am or have blonde hair and blue eyes – Puerto Ricans come out all different ways. But this was done mainly to educate the people. It is a revolutionary force in America today.

The Young Lords Organization is a revolutionary force moving the Latin community, the Black Panther party is moving the black community and the Patriots are beginning to move the poor white community. By us getting together and working together in this Rainbow Coalition, the people that see that, that blows a lot of their racism that’s been instituted by teh man. The lying politicians can’t use arguments that we’re really racist because if we’re all working together it’s got to be something more.

What we relate to is class struggle. We’re not interested in struggle between races or between ethnic groups. So that’s the main purpose of the Rainbow Coalition – it’s for the purposes of education. It’s also a defense and information coalition. If anything comes up with the Panthers, the Lords and the Patriots are going to go down also, and the same way for all three groups.

When we were involved in the church offensive or some of the other things that we’ve been involved in, we’ve received help and support from the Panthers and the Patriots. The Panther 21 trial is coming up December 18th and a demonstration is taking place. We’ll be down there at the rally along with the Patriots.

Q: Do you study revolutionary thinkers such as the Panthers do Mao’s Little Red Book?

A: A revolution has to take a sense of what was done before and then improvise on what’s happening in his own situation. Obviously the Chinese revolution is not going to take place in the US. The US is not an agricultural society, but it’s a highly advanced technological society. Something new under the sun is going to be done for the Second American Revolution. However there’s a lot of similarity in what’s gone down in other revolutionary situations. Lenin read Marx and Mao read Lenin and Marx, and Castro did the same thing that he was saying – then he decided to check them out. And that’s what’s happened with us. We read everybody – we read Nat Turner, Frederick Douglas, Betances and Campos – Puerto Rican revolutionaries. Puerto Ricans have a had a long history of revolution. They fought against Spain and now they’re fighting against the US. I hate somebody that makes the same mistake twice, especially when there’s no reason for it, because people wrote the earlier ones down. Yet, if you don’t take any short cuts, with things so rough already, you’re in bad shape. So we read some Mao, Marx, Lenin. We don’t let that govern us, we don’t put them up as gods. They’re revolutionaries just as we are and I respect them for that. We’re going to have to do something a little different, that’s why they in turn respect us.

Q: Do you also consider Christ as a revolutionary?

A: David Kirk from Emmanus House sent us a telegram when the police rioted a week ago Sunday in the church . It read that if Christ was alive today, we would have been a Young Lord. That’s true. We believe that. We also believe that if Christ came back today, they’d crucify him again.

Christ was saying a whole lot. The Bible is used as an instrument of oppression in the hands of the imperialists. They teach only the parts of the Bible that will mollify the people, keep them down, you know, turn the other cheek, be cool, be humble, slow up, wait. They don’t show you the parts llike when things were going bad in the temple, Christ went in and threw them out and he wasn’t non-violent – he was a pretty violent cat when he had to be.

You don’t go back into the old days of the Old Testament when everybody was doing in everybody else – jacking everybody else up. They were fighting in the name of the Lord – a Holy War which they fought with righteous feeling. And that’s why we’ve got Christ right up there next to Mao – he was a heavy cat.

Q: Do you include an education such as Puerto Rican history in your program?

A: We’re primarily a propaganda unit, a teaching agency. At this stage of the revolutionary struggle we’re educators with the true history of Puerto Rico and what it means to be Puerto Rican as our curriculum. We also expose the contradictions that exist in America and why, contrary to opinion, they’re never going to make it in the system.

We have political education classes, in the community. We send our organizers out to knock on doors and with people on the street. The people on the Board of the First Spanish Methodist Church told us that we were Satan, and that if poor people wanted they could educate themselves, and they don’t have to play numbers or drink beer. Their idea is that Puerto Rican people dig being poor, and that they made it so why can’t everybody else make it. They think that Puerto Rican women on welfare spend their money on beer, they play the numbers and that they really dig the gutter. It tok a whole lot to hold our tempers, but their sons and daughters (who were at the meeting between the Board of Trustees and the Young Lord) let them know how we felt.

The Programs of the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords

The 10 point program of the Black Panther Party was influential in the creation of the Young Lords’ 13 point program. However, there were important differences in the intent of the programs and their role in the respective organizations.

The program of the Black Panthers was primarily a “survival program”, as Huey P Newton wrote in “Black Capitalism re-analyzed I”:

All these programs satisfy the deep needs of the community but they are not solutions to our problems. That is why we call them sur­vival programs, meaning survival pending revolution. We say that the survival program of the Black Panther Party is like the survival kit of a sailor stranded on a raft. It helps him to sustain himself until he can get completely out of that situation. So the survival programs are
not answers or solutions, but they will help us to organize the com­munity around a true analysis and understanding of their situation. When consciousness and understanding is raised to a high level then the community will seize the time and deliver themselves from the boot of their oppressors.

Compare this to the program of the Young Lords:

13 Point Program of the Young Lords (1970 revised)

1. We want self-determination for Puerto Ricans–Liberation of the Island and inside the United States.For 500 years, first spain and then united states have colonized our country. Billions of dollars in profits leave our country for the united states every year. In every way we are slaves of the gringo. We want liberation and the Power in the hands of the People, not Puerto Rican exploiters. Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

2. We want self-determination for all Latinos. Our Latin Brothers and Sisters, inside and outside the united states, are oppressed by amerikkkan business. The Chicano people built the Southwest, and we support their right to control their lives and their land. The people of Santo Domingo continue to fight against gringo domination and its puppet generals. The armed liberation struggles in Latin America are part of the war of Latinos against imperialism. Que Viva La Raza!

3. We want liberation of all third world people. Just as Latins first slaved under spain and the yanquis, Black people, Indians, and Asians slaved to build the wealth of this country. For 400 years they have fought for freedom and dignity against racist Babylon (decadent empire). Third World people have led the fight for freedom. All the colored and oppressed peoples of the world are one nation under oppression. No Puerto Rican Is Free Until All People Are Free!

4. We are revolutionary nationalists and oppose racism. The Latin, Black, Indian and Asian people inside the u.s. are colonies fighting for liberation. We know that washington, wall street and city hall will try to make our nationalism into racism; but Puerto Ricans are of all colors and we resist racism. Millions of poor white people are rising up to demand freedom and we support them. These are the ones in the u.s. that are stepped on by the rules and the government. We each organize our people, but our fights are against the same oppression and we will defeat it together. Power To All Oppressed People!

5. We want equality for women. Down with machismo and male chauvinism. Under capitalism, women have been oppressed by both society and our men.  The doctrine of machismo has been used by men to take out their frustration on wives, sisters, mothers, and children.  Men must fight along with sisters i the struggle for economic and social equality and must recognize that sisters make up over half of the revolutionary army: sister and brothers are equals fighting for our people.  Forward Sisters in the Struggle!

6. We want community control of our institutions and land. We want control of our communities by our people and programs to guarantee that all institutions serve the needs of our people. People’s control of police, health services, churches, schools, housing, transportation and welfare are needed. We want an end to attacks on our land by urban removal, highway destruction, universities and corporations. Land Belongs To All The People!

7. We want a true education of our Creole culture and Spanish language. We must learn our history of fighting against cultural, as well as economic genocide by the yanqui. Revolutionary culture, culture of our people, is the only true teaching.

8. We oppose capitalists and alliances with traitors. Puerto Rican rulers, or puppets of the oppressor, do not help our people. They are paid by the system to lead our people down blind alleys, just like the thousands of poverty pimps who keep our communities peaceful for business, or the street workers who keep gangs divided and blowing each other away. We want a society where the people socialistically control their labor. Venceremos!

9. We oppose the Amerikkkan military. We demand immediate withdrawal of u.s. military forces and bases from Puerto Rico, Vietnam and all oppressed communities inside and outside the u.s. No Puerto Rican should serve in the u.s. army against his Brothers and Sisters, for the only true army of oppressed people is the people’s army to fight all rulers. U.S. Out Of Vietnam, Free Puerto Rico!

10. We want freedom for all political prisoners. We want all Puerto Ricans freed because they have been tried by the racist courts of the colonizers, and not by their own people and peers. We want all freedom fighters released from jail. Free All Political Prisoners!

11. We are internationalists.  Our people are brainwashed by television, radio, newspapers, schools, and books to oppose people in other countries fighting for their freedom. No longer will our people believe attacks and slanders, because they have learned who the real enemy is and who their real friends are. We will defend our Brothers and Sisters around the world who fight for justice against the rich rulers of this country. Que Viva Che Guevara!

12. We believe armed self-defense and armed struggle are the only means to liberation. We are opposed to violence–the violence of hungry children, illiterate adults, diseased old people, and the violence of poverty and profit. We have asked, petitioned, gone to courts, demonstrated peacefully, and voted for politicians full of empty promises. But we still ain’t free. The time has come to defend the lives of our people against repression and for revolutionary war against the businessman, politician, and police. When a government oppresses our people, we have the right to abolish it and create a new one. Boricua Is Awake! All Pigs Beware!

13. We want a socialist society. We want liberation, clothing, free food, education, health care, transportation, utilities, and employment for all. We want a society where the needs of our people come first, and where we give solidarity and aid to the peoples of the world, not oppression and racism. Hasta La Victoria Siempre!

The Young Lords program introduced more political analysis into what is fundamentally a survival program. It identified important talking points and slogans to use when the Young Lords would talk to people in the community. The program named capitalism as the problem and socialism as the solution. It was influenced by feminism, one of the slogans used by the Young Lords was “machismo is fascism”, directly linking the oppression of women to the oppression of all colonized people inside and outside the United States.

However, there are important differences between the 1969 program and the 1970 program. The 1969 program advocated for a revolutionary machismo to replace a reactionary one. The male chauvinist tendencies in the Young Lords is reflected by the Central Committee being entirely male at the time of its creation, women in the defense ministry being assigned more rigorous tasks to prove their worth, and women being assigned stereotypical assignments like typing.

The strong practice of criticism and self-criticism was absolutely crucial to fighting sexism within the Party, as was the hierarchical military structure of the organization. The issue of women played a prominent role in the Palante newspaper, and as a result of criticism sessions, half of the articles had to be about women.

The experience of the Young Lords in their struggle against internal sexism is important when we look at social movements today and how they address them. Rather than a hierarchical structure inhibiting anti-machismo struggles, it ensured that a correct line could be implemented. More on the struggles of women in the Young Lords can be read here.

Wikipedia: At or in this place: Stop here for a rest. Wikipedia: At or in this place: Stop here for a rest.

Young Lords History 2: “Don’t fuck with us. It’s as simple as that.”

Part 1: TB Truck Liberated

 

The Young Lords: The Garbage Offensive

 

 

East Harlem is known as El Barrio—New York’s worst Puerto Rican slum.

There are others-on the Lower East Side, in Brooklyn, in the South Bronx, but El Barrio is the oldest, biggest, filthiest of them all. There is glass sprinkled everywhere, vacant lots tilled with rubble, burnt out buildings on nearly every block, and people packed together in the polluted summer heat.

There is also the smell of garbage, coming in an incredible variety of flavors and strengths. For weeks the YLO had been asking the Sanitation Dept. for brooms and trash cans so they could clean up the streets and sidewalks of El Barrio. The city ignored the request. Finally, on Sunday, August 17, the community rebelled.

All the rubbish that had accumulated along East 110th St. was dumped into the middle of the street. At 111th and Lexington Ave., the people turned over several abandoned cars and set them afire.

Hundreds of nervous cops arrived on the scene. When they dragged Ildefenso Santiago out of his car and took him to the precinct house, reportedly on suspicion of burglary (they found a screwdriver in his car), the people retaliated by filling the streets with more trash, cars, old refrigerators, and any thing else they could find. It began to look like a repeat of the 1967 summer riot in which at least two people were killed and scores injured in street fighting with cops.

At this point, members of the YLO stepped in to work with the people. They organized a march to the precinct house where Santiago was being held. Chanting “Viva Puerto Rico!”, “Power to the People!”, and “Off the Pig!”, nearly 300 people marched to the 126th St police station to demand Santiago’s release. Within half an hour, he was free and the crowd carried him back to his car on their shoulders.

It was a victory for the people said Felipe, chairman of YLO, at a rally the following day. “They’ve treated us like dogs for too long. When our people came here in the 1940’s, they told us New York was a land of milk and honey. And what happened? Our men can’t find work. Look at them. They sit around and play dominos because they can’t get a decent job. Our women are forced to become prostitutes. Our young people get hooked on drugs. And they won’t even give us brooms to sweep up the rubbish on our streets.”

The YLO has issued a set of demands: regular collection of trash; at least ten brooms and trash barrels per block; the hiring of more Puerto Ricans by the Sanitation Dept; and higher starting pay for sanitation workers.

The next day, the New York Post reported the incident, obscured the main point of the protest by saying the people acted as a result of “misunderstanding” about Santiago’s arrest. In fact, the people of El Barrio have said that they will no longer tolerate the city’s neglect of their needs. They are taking matters into their own hands.

The way Felipe put it at the rally was that we’re building our own community. “Don’t fuck with us. It’s as simple as that.”

Young Lords History 1 – TB Truck Liberated

lately i’ve been interested in the idea that the lumpenproletariat (or the unemployables as huey p newton called them) should be the focus of radical organizing. this week, i’m going to post different actions, programs, and writings of the young lords and other organizations that took this analysis. im probably going to focus more on the young lords, because people are less familiar with them from my experience

I originally read all of these in The Young Lords: A Reader. If you’re unfamiliar with the Young Lords, the introduction is available on google books here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=Iod_Z41WIT0C&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq#v=onepage&q&f=false

TB Truck Liberated
(From the newspaper Palante, 3 July 1970, volume 2, number 6)

Everyday, Puerto Rican people are faced with the same deadly health problem tuberculosis – a disease that affects our lives and a disease that can be prevented. The reason that t.b. isn’t being prevented is that preventing diseases like t.b. cuts the profits of the capitalists that run the city hospitals. Therefore, the hospitals don’t work on preventing these diseases.

The YOUNG LORDS PARTY has always said that the time will come when the people take over all the institutions and machinery that control and exploit our lives. On June 17, the YOUNG LORDS PARTY put this idea into practice. On this day, we liberated an x-ray truck from the politicians that had been using the truck only for propaganda purposes that serve their own interests and profiteering businessmen that only think about making money.

The truck was seized only after members of the YLP had gone to the Tuberculosis Society several times asking them for the use of the truck. Each time, the request was refused. By refusing us, they made it clear that they aren’t concerned with the health of our people. These trucks have been seen in our community only on a very limited part-time basis. We realized that the reason our people didn’t use it was because the people running the show prior to the LORDS were outsiders who couldn’t relate to our people, our language, and our customs. They never made any real attempt to get the people to use the x-ray facilities.

In the three days that we have had the truck, we have already tested 770 people. According to the technicians, the usual amount of people taken care of in the same amount of time is about 300. So, as far as the YOUNG LORDS PARTY is concerned, this truck rightfully belongs to the people!

The last point of our 13 Point Program and Platform states that “We want a socialist society.” Under a socialist society, medical services are extended outside of the hospital by setting up clinics in all communities and by visiting people’s homes. This type of medical service is called preventive medicine. Although doctors admit it is needed, preventive medicine will never be done in amerikkka as it is today, because in the capitalist society in which we live, capitalists run health services in order to make more money, not to improve health care. The sicker we are, the more money the capitalist makes. ‘The YOUNG LORDS PARTY believes that health care should be a right for all people not a privilege. That is why we put the x-ray facilities in the hands of the people.

The Ramon Emeterio Betances Free X-Ray Truck now belongs to the people. It will be on the streets 7 days a week, 10 hours a day. This truck is here to service the needs of our people.

ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL!

LIBERATE PUERTO RICO NOW!

Carl Pastor
Ministry of Health

YOUNG LORDS PARTY