Honoring the Young Lords

Jose "Cha Cha" Jimenez (Photo by Monica Barnkow via Manhattan Times)

José “Cha Cha” Jiménez (Photo by Monica Barnkow via Manhattan Times)

On July 26, the corner of East 111th Street and Lexington Avenue was co-named “Young Lords Way,” in honor of the group of young activists who in the 1960s and 1970s fought for social justice for Latinos and independence for Puerto Rico. An overflow crowd was in attendance, Monica Barnkow of Manhattan Times reports.

The Young Lords staged demonstrations and rallies and were targeted by law enforcement and frequently detained. José “Cha Cha” Jiménez, one of the group’s original seven founders, told Manhattan Times that he was jailed 18 times in six weeks. “Today we are getting the respect we deserve,” said Jiménez.

Young Lords Way is in front of the First Spanish United Methodist Church in East Harlem, where the group “made history in 1971.”

That year, the Young Lords asked that the church open its large basement space in order to provide social services. But the pastor denied their request. In response, the group overtook the church and used it as a base of operations from which it provided residents free breakfast and clothing; social and health services; and education.

Johanna Fernández, who wrote her doctoral thesis on the Young Lords and is a professor at Baruch College, noted that the Young Lords made allegiances with African Americans, while City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito credited the Young Lords with the vision to supporting women’s right to choose.  Go to Manhattan Times to read her comments and those of some of the founding members of the Young Lords.

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