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Riassunto: The Young Lords were one of the most provocative and controversial organizations to arise during the tumult of the late 1960s. Inspired by the wave of protest movements sweeping the country, and the world, as well as organizations like the Black Panthers, the Brown Berets, and the American Indian Movement, the Young Lords became the most respected and powerful voice of Puerto Rican empowerment in the country.
In 1968 Miguel “Mickey” Melendez was a college student, developing pride in his unique cultural identity as Cuban and Puerto Rican, while growing increasingly aware of the lack of quality health care, education, and housing—not to mention respect—his people endured for the sake of the American Dream. He was not alone. Bringing together other like-minded Latino student activists, like Juan Gonzalez, Felipe Luciano, David Perez, and Pablo "Yoruba" Guzman, Melendez helped to form the central committee of what would become the New York branch of the Young Lords.
Over the course of the next three years, the Young Lords were a force to be reckoned with. From their storefront offices in East Harlem, they defiantly took back the streets of El Barrio. In addition to running clothing drives, day-care centers, and free breakfast and health programs, the Young Lords became known for their bold radical actions, like the takeovers of the First People’s Church and Lincoln Hospital. Front-page news, they forced the city to take notice of their demands for social and political justice and make drastic policy changes.
Melendez was part of it all, and describes the idealism, anger, and vitality of the Lords with the unsparing eye of an insider. For the first time, he reveals the extent of the clandestine military branch of the organization and his role coordinating and arming the underground.
The fall of the Young Lords was as swift and as public as their rise. Fractured by internal ideological differences and plagued by infiltrators, the Young Lords imploded in 1972. The underground was disbanded and for many, like Melendez, the group they had dedicated their lives to vanished—but not its mission. Many former Young Lords continue to fight for Latino rights, including Melendez, who in 1977 led a takeover of the Statue of Liberty to dramatize the plight of Puerto Rican nationalists languishing in prison and continues to fight for peace in Vieques.
0Although they were active for only a brief period of time, the legacy of the Young Lords—their urban guerilla, media-saavy tactics, as well as their message of popular power and liberation, civil rights, and ethnic equity—is lasting. We Took the Streets is one man’s passionate and inspiring story of the Puerto Rican struggle for equality, civil rights, and independence.
From the Back Cover:
“A thoughtful and historically insightful book...the Young Lords challenged the system as no one else had done before them....Their philosophy served as an inspiration for many of us.” --Representative Jose Serrano (Democrat, New York)
“This account of the formation of the Young Lords is fascinating. Back in the 1960s, a group of Puerto Rican college students learned about revolution from the bottom up—from their deeds—upon which they built newer, more daring, and more advanced deeds that developed into still further successes and failures. The young men and women grew in stature until the complexities of their developing situation brought more problems than solutions and, by the end, the movement fell apart.Yet in the time they were active, they changed the history of New York, and for the better. So this account grows as one reads until one is experiencing elements of the epic, the surprising, and the tragic. The book will also have its considerable impact on anyone who is interested in the history of New York during that great period of ferment we call the Sixties.” --Norman Mailer
“The Young Lords were a socialist street gang. They produced more wonderful writers than most costly journalism schools, including Juan Gonzalez, Pablo Guzman, and Felipe Luciano. In part, this book preserves the memory of this astonishing cadre that changed history, spread ethnic pride, and mobilized East Harlem with its audacious activism. I was there, as both a supporter and a reporter, getting a close-up look at these berets in the barrio. They were fearless. When the bombing of Vieques is finally over for good, when New York finally elects a Latino mayor, we will look back and see the Young Lords for the historical turning point they are.” --Jack Newfield
On Saturday, July 26, 1969, at a public demonstration in Tompkins Square Park, a fistful of young men and women took the stage and announced that they would “serve and protect the best interest of the Puerto Rican community.” The Young Lords had officially arrived in New York City.
Miguel “Mickey” Melendez was there, and for the next three years dedicated his life to the Young Lords, one of the most controversial and misunderstood radical activist groups to emerge from the ferment of the 1960s. In We Took the Streets, Melendez shares what it was
cf0like on the streets of El Barrio, alive with the sounds of Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri but also teeming with the drugs, poverty and injustice that inspired him to become a revolutionary. Advocating social justice for all and independence for Puerto Rico, the Young Lords took on the establishment—and won.
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