In this iconic photograph by Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004) on February 26, 1971, we witness the powerful presence of The Young Lords, a group of activists dedicated to fighting for social justice and equality. The image captures the essence of their mission and the strength of their unity.
At the forefront stands Pablo “Yoruba” Guzmán, Minister of Information, exuding a sense of determination and knowledge. With his piercing gaze, he symbolizes the intellectual backbone of The Young Lords, disseminating vital information and shaping the narrative of their movement.
Beside him, Gloria González, Field Marshal, emanates a commanding aura. Her poised stance and unwavering gaze reflect her commitment to leading the charge, fearlessly taking on the challenges that lay ahead.
Juan González, Minister of Education, stands tall with a sense of purpose. His presence exudes a deep-rooted belief in the transformative power of education as a means to uplift and empower marginalized communities.
Denise Oliver, Minister of Economic Development, completes the quartet with an air of resilience and determination. Her unwavering commitment to economic justice shines through, as she works tirelessly to create economic growth and stability opportunities within their community.
Together, The Young Lords embody the spirit of activism and advocate for change in New York City. Avedon's photograph captures their passion, bravery, and unwavering commitment to social progress. It stands as a testament to their legacy and serves as a reminder of the ongoing fight for equality that persists today.
Richard Avedon. The Young Lords: Pablo “Yoruba” Guzmán, Minister of Information; Gloria González, Field Marshal; Juan González, Minister of Education; and Denise Oliver, Minister of Economic Development, New York City. February 26, 1971 is on view in the exhibition Richard Avedon: MURALS at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City until October 2023.
WHO WERE THE YOUNG LORDS ?
The Young Lords was a Puerto Rican activist group that emerged in the late 1960s in New York City. Inspired by the Black Panther Party and other civil rights movements, they sought to address the systemic issues faced by Puerto Ricans and other marginalized communities in the city.
The group was founded by Jose Cha Cha Jimenez in Chicago in 1968, initially known as the Young Lords Organization (YLO). They later expanded to New York City, where they became more widely recognized as the Young Lords. The organization was primarily composed of Puerto Rican youth, but they also aimed to build solidarity with other communities of color.
The Young Lords focused on a wide range of issues, including poverty, police brutality, housing, healthcare, education, and cultural preservation. Through their activism and community organizing, they sought to empower Puerto Ricans and challenge the systemic inequalities and discrimination that they faced.
The group gained attention through their bold and impactful actions, such as occupying and demanding improvements in healthcare services in Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. They also organized community breakfast programs, health clinics, and educational initiatives to address the immediate needs of their community.
Additionally, the Young Lords advocated for Puerto Rican independence and self-determination, highlighting the colonial status of Puerto Rico and the need for political liberation. They worked alongside other activist groups and formed alliances with various movements to amplify their voices and achieve their goals.
The Young Lords disbanded in the mid-1970s, but their legacy as a trailblazing grassroots organization and their contributions to the struggle for social justice continue to inspire activists to this day.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE "YOUNG LORDS"
The role of women within the Young Lords Party was crucial and groundbreaking. They emerged as key leaders, challenging gender norms and advocating for gender equality within the Puerto Rican activist group founded in the 1960s. Iris Morales, a member of the central committee, played a significant role in shaping the party's ideology and strategies. She organized protests, advocated for community empowerment, and co-authored the Young Lords' revolutionary bilingual newspaper "Palante," which outlined the party's principles and demands for social change .
"When you look to any group to find out who's the most oppressed, it is always gonna be the women. . . . Just look at a woman and you'll find the story of real oppression in this society. In our case, our oppression is threefold. It's first the oppression under capitalism that affects all people of the Third World. Secondly, there is the oppression under capitalism that affects women in terms of jobs and things like that; and thirdly, there is the oppression that we receive from our own men."
Denise Oliver-Velez, as the Minister of Economic Development, addressed economic inequalities within Puerto Rican communities. She focused on creating economic opportunities, such as job training programs and cooperative businesses, to combat poverty and uplift the community.
Gloria González, also known as "La Iguana," served as the Field Marshal and organized protests against issues like police brutality and housing discrimination. These women, along with numerous others in the party, played crucial roles in organizing, educating, and mobilizing communities. They challenged traditional gender roles and fought for reproductive rights, access to healthcare, and childcare support.
The Young Lords recognized the deep intertwining of gender inequality with the struggles of their community. They actively worked to address gender disparities within the party, promoting women to leadership positions and creating spaces for their voices to be heard. They understood that achieving social justice required dismantling patriarchal systems and giving women a voice in decision-making processes.
The women of the Young Lords not only led within the party but also served as role models for future activists. Their contributions paved the way for increased gender equality within the broader civil rights movement. They challenged societal norms and fought for justice alongside their male counterparts, showing that women could be at the forefront of social change (Citation 6).
In conclusion, the role of women within the Young Lords Party was pivotal in shaping the party's ideology, organizing efforts, and advocacy for social change. They challenged gender norms, highlighted the intersectionality of race and gender, and fought for gender equality within their communities and the broader civil rights movement. Their contributions continue to inspire activists today, emphasizing the essential role women play in social movements and the ongoing struggle for justice and equality.
1. Morales, Iris. "Through the Eyes of Rebel Women: The Young Lords, 1969-1976." Red Sugarcane Press, 2011.
2. Oliver-Velez, Denise. "Becoming a Black Puerto Rican Woman: A Memoir." University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.
3. González, Gloria. "The Young Lords: A Reader." New York University Press, 2010.
4. Colón, Iris. "Between Women: Domestics and their Employers." Temple University Press, 1988.
5. Lebrón, Marisol. "The Young Lords: A Radical History." University of North Carolina Press, 2019.
6. Pérez, Gina M. "The Near Northwest Side Story: Migration, Displacement, and Puerto Rican Families." University of California Press, 2004.