[Blackstudies-l] The Young Lords and Health Care Reform: Why It Matters Today

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Mon Apr 3 23:41:30 EDT 2017

lisaparavisini posted: " A report from the Atlanta Black Star. The pages of
history overflow with tales of white American heroes. Rehashed again and
again is the story of courageous white men who stand up to the
establishment to make change. It is only recently that the storie"
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New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> The Young Lords and
Health Care Reform: Why It Matters Today
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: lords2.jpg]

A report from the *Atlanta Black Star*.

The pages of history overflow with tales of white American heroes. Rehashed
again and again is the story of courageous white men who stand up to the
establishment to make change. It is only recently that the stories of
heroic African-Americans have been told.

Since Black heroes have been largely left out of the history books, most of
us can name only a handful, such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and some
members of the Black Panthers Party like Fred Hampton, Huey Newton and
Kathleen Cleaver.

Fortunately, times have changed — or at least the lies our teachers told us
are falling apart. With this shift comes a moment to tell the stories of
the activists who came before us. One of the most progressive, impactful
and groundbreaking revolutionary organizations this country has ever seen
was the Young Lords Party (YLP), but their battle for health care reform in
the South Bronx is still too little known.

Born in the late ’60s, The Young Lords Party and its army of activists and
social justice warriors were the direct descendants of the civil rights
movement. After World War II, the United States saw an influx of families
from Puerto Rico searching for better economic opportunities.
Unfortunately, no one told these dreamers that the life of prosperity was
mostly afforded to those who were white, male and able to leverage their
relationships for progress.

With their American dreams already replaced with brown realities, a new
generation of Puerto Rican families settled in the states. When the ’60s
and ’70s arrived, the children of these transplants were well into their
teen years and ready to leave their mark on the world. They came of age at
the height of the civil rights movement and saw themselves as an extension
of that movement.

Inspired by the Black Panther Party, the first chapter of the Young Lords
was started in Chicago with the mission to achieve self-determination
and the liberation of Puerto Rican people and all underrepresented people.
At the height of their popularity, they worked closely with Hampton and the
Chicago Black Panthers to address police brutality and income inequality.

The New York City chapter was founded by college students who, like the
members of Chicago, were inspired by the teachings of Malcolm X and the
Panthers. After organizing on the campus of SUNY Old Westbury, a contingent
of these budding activist traveled to Chicago, where they received the
approval of then-president Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez
<http://nationalyounglords.com/?page_id=15> to start a chapter in New York.

The New York City chapter conducted a survey to determine the most pressing
issues in their communities. They expected to hear complaints about the
lack of jobs or even police brutality and, while those were definitely top
priority issues, the two topics that came up most often were sanitation and
quality of health.

Low-wage Black and Puerto Rican adults and children in East Harlem, Chelsea
projects and the South Bronx were living in homes covered in lead paint and
infested with pests and rodents. The streets were piled with garbage that
the sanitation department failed to pick up. The conditions were deplorable
and the combination of toxins created a health crisis. This was
all compounded by the fact that the only major hospital serving the South
Bronx and East Harlem, Lincoln Hospital, also was failing at its central

The Latino Education Network Service
<http://palante.org/04LincolnOffensive.htm> that documents the history of
the Young Lords describes the need for the hospital takeover  “Lincoln
Hospital was the only major health institution that served the large South
Bronx community of Puerto Ricans and African-Americans. The hospital, which
was run by the Albert Einstein Medical College, was more preoccupied with
the testing of new medical equipment, training of medical students and
continued payment of the city government for running the health center than
with helping patients. The community faced large instances of lead poison,
tuberculosis, pneumonia and asthma. Patients were not getting the care they
needed and were kept completely misinformed or not informed at all by

The hospital was one of the worst in the state. Along with the poor
service, doctors would complain about rats entering the emergency room, and
there were rumors of people entering for emergency service and leaving with
lead poisoning.

Something needed to be done and the YLP was ready to shake things up. The
first step of that shake-up was a list of demands. The Young Lords
collaborated with the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement (HRUM) to create
a 10-point health program <http://palante.org/04Health.htm> that demanded
community members be employed by the hospital, “door to door preventative
health services” and free public health care for all people treated in the

Along with the plan, they also sent in hundreds of complaints from the
community about the hospital to the city government. Despite the
community-driven pressure and the hospital’s reputation as the “Butcher Shop
their 10-point plan and complaints were ignored by the hospital and state
officials. It was after this slap in the face that the Lords decided to
“liberate” the hospital. On July 14, 1970, just 12 days from their one-year
anniversary, the group of the activists, with the help of supportive
staffers, took control of Lincoln Hospital.

During their 24-hour hold on the facility, the group made up of Puerto
Rican, Dominican, and African-Americans held political-education sessions
in the basement, provided free testing for lead poisoning and tuberculosis
for community members and held a press conference to outline the demands
they had for the hospital leadership and, then, New York Mayor John Lindsay.

While the police and some higher-level administrators at the hospital were
furious with the takeover, community members, nurses and doctors were happy
to have an intervention and supported the call for more resources and care.
After tense negotiations and media attention on the hospital’s many issues,
Lindsay was forced to promise the Lords that he would build a new facility.
That promise became a reality

The price for this victory was not small, The Young Lords may have gotten
Lindsay to commit to a hospital, but it put them directly in the crosshairs
of the New York Police Department, as well as the FBI, as a group of
radicals willing to directly take on state officials.

The FBI, through its Counter Intelligence Program known as CointelPro
was a major force in destroying the cohesion of groups like the Young Lords
and the Black Panthers. While we can’t quantify how much of a role they
played in the Lords’ downfall, it is fair to say that they were intricately
involved in sowing dissent and confusion throughout the movements of the
’60s and ’70s.

There are plenty of lessons to take from his moment of history, but most
importantly, it’s the opportunity to appreciate the legacy of true American
heroes. The Young Lords Party didn’t have a million-dollar budget, a
hashtag trending on Twitter or a bomb social media campaign. All they had
was passion, a love for the community and Latino and Black pride. With
absolutely every pocket of the establishment against them, they were
willing to speak up, fight and transform their communities.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
April 3, 2017 at 11:10 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-uEd

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