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The Black Panther Party and how it helped shape the Young Lords’ revolution

José “Cha Cha” Jiménez, one of the Young Lords’ founding members, became a student of Black Panther campaigns. For Black History Month, we analyze how the Black Panther Party shaped Jiménez’s political organization.

Young Lords MICHAEL ABRAMSON

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Initially founded in 1966 as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense by political activists Huey Percy Newton and Robert “Bobby” Seale, the Black Panther Party had the foresight to protect Black people from much of the police brutality that exists today. These forefathers and their succeeding progressive movements against inequality deserve to be time-stamped in textbooks globally. The men and women of the Black Panther Party changed the world for the betterment of all minoritized people and inspired new militant revolutionaries.

As students at Merritt College in Oakland, California; Newton and Seale quickly identified how Black Americans’ service was overlooked throughout their higher education experience. Together, they organized within their student body and began the Negro History Fact Group, which implored their professors to tell stories in their entirety. Back then, Merritt College’s annual “Pioneer Day” observed varied American architects — but only those of privilege.

In conjunction with the crooked policing they observed in their communities, this academic oversight inspired the unifying participation of Black masses demanding historical accuracy and humanity. The Black Panther Party rose to power in the late ‘60s, patrolling their neighborhoods to protect what was theirs. And by the brink of the ‘70s, more than 2,000 members were reforming nationwide.

Outside of Oakland, major cities including Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York City’s chapters began organizing in resistance. Conditions such as those affecting employment, education, housing, and safety were top priorities. The Black Panther Party notably established district initiatives like the Free Breakfast for Children Program and the Ten-Point Program.

Some of the latter is recorded as follows:

We Want Freedom. We Want Power To Determine The Destiny Of Our Black Community. We Want Full Employment For Our People. We Want An End To The Robbery By The Capitalists Of Our Black Community. We Want Decent Housing Fit For The Shelter Of Human Beings. We Want Education For Our People That Exposes The True Nature Of This Decadent American Society.

We Want Education That Teaches Us Our True History And Our Role In The Present-Day Society...”

Influenced by the late Malcolm X’s professions concerning Black empowerment, Newton and Seale mirrored several renowned Black nationalists’ sentiments. Their supporters appeared militant, donning pieces like berets, leather vests, fist brooches, and other Panther paraphernalia to exemplify discipline. The Black Panthers were their own army, and the remainder of their points continued as follows:

“We Want All Black Men To Be Exempt From Military Service. We Want An Immediate End To Police Brutality And Murder Of Black People. We Want Freedom For All Black Men Held In Federal, State, County, And City Prisons And Jails. We Want All Black People When Brought To Trial To Be Tried In Court By A Jury Of Their Peer Group Or People From Their Black Communities, As Defined By The Constitution Of The United States. We Want Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice, And Peace...”

In literary recognition, the Ten-Point Program is broadly deemed radical. One might question: Is oppression polite? What is the proper response to coping with centuries of white violence? Someone who sought social justice solutions through his eloquent speech and associated actions was Fred Hampton. The former Black Panther Party national deputy chairman believed in the strength of his Blackness and the power of solidarity among all parties seeking liberation.

In his tenure, Hampton was responsible for establishing bridges toward the working-class revolt, advancing Black Panther rallies, and mobilizing the Chicago-based Black Panther People’s Clinic. His involvement to increase health care options amongst the underprivileged extended from his teenage years, operating on behalf of the NAACP. And though cut short, his 21 years of life were additive to the Black Panther institution by touching each of the Ten-Point Program accents uniquely.

Ahead of him being identified as an ascending “Messiah” by the FBI — then assassinated by Chicago police officers in ‘69 — Hampton brought together people from all walks of life. His commitment to forming the Rainbow Coalition was significantly open-minded in the months ahead of his death. The Black Panther’s multicultural alliance between the Young Patriots Organization and the reestablished Young Lords Organization allied various bodies seeking refuge in their community. The Rainbow Coalition lengthened Black Panther figures’ work such as Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, and Elaine Brown. Each became an integral component in authenticating expanding partnerships across the movement.

Further, Hampton’s ideations outlived him and are widely thought to have impacted present-day socialist advocates Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And similarly to those of legendary civil rights activists like Stokely Carmichael’s “Black Power” chants, Hampton’s call to action invigorated another uprising. José “Cha Cha” Jiménez, one of the seven Young Lords street gang members, witnessed racial inequality throughout predominantly Puerto Rican regions in Chicago.

Offended by the news that the then FBI chief, J. Edgar Hoover, documented the Black Panther Party as an American hate group, Jiménez became a student to individual Black Panther campaigns. He and unique leftists sought to revamp Brown low-income populations nationally beside the Young Lords. And amid the FBI’s counterintelligence program, COINTELPRO, aiming to “neutralize” Panther progress, the Black Panther Party’s growing disciples strengthened the cause.

From the late ‘60s through ‘70s, the former street gang known as the Young Lords evolved into a political and social action organization fighting for “self-determination within the barrios (neighborhoods) of the United States.” Originated by sons and daughters of Puerto Rican migrants, the Latinx pacesetters advanced on behalf of their colonized kin and Third World people equivalent. At large, these Caribbean descendants left the islands, with their largest populations settling along the mainland’s east coast.

More than cruising past language barriers, the same American scarcity and profiteering they aimed to evade — as a commonwealth of the United States — was damaging their newfound barrios. Exasperated by their seemingly second-class citizenship settlements, the Chicago-based Young Lords developed an appreciation for the Black Panther Party’s socialist agendas. In their image, alongside activists and pro-independence Boricuas, the 13-Point Program was formed.

The opening viewpoints were stated as follows:

“We Want Self-Determination For Puerto Ricans — Liberation Of The Island And Inside The United States. Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre! We Want Self-Determination For All Latinos. Que Viva La Raza! We Want The Liberation Of All Third-World People. No Puerto Rican Is Free Until All People Are Free! We Are Revolutionary Nationalists And Oppose Racism. Power To All Oppressed People! We Want Community Control Of Our Institutions And Land...”

Bearing this in mind, the area comprising the largest mainland Puerto Rican population remains New York City. Nuyoricans followed suit through a multitude of “serve the people” initiatives, including efforts concerning public sanitation, identity awareness, resource distribution, and weaponry.

Also, educational updates, such as those concerning protests or LGBTQ+ activists, were added to The Young Lords newspaper, Pa’lante. And similarly to now, avoiding police harassment and achieving a working-class status — as a Brown resident in a metropolitan area — endures as aspirational for many Young Lords supporters.

With this position, entries from the 13-Point Program resumed as follows:

“We Want A True Education Of Our Creole Culture And Spanish Language. Venceremos! We Oppose The Amerikkkan Military. We Want Freedom For All Political Prisoners. We Want Equality For Women. Machismo Must Be Revolutionary... Not Oppressive. Forward, Sisters, In The Struggle! We Fight Anti-Communism With International Unity. We Believe Armed Self-Defense And Armed Struggle Are The Only Means To Liberation. We Want A Socialist Society.”

With a revision to the program’s fifth point becoming, “We Want Equality For Women. Down With Machismo And Male Chauvinism,” advancement became more thorough. Still, this symbolic Black Panther-assisted bill of rights was not solely intended to defend Puerto Ricans. However, the Young Lord Organization did note a disdain for gringo domination. Concretely: “For 500 years, first Spain and then the United States 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...” These inclinations to resist degradation are shared across diverse Latinx identities.

Moreover, the mobilizing of these Spanglish-speaking vicinities’ revolution was stimulated by different historical happenings. Past Puerto Rican nationalists like Lolita Lebrón officiated an apprehending on the United States House of Representatives in ‘54. She and her Boricua assailants witnessed far-reaching barbarities against the diaspora ahead of the congressional-facing outcome. As a result, Lebrón was deemed subversive and incarcerated for 25 years.

Academically, the Puerto Rican nonconformists’ charges have been contextualized against this year’s fatal pro-Trump rally on the United States Capitol’s grounds. The mostly white agitators broke into the governmental structure — upholding oppressive bias — yet were met with little to no consequences. To add, Young Lords’ founding men like Jiménez climbed, trailing Puerto Rican women’s sacrifices such as Lebrón’s.

In the fashion, the Black Panther Party’s women, like before-mentioned Elaine Brown’s feminist formations, provided part of the blueprint for Young Lords’ militia directors such as Iris Morales. The hands-on leftist work of these women supports the modern cultural and professional progression of Black and Brown people comprehensively. They were always teaching. Each of the innovative nationalists’ sit-ins, anti-brutality demonstrations, garbage-dumping rallies, and child care allowances made a difference.

And while the list of heroes championing equality is unending, REVOLT exists following these assembled curriculums and materialities. The Black Panther Party and Young Lords Organization revolutionaries warrant the deepest of gratitude. We are universally indebted this Black History Month and enduringly.

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