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Young Lords pass the torch, honor Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez

By Tom Burke

Jose "Cha Cha" Jimenez places a Young Lords medallion on the new National Chairm

Chicago, IL- At a momentous event in Chicago, the original Young Lords passed the leadership torch to a new generation. The moving June 4 ceremony involved the Young Lords Central Committee led by Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez placing medallions over the heads of more than 50 New Era Young Lords. The young activists from seven cities and Puerto Rico proudly wore their purple berets and distinctive Young Lords shirts. The medallions read, “Tengo Puerto Rico en mi corazón,” with the original Young Lords logo.

The Young Lords Organization was founded by Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez in 1968 in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Puerto Ricans and other working people were being forced out of the now wealthy neighborhood by big financiers and Mayor Richard Daley’s Democrat political machine.

At that time, Jimenez turned a street gang into one of the most successful political movements of its day, resisting community displacement and opposing the U.S. war in Vietnam. Their militant tactics attracted masses of people to protest for better housing, education, childcare and health care in Chicago. The Young Lords then spread to New York City and other big cities where Puerto Rican people lived and worked.

In front of 160 people in Chicago, the original Young Lords and an array of movement leaders spoke about their organizing and lessons learned. The New Era Young Lords then honored “Cha Cha” Jimenez and the original Young Lords present: David Rivera, Tony Baez and Omar Lopez. There were passionate speeches, and loud chants of “Power to the people!” and “Viva Puerto Rico libre!”

“I think for the last 50 years we have felt like we had no representation in our community, and we were able to reignite that spark on June 4. There’s been a lot of Puerto Rican movements, but we resonate with the Young Lords, and they bring representation to our community in this country,” said Suby Toro, national chairman of the Young Lords.

The new activists from Connecticut, Cleveland, Orlando, Tampa, Miami and New York City are reviving the Young Lords, demanding independence for Puerto Rico, and opposing police killings and repression. About half of the new leaders are women and non-binary comrades. Their community service programs are growing and developing as they create ties and organize the masses of people.

The new Young Lords leaders gather around their founder Jose "Cha Cha" Jimenez.

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