“We want respect, and we want justice!”

In the summer of 1969, The streets of East Harlem were cleaned up by the Young Lords: ages 16-26 and by kids, men, women, and elderly in the community. They piled up garbage in the middle of the street on 3rd avenue so that the ‘Sanitation’ Department would have to clean it up. The four feet high dump in the middle of the street didn’t immediately catch the city’s attention. Then, the people burned the garbage right in the middle of 3rd avenue. Not only did the city have to clean up the garbage in order to clear traffic, but it gave those that were unaware of the conditions Puerto Ricans faced a visual of the garbage that flooded the streets of El Barrio due to the city’s neglect.


Weeks prior to the Garbage Offensive, The Young Lords organized El Barrio to clean up the neighborhood with their house brooms. The Sanitation Department had been neglecting East Harlem for too long. When the brooms ran out and were no longer usable, the Young Lords went to the Sanitation Department to ask for more brooms, which the department denied from them.

“Bullets and bombs

aren’t the only ways

to kill people. Bad

hospitals kill our

people. Rotten,

forgotten buildings

kill our people.

Garbage and disease

kill our people.”

Neglect is oppression. The Young Lords were telling their people through their organizing, through listening, and through acting that the people did not have to live in garbage dumps. By educating their communities, the Young Lords were teaching their people that their history mattered. By serving their community, the Young Lords were telling their people they were stronger when they worked together for a common purpose. By loving their people, the Young Lords brought hope to their barrios.

Are you listening? Are you educating? Are you serving? Are you loving your people? You don’t have to be a Young Lord to have a voice for the voiceless, or love and identify with the oppressed.

During Latino Heritage Month I am focusing my posts on Latino contributions to this country focusing on the Young Lords Organization and history of Latino contributions in New York. My next post will be on The Young Lords and the People’s Church and how it would have looked like for the Church to take part in this movement.


“Palante! A Brief History of the Young Lords.” Palante! A Brief History of the Young Lords. 27 May 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <https://libcom.org/library/palante-brief-history-young-lords&gt;.

Abramson, Michael. Palante: Young Lords Party. Chicago: Haymarket, 2011. 11-83. Print.


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