Reviewed by Lauren Lefty
The Young Lords have been enjoying their own nuevo despertar in the last few years, as a number of the city’s cultural institutions from El Museo del Barrio to the Bronx Museum hosted exhibits on the late sixties radical Puerto Rican organization. Darrel Wanzer-Serrano’s The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation (Temple University Press, 2016) is a welcome addition to this reawakening as the first book-length treatment of the East Coast branch of the party, which also had bases in Newark and Philadelphia in addition to its founding chapter in Chicago. The New York Lords only existed for a brief moment from 1969 to 1976, as a “revolutionary nationalist, antiracist, anti-sexist group who advanced a complex political program featuring support for the liberation of all Puerto Ricans (on the island and in the United States), the broader liberation of all Third World people, equality for women, U.S. demilitarization, leftist political education, redistributive justice, and other programs [that] fit into their ecumenical ideology" (5). Yet as Wanzer-Serrano notes, quoting Raymond Williams, they nonetheless provide “resources of hope” for today’s activists and anyone interested in the history and theory of radical social movements. While this book was published before the political upheavals of 2016, it seems all the more relevant for the current moment.
Editors' Note: This is part of a roundtable series,“New Histories of Education in New York City.” For an introduction and overview, click here.
In our fourth post, Lauren Lefty asks us what the story of community control looks like from a Puerto Rican perspective. She excavates histories of transnationalism and empire from above and below; elite ideas and policies from the “culture of poverty” to charter schools circulated between island and mainland, while grassroots organizers mobilized transnational networks along a “continual line of self-determination.” When we take empire and decolonization seriously, and see schools as “a key site to engage questions of sovereignty,” “local control” is not so local at all.
By James Davis
Eric Walrond was far from alone in feeling the pull of poetry in 1922, arguably the most pivotal year in the history of African American verse. Claude McKay’s Harlem Shadows was published to acclaim; Jean Toomer put the final touches on Cane; Georgia Douglas Johnson published Bronze; and James Weldon Johnson published The Book of American Negro Poetry, the preface to which linked race progress to the arts. The tide was shifting as The Crisis began emphasizing the arts and the Urban League founded Opportunity in 1922. The transformation prompted one budding poet, a Columbia dropout, to begin thinking in terms of a movement. Writing Alain Locke, Langston Hughes said, “You are right that we have enough talent now to begin a movement. I wish we had some gathering place for our artists -- some little Greenwich Village of our own.” In Greenwich Village at that moment was another poet who would help realize their vision, the New York University student Countée Cullen, a Harlem product with several publications already to his name.
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