¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York explores the legacy of the Young Lords in East Harlem, the Bronx and the Lower East Side, focusing on specific political events that the Young Lords organized in these locations.
Founded in Chicago in September 1968, the Young Lords Organization later developed a chapter in New York City in July 1969 when various groups came together in the interest of neighborhood improvement and Puerto Rican self-determination. The New York chapter was led by a group of students and young people working together, including Felipe Luciano, Pablo “Yoruba” Guzman, Juan González, Juan “Fi” Ortiz, David Pérez and Miguel Melendez. Juan Gonzalez underscored the need to speak with the people of the neighborhood to begin their activist work: “We must go to them…to the masses. They may know something we don’t. So, first, we must go to the people of El Barrio.” Walking through the streets of East Harlem, the young group asked local residents about their biggest concerns in the neighborhood and the answer was nearly unanimous: garbage. The City’s Department of Sanitation rarely came to pick up garbage in East Harlem.
The Lords organized an accumulation of garbage at the center of Second and Third Avenues, near 106th, 111th, 116th and 118th Streets. Within a few days, the mayor’s special assistant came to visit El Barrio and sanitation trucks began making regular stops in East Harlem. Many more young people joined the cause and activism of the Young Lords including Luis Garden Acosta, Carlos Aponte, Connie Cruz, Jenny Figueroa, Gloria Rodriguez, Iris Morales, and Denise Oliver.
El Museo’s exhibition draws from works in the museum’s own collection including copies of the Young Lords weekly newspaper, Palante. It also explores the legacy of the Young Lords and the relationship between art and activism. Images by photographer Hiram Maristany that feature the Young Lords’ Garbage Offensive, their take over of the First Spanish Methodist Church of East Harlem (later renamed by the Young Lords as The People’s Church), their free morning breakfast program, the rerouting of a TB-testing truck and the funeral of Julio Roldán will all be highlighted in the exhibition.
Paintings and political prints (Antonio Martorell, Domingo García, and Marcos Dimas) from El Museo’s permanent collection will be on display. Works commissioned specifically for this exhibition by Coco Lopez, JC lenochan, Miguel Luciano, and Shellyne Rodriguez are also featured.
¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York will be exhibited at The Bronx Museum of the Arts (July 2 – October 15, 2015), El Museo del Barrio (July 22-December 12, 2015), and Loisaida Inc. (July 30 – October 10, 2015). The exhibition is co-organized by all three institutions.
At El Museo del Barrio the exhibition is made possible with Public Support from Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the New York City Council.