Who are the Young Lords?

Apparently we are supposed to believe that there are now two answers to that question. One of those answers is really pissing me off this morning. I’ll let you guess which one.

members of the Young Lords

Answer #1:
The Young Lords Party, also known as the Young Lords Organization, was a primarily stateside-based Puerto Rican organization dedicated to liberation, independence, and justice for Puerto Ricans both in the States and on the island and for all oppressed people. They were inspired by and worked parallel to organizations like the Black Panthers, the Brown Berets, and the American Indian Movement. Like those organizations, they were targeted by COINTELPRO and the other powers that be which, along with internal conflict and political shifts, lead to the organization’s disintegration in the mid-1970s. They continue to remain an important, revolutionary and inspirational movement for Puerto Ricans and other Latinos living in the United States. You can find out more about the Young Lords at Palante.org and YoungLords.info.

Members of the paler, apolitical Young Lords

Answer #2:
The Young Lords are some white guys who decided to form an indie rock band in NYC a few years ago and apparently couldn’t be bothered to find out whether they were ripping off the name of an entire political movement that most certainly does not belong to them. One might argue that words are words and no one can claim to own the name “Young Lords,” but how would it look if some white dudes decided to name their band the Black Panthers? That would probably be less likely to happen since more people know about the Black Panthers, but come on, people – we live in the age of Google (which, sadly, now has the MySpace page for this stupid band ranked above pages about the actual Young Lords in search results.) It is tremendously easy to look things up. I can’t help but think that they probably did look it up before they took up the name themselves and just didn’t give a fuck, but even if they could claim the innocence of ignorance then, I’m sure that one of them has Googled their band name since. For a band whose bio claims that their “sound pays homage to the past,” they’re displaying a remarkable amount of ahistoricity, ignorance and disrespect.

So fuck Answer #2 and their unremarkable music. In the end, they’ll likely just be another of a long string of interchangeable white bands, and Answer #1 will be the only one that actually still matters.

Puerto Rico en mi corazon

16 Responses to “Who are the Young Lords?”

  1. 1 frau sally benz

    When I first saw the title to the post I thought OOOOOOH PICK ME! I KNOW! But then I actually read it and am now thoroughly bummed.

    we live in the age of Google (which, sadly, now has the MySpace page for this stupid band ranked above pages about the actual Young Lords in search results.)

    Seriously, that is just plain sad. Considering how little people actually know about the Young Lords, what do you think will happen if this band actually makes it?? Will their image block out the legacy and work of the Young Lords, or will there be some struggle for who keeps the name?

  2. 2 Amanda Hickman

    God I love the disaffected hipster young lords. Could they possibly care any less what anyone thinks? Not really, no. I like that according to their blog they once shared a stage with a band called “VietNam” (wiki caps? really?) that is presumably also a bunch of disaffected anorexic white boys whose entire engagement with Vietnam consists of a vague sense that it was controversial, something about a war, and, um, asia?

    Fun things that could happen: the FBI is pretty thick, so maybe they’ll start having a lot of spooks at their shows trying to crack the mystery of the reemergence of the revolutionaries. To make it bonus fun, it would be nice if at least one person there had one of those “defend Brooklyn” t-shirts with an ironic assault rifle on it.

    I really like your Black Panther idea, though — I think that is a *great* band name. It could be all girls and we could wear black cat suits, which everyone knows are sexy. If we double bill with the Young Lords, it’d be like a giant COINTELPRO flytrap!

  3. 3 al

    there is/was a new york city band called the Panthers who had a song with the lyrics ‘we are terrorists'(it was pre 9-11) and used an image of angela davis on their record. now, i know the black panthers weren’t terrorists and that angela davis wasn’t a black panther, but the whole thing always made me really uncomfortable and i was always surprised smarter punk kids than me hadn’t already been all over talking about how fucked up that was.

    this, though, wow.

  4. 4 R-B

    thanks for this. i linked to it.. hope that’s alright…
    my circle has taken to using a short hand for the term cultural appropriation…

  5. 5 Mark

    PS it’s insulting that they refer to us many times as some “white dudes”. Whoever said revolution or social change had to come from brown skins. There are plenty of oppressed white dudes in America too. Probably more in number than puerto ricans if you wanna get down to the true demographics of America.
    Stop living in the past companeros!!Viva La Revolucion!

  6. 6 Gordon Brownstone

    Right. Then there are the English! I am sure a couple of young lords exist in England.

    Oh, and it was probably more internal conflict than COINTELPRO that led to the organisation’s disintegration. Be honest, Jack.

  7. 7 william

    Interestingly enough, when I first tried looking for literature on the Young Lords Organization in Chicago (1968) I found more info on the Young Lords musical band which was not surprising but was indeed disappointing. I should add that there was also a now defunct group called the “Soledad Brothers” who also included the “Black Panther” logo in their drum kit. This band was a white blues combo who styled themselves with a New Orleans sound. I emailed them at the time and asked why they were using specific type of American history to promote their music even though they did not support or value that specific history. They responded by saying “there is no copyright infringement in our use of it.” This prompted me to ask if they would consider me using their parents first and last name for a porno video title. They understood my comment and the seriousness in set standards of values but they would not have if I had not reached out to them. The Young Lords on the other hand were a chicago street gang that radically shifted their presence and ideology towards progressive community development thus influenced the Young Lords Party in NY, Philli, CT and NJ. I think the coincidence of the anglo-rock band and the Latino organization “Young Lords” are just that and it might also be that this rock group was influenced by the last episode of Battlestar Galactica titled “The Young Lords” (1980). I think it is also fair to assume one can type “young lords” on any search engine and find all those said here and then some.

    In my conclusion, we can only bring the concerns of appropriation, misuse, abuse and historical values to the forefront or we will continue to have blissful ignorance shopping around for “cool” names and faces to use for their personal gain. Can you imagine someone using images of starved humans in a German concentration camp to promote their car shop sale? I think not!

    “palante, siempre palante”

    -The Young Lords Party

  8. 8 Denise Oliver-Velez

    Thanks for this. As a former YLP member – it’s important to see that education about our history is continuing.


  9. 9 susurro

    al – davis was a panther, she went to jail for her membership in and radical activism w/ the panthers.

    the things is Jack, hipster hate is all the rage. They appropriate but then they claim it is irony, or satire, or homage and that makes the whole thing ok. Forgive me for getting professorial but its something Jameson said about hegemonic processes during late capitalism . . .

    anyway, I feel you. I guess I’ve just hit that tired place that comes from living in the middle of gentrification surrounded by dread locked blonde kids, and zipped up abercrombia and fitch anorexics lamenting the “commercial” while eating $15 tacos at the restaurant that shoved out the mom and pop place that sold them for $2 for 50 years . . .

  10. 10 Jack

    Thanks for the (worthwhile) comments, folks – sorry that this thank you comes so late.

    Thank you especially to Denise – it was an honor to get a response from you on this issue. I know that the time it’s taken me to respond to you wouldn’t indicate that I feel honored and really appreciate your response, but I do. I’ve thought about needing to respond to you on an almost daily basis; funny how sometimes thoughts do not translate into action in the midst of the rest of one’s life! But again – thank you.

  11. 11 Kerry

    Racism goes both ways. To refer to a group as “some white guys” is a step backward. If they were black, would you call them “some black guys”? Neither is fair and involves prejudgement based on skin color.

    Before you say “fuck you” to them, at least contact them to ask about what’s making you angry, since you already went through the effort of checking out their MySpace page. They deserve to at least make a statement in regards to your concern. This band is not well-known, but outside of certain circles, neither is the revolutionary Young Lords, and even if they did discover the group at some point, they may not have been made fully aware of what it stands for and its true importance. Stop before you judge. At the very least, give them a chance before you swear them off.

    Introducing anyone by their skin color is a step backwards. Don’t do it.

  12. 12 Lee

    I was in a band from 1988-1993 called The Young Lords, and we knew exactly where it came from (by the way we are all white). Who gives a crap. It’s a great name. If you’re going to split hairs over color, you’re missing the whole F’N point of the organization to begin with. P.S. Did you know that The Police weren’t really cops ?!

  13. 13 (Not4)Prophet

    As a Puerto Rican (from NYC) musician whos parents were not Young Lords, but were Puerto Rican nationalist/liberationists in the 1970s, yeah, i find this white-boy-privileged appropriationists-cultural thievery pretty offensive, disrespectful and just plain ig’nant to boot!…..

    Good thing is that as a fellow musician in New York City, there’s a good (or bad) possibility that i will run into these pseudo-rockers at some point (if i should decide to start frequenting any of them hipper-than-thou hot spots that seem to infest Brooklyn these days), and get an opportunity to “teach” them the history of the real Young Lords (and Puerto Rican/Nuyorican struggle politics in general), and “encourage” them (and any of their would-be fan-addicts) to maybe come up with a new. more appropriate Hip white-dude kinda name!!!!

    maybe the Young Boreds would do?

  14. 14 Nezua

    How gross. And cry me a fuckin river, these jerks whining about oppressed white guys on this page. Comedy gold and thieving hipsters.

  15. 15 Miss Sharon

    Racism goes both ways. To refer to a group as “some white guys” is a step backward. If they were black, would you call them “some black guys”? Neither is fair and involves prejudgement based on skin color.
    Right Kelly, because white people (esp straight men!) face so many hurdles,violence and are marginlized. It reminds me of when mens rights advocates whine that men are oppressed too: Ah no.
    I suggest you read Tim Wise on this subject, and then some poc blogs.
    (I’m white btw)

  16. 16 Jerry

    Of course I remember the young lords , I grew up in those turbulent times I know what they stood fore and no one can ever take that away from their legacy. Felipe Luciano the founder , Geraldo Rivera was the lawyer for the group among prominent figures. I dont think anyone will take away from what they really were.

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