Projects and Programs of the Young Lords

The Young Lords Party was created by the Puerto Rican people to serve the Puerto Rican people. Their various projects discussed below are proof of their commitment to better their own communities as a method of social protest: if the local and national government would not solve the problems of the Puerto Rican communities, then the Puerto Ricans would do it themselves—and, in so doing, draw attention to the problem.

The Garbage Offensive: The so-called “garbage offensive” occurred in response to the overflow of refuse in the streets of El Barrio—otherwise known as East Harlem. The trash in the Puerto Rican neighborhoods had been sorely neglected and inefficient, as compared to the clean streets in the white neighborhoods of New York. The residents of the El Barrio joined together and cleaned up the streets. They asked the local Department of Sanitation for brooms, and were denied, so they took the brooms themselves and used them to sweep all the garbage into a giant pile. They put this pile in the middle of a major street at the edge of the neighborhood to block traffic and draw attention to the garbage problem. It was the first of many initiatives by the Young Lords. The garbage offensive was the first protest against the daily injustice suffered by the Puerto Rican people of New York. (1)

Churches: Many of the churches in the Puerto Rican neighborhoods of New York were fully functional buildings that were only used one day of the week to serve the community. The Young Lords occupied several churches, transforming them into housing for free breakfast programs and daycare. The first church the party occupied was known as The First Spanish Methodist Church (renamed La Iglesia de la Gente), and—though the occupation only lasted eleven days—it garnered national attention by the press and brought the Puerto Rican empowerment movement to the forefront. (5)

This image shows Young Lords members walking to a local church as part of a protest in December 1969. It is taken from (8). It is credited to Michael Abramson. Please excuse the poor reproduction.

Day Care: The Young Lords organized a free daycare for working mothers and fathers who could not afford day care for their children on their meager salaries. This program was a great success, and benefited those members of the community who had to work full time jobs in order to support their families. (5)

Breakfast Programs: Housed in many of the occupied churches, the Young Lords started a program of free breakfast meals for members of the community. This program promoted community fellowship as well as helped feed the poor and hungry of New York’s Puerto Rican community. (5)

Door-to-Door Lead Poisoning/TB Testing: Among the various concerns of the Young Lords was the poor health coverage offered to the average Puerto Rican living in New York. Many of the community members had not received the most basic tests—including life-saving tests for lead poisoning and tuberculosis. The Young Lords organized door-to-door led poisoning testing, and—when they learned the city owned a TB-testing x-ray truck that had never reached the Puerto Rican neighborhoods—the Young Lords commandeered the truck and brought it in for use by their neighborhood. (5)