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We Took the Streets: Fighting For Latino Rights with the Young Lords.

By Miguel "Mickey" Melendez, St. Martin's Press

Miguel "Mickey" Melendez recounts in this memoir his service to the Young Lords during their three years of existence, 1969-1972, as a mediator, member of the Central Committee and later underground representative. This accessible and engaging book preserves the memory of one of the most powerful grassroots movements New York City has seen. Begun in a Puerto Rican community known as "El Barrio," on the Upper East Side, the Young Lords had a dramatic effect on the history of NYC and its vibrant Puerto Rican population. Melendez describes the idealism, anger, and vitality of the Lords in his explanation of the impact and importance of those three years on the continuous struggle for civil rights in poor communities.


We Took the Streets gives a historical perspective on Puerto Rican and Latino efforts for social, political and economic empowerment and discusses how these efforts became part of a memorable grassroots movement. For example, Melendez recounts the Lords taking over a hospital and church in El Barrio and providing social services to local residents who were denied city services.

Some critics have complained that the book oversimplifies the domestic rifts, sexism and betrayal that occurred during the turbulent years that the Lords were the strongest. Others complain that it does not give enough attention to the context and setting of the events in the book (during the late 1960s and early 1970s) and, as a result, the general reader may find it hard to comprehend the importance of the Young Lords as a grassroots movement.

Despite the criticism, the book does successfully highlight that communities of color were forced to demand civil rights and social services that were denied to them, services that were as simple as trash collection. In 2004, many of the same communities suffer from similarly poor social services and frequent civil rights violations. The book also provides a brief history on the movements that former Young Lords are currently involved in and background information for today's activists who are interested in issues affecting New York's Latino community.

Reviewed by Donna Hernandez

Donna Hernandez is a communications associate at the Applied Research Center and former director of the Police-Barrio Relations Project.
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Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Book Review
Author:Hernandez, Donna
Publication:Colorlines Magazine
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2004
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