Thirty years ago, Felipe Luciano co-founded and chaired the Young Lords Party, a radical activist organization similar to the Black Panther Party. The group fought to improve the living conditions in inner city communities.
Last night, Luciano spoke about his experiences and about the need for organization and leadership among Latino students.
He addressed a group of more than 100 at East Hall, sharing insight about empowerment, understanding and vision for the future.
“What students are seeking is a sense of purpose of mission, of vision which they do not feel exists anymore with regard to Latino students,” he said. “The fastest growing ethnic group in the country is Latinos … We will have to define a new way of looking at ourselves, our nation, our countries of origin and our relationships with them.
“We had better be prepared academically, politically, culturally, financially and psychologically to empower ourselves and provide a united front against enemies of our country who would try to deny our sense of worthiness, justice, and the right to mainstream or not if we want to,” he added.
Luciano stressed the importance of education as a path to success and as a means of activism.
“The most revolutionary thing out there is to graduate,” he said.
He also focused on the need for cohesion and tight family bonds, saying that it is part of the Latino cultural identity to be connected and have a strong sense of family.
LSA sophomore Chuan Teng said that for her, Luciano”s comments about family really hit home.
“I”d heard a lot of the things he”d said before, but the presentation was really awesome,” Teng said. “His emphasis on family was really meaningful to me, because I think it”s the only concrete real bond people can have.”
Public Policy graduate student Jose Stevenson said that growing up in the Bronx, he”d been exposed to the Young Lords organization, which funded school breakfasts and lunch programs and took steps so that the community could do for itself what the city was refusing to do.
He added that he thought it was significant that a leader like Luciano was speaking because of the model of success that he represents.
“It”s a great example, that they saw a need and chose to fulfill it it”s a great image of young people in impoverished neighborhoods and how their drive led them all into very productive lives,” Stevenson said.
LSA junior Celso Cardenas, a Latino task force member, said he felt Luciano was an inspiration to Latinos and to the entire community.
“There are a lot of college students here today that couldn”t have gotten here without people like him,” Cardenas said. He added Luciano”s struggle was something many people could learn from, relate to and understand.
Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs coordinator Donney Moroney said that one of the goals of the Martin Luther King Jr. symposium is to educate the University community about the civil rights movement from all perspectives.
“The students really wanted to make sure that we weren”t just talking about the same message over and over again and that there”s no color barrier with the message,” she said. “MLK”s message of peace and justice is for all people. It definitely impacted the African-American community but it also impacted our entire society ad we need to recognize and celebrate that.”