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The Young LordsA Radical History$
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Johanna Fernández

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469653440

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469653440.001.0001

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José “Cha Cha” Jiménez and the Roots of Rebellion

(p.13) Chapter One Beginnings
The Young Lords

Johanna Fernández

University of North Carolina Press

In 1968, José “Cha Cha” Jiménez sat in solitary confinement wrestling with his record of recidivism. He was the leader of the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican and Mexican gang, which he’d joined to survive Chicago’s mean streets. But his life was about to change. Like other Puerto Rican, Mexican and black American youth, Cha Cha’s people were recent migrants to the city who’d been displaced by urban renewal— structural racism in the form federal housing policy —which forced them to settle in densely populated blocks on the edges of white ethnic neighborhoods. Outnumber, they faced hostility, reaction, and even terror from white resident who resented their presence in Chicago. But with the new confidence produced by the civil rights movement, street organizations like the Young Lords desegregated public spaces with brawn and asserted the rights of racialized people to the city. The social movements also opened up possibilities for self-transformation. Like Malcolm X, Cha Cha was politicized in prison. He transformed the gang into the Black Panthers’ Puerto Rican counterpart—a herculean feat made possible by a series of unforeseen circumstances and conscious interventions, including that of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and his Rainbow Coalition.

Keywords:   Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez, Chicago gangs, Urban Renewal, Self-Transformation, White Terror, White Reaction, White Ethnics, Rainbow Coalition, structural racism, Fred Hampton

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