The Church Offensive
The Church Offensive
Prefiguring the New Society at the People’s Church
In winter 1969, the Young Lords recited scripture, channeled the revolutionary Jesus, and occupied the First Spanish United Methodist Church for its indifference to social violence, which combined with its promises of happiness in the hereafter, they argued, cloaked a project of social control. Rechristened, The People’s Church, the Lords’ prefigurative politics and project included a free medical clinic and redress of community grievances and needs, from housing evictions to English translation at parent-teacher meetings. Their hot morning meals to poor school-aged children became what is now the federal school breakfast program. As antidote to the erasure of culture and history that accompanied colonization and slavery in the Americas, they sponsored alternatives to public school curricula on the Puerto Rican independence movement, black American history, and current events. In the evening, they curated spurned elements of Afro-Puerto Rican culture and music performed by underground Nuyorican Poets and new genres of cultural expression, among them the spoken word poetry jam, a precursor to hip hop. They served revolutionary analysis with Mutual Aid. Their daily press conferences created a counternarrative to representations of Puerto Ricans as junkies, knife-wielding thugs, and welfare dependents that replaced traditional stereotypes with powerful images of eloquent, strategic, and candid Puerto Rican resistance.
Keywords: Prefigurative Politics, The People’s Church, First Spanish United Methodist Church, Afro-Puerto Rican Culture and Music, Mutual Aid, School Breakfast Program, Revolutionary Jesus, Revolutionary Analysis, Social Violence, Occupied
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