GRAND RAPIDS, Nov. 1, 2012 (AP): A team of students, professors and activists from Grand Valley State University have completed the first stage of a lengthy project focused on the Young Lords, an organization that helped preserve Latino civil rights.
Melanie Shell-Weiss, assistant professor of liberal studies, explained that the project started in September 2011 and now the first stage, which was focused on collecting testimonies from people involved in the Latino human rights movement, is almost over.
``We have oral testimony from 88 people that lived in Lincoln Park, Chicago, when all this started. Now we are working on making all these documents accessible, and translate it into English or Spanish,'' she said.
The Young Lords movement started in the 1960's in Lincoln Park, Chicago and it was founded by Jose ``Cha Cha'' Jimenez, a Grand Valley graduate and the project's co-director.
The push Jimenez led grew out of the ongoing struggle with the ``Richard J. Daley Machine'' for fair housing, self-determination, and human rights, according to Grand Valley.
At that time, Shell-Weiss said the Young Lords were fighting against displacement, which means that the people in Lincoln Park were forced to leave their residences due to an increase in their rent.
``This happened because landlords were offered incentives to increase rent,'' she said. ``Many of the tenants were minorities such as Puerto Ricans and African-Americans. Progressively, wealthier people moved into the neighborhood.''
As a consequence, many of these minorities moved to nearby states and made Holland or Grand Rapids their new home.
Shell-Weiss pointed out that this phenomenon still occurs in many cities around the United States, including Baltimore where she worked at Johns Hopkins University.
As Shell-Weiss works with Jimenez and students in the team to make the material available, the church where the Young Lords distributed breakfast and opened a free clinic, is going to be demolished.
``Walgreens bought it so they are going to take it down. I think it is a way to erase history and to wipe out a lot of people,'' she said.
According to the Young Lords project, the project will be completed in December 2013.