Throughout much of Chicago’s history, immigrant communities have made their voices heard socially and politically through the formation of street gangs. During the 1960s in Lincoln Park, a Puerto Rican gang called the Young Lords came together after being pushed out of the barrio due to urban renewal projects. Over the years, the Young Lords evolved into a civil rights organization with national presence.
In an installation at The Honeycomb Network in Humboldt Park, “Encendidas: Women of the Young Lords” explores the untold history and legacy of the women in that movement through personal photos and newspapers of the time. Co-curator and DePaul University professor Jacqueline Lazú said there were a number of reasons women might have seen their contributions marginalized but that women were every bit as instrumental in the group as their male counterparts.
“From the moment that the Young Lordettes were formed in 1965, which was the women’s auxiliary of the gang … up until the present time, including the new-era Young Lords, a new manifestation of the movement … that formed in 2020, I discovered that women were involved from the very beginning in the Young Lords, including when they organized in 1965 as the Young Lords, but also beyond that,” Lazú said. “As individuals within the organization began to politicize, women also responded in the same way. But I also recognize that it was a lot harder for women to identify with the movement for a lot of different reasons, including some of the values of the community themselves. That women oftentimes came in as partners or just showed up to do the work and were very active in the rank and file. And so if they didn’t see themselves as part of the leadership, they weren’t as eager or as ready to call themselves Young Lords in the same way that the men were. And so it really did take some excavation to understand the role of women, but I also saw it as really critical because so many of them were involved in key moments within the movement.”
“Encendidas: Women of the Young Lords” is on display at The Honeycomb Network, 2659 W. Division St., on Paseo Boricua through July 29.