Young Lords of New York

How we measure public health, from John Snow’s mapping of deaths from Cholera in 1854 to Healthy People 2020s open data sets, has remained relatively consistent. What the data tells researchers is that poorer communities are most often more at risk to be hot beds of disease communication due to systemic barriers that prevent effective treatment and access to equitable care. Less explored, however, is the effects these communities can have on public health outcomes without the support of municipalities and the federal government. What would access to care look like when people demand it, and what does this say about the rhetoric of health and medicine outside of institutions like universities and hospitals?

This project attempts to visualize one groundswell in New York City in the 1970s through the direct action of the Young Lords Organization, an afro-Latinx community organization that made health equity one of its main goals. Throughout the 1970s, their direct action led to the promotion of access of care through expanded tuberculosis testing, lead removal, and consistent garbage removal. While the actions are necessary, what permanent accommodations did the group provide the community. Data from Open New York shows an exponential growth in the construction of hospital facilities (including hospital renovation, outpatient, mental health, and family planning facilities) immediately following the actions of the YLO and visibility their actions brought to health disparities in the Bronx and Harlem. This project attempts to make the argument that the direct action of the YLO led to lasting material change for their communities. The rhetoric of health and medicine, then, should be less concerned with institutional voices and work in concert with the communities they are addressing. 

Eric Rodriguez

2019-2020 CHI Grad Fellow Cohort

PhD Candidate, Writing, Rhetoc, and American Cultures