‘Party People’ Remembers The Forgotten History Of The Young Lords
While the Black Panthers have been subject to distorted accounts of their critical role in American history, the Young Lords have been denied a story almost entirely.
Created by award-winning theater ensemble Universes and developed by Eclipsed director Liesl Tommy, Party People explores the contention between older and younger generations of activists through the eyes of Malik, son of a Black Panther, and Jimmy, nephew of a Young Lord.
While assessing how a youthful contingent of activism grapples with the ongoing fight against police brutality and institutionalized racism today, the New York City play pays tribute to a history often ignored.
“If you truly do your research on the Black Panthers […] they were about coalition building,” Universes co-founder Steven Sapp told The Huffington Post, referencing Fred Hampton’s Rainbow Coalition, which included the Black Panthers, Young Lords, Young Patriots, members of the American Indian Movement, Brown Berets, I Wor Kuen, and the White Panther Party. “It is important for us to see this type of unity that existed then and should continue now. It is this type of effort that should cross color lines, to show that liberation is a human struggle that can crush white supremacy, and will fight it as a coalition.”
For Universes writers, bringing the story of the Black Panthers and the Young Lords to the stage was a no-brainer. “[They’re] all from New York,” Tommy said. “They are Puerto Rican and African-American, and they grew up sort of as the beneficiary of some of the Young Lords’ social programs. When they came up with the idea to do the show, the Young Lords and the Black Panthers were very, very much for them equally potent and important.”
However, as the characters in their play, they are left to consider what legacy they will leave behind as they remember those before them. “I think what I was actually interested in was Jimmy and Malik being a parallel for Universes,” he continued. “Because Universes, as artists, have been activists their whole lives. They started off as activists and artists, and that’s what I am as well. So the question, when you are an artist and you also believe in having a political point of view in your work, is that question of, Are you doing enough? Have you gone far enough? Is it really political? You know, it’s always there.”
Party People is running at the Public Theater in New York City until Dec. 11. Learn more about the production here.