Richie Pérez (1944-2004)

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A longtime activist and leader in the struggle for global human rights, Richie Pérez was a leading exponent for social justice and political participation. A former Young Lord and National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights co-founder, Richie brought his unique mix of integrity, zeal and unity to the diverse ethnic and racial communities of New York City and beyond.

Born and raised in the Bronx, Richie graduated from the NYC public school system and the City University of New York. He also earned an MA in Business Economics from NYU and completed course work toward a Ph.D. in Bilingual Education.

He taught at Monroe High School and was involved in the movement for community control of the schools. He also taught college courses on the Puerto Rican urban experience, the mass media, social policy in the United States, the history of the Civil Rights and labor movements at institutions like Hunter and Brooklyn Colleges, the College of New Rochelle, and the Center for Legal Education and Urban Policy.

As a member of the Young Lords Party, he served as editor of its weekly newspaper Pa’lante and was the party’s Deputy Minister of Information. He was also active in the Anti Bakke Decision; the New York Committee to Free the Puerto Rican Nationalist Prisoners; and founded and led the Committee Against Fort Apache (the movie).

Richie spent the last 21 years working at the Community Service Society where he was the Director of Political Development and where he shared responsibility for the agency’s urban agenda. Over the last decade, grassroots projects he designed and ran registered more than 250,000 new voters. Most recently, Richie worked closely with the CSS Legal Department on the issue of felon disenfranchisement.

As a founder and co chair of the Justice Committee, he was responsible for organizing efforts against police brutality and racially motivated violence. He worked closely with youth organizations and families of victims.

He was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit aimed at abolishing the NYPD’s Street Crimes Unit. In addition, he was a founder of People’s Justice 2000, a coalition formed to mobilize support during the trials of the police officers who killed Amadou Diallo and tortured Abner Louima.

Richie also wrote and lectured extensively on topics including urban problems, restructuring of the US economy, race relations, media stereotyping, electoral politics, community organizing, youth leadership development and political empowerment. His views were frequently sought by the media and his interviews were shown on programs including 60 Minutes, NY I, Like It Is, Visiones, Positively Black and Tiempo.

Richie is survived by his wife, Martha Laureano, son, Danny and his mother Ann Pérez.

Cientos de Personas Dan el Último Adiós a Richie Pérez
Hola Hoy, March 2004

Richie Pérez, el legendario activista puertorriqueño que por más de tres décadas lucho contra las injusticias y la discriminación, fue despedido ayer en el cementerio St. Raymond de El Bronx entre lágrimas y aplausos.

Justo antes de que se diera por terminada la ceremonia fúnebre, un fuerte viento levantó un arreglo floral con la forma de la bandera puertorriqueña y la puso sobre el ataúd. La Naturaleza se adelantó a lo que los mortales tenían preparado para el final y por eso las lágrimas y el aplauso invadieron el ambiente.

“Fue como que Richie dijo, esto se viene pa’aca,” señalo Gina Arias, miembro del Community Service Society donde Pérez trabajaba como director de políticas: El último adiós a Pérez comenzó temprano en la Iglesia San Ignacio Loyola a las 11:00 a.m. Allí la comunidad boricua, amigos y compañeros celebraron una misa en honor a quien fuera uno de los fundadores del Congreso Nacional para los Derechos Puertorriqueños.

La ceremonia, que fue oficiada por el Monseñor John Powais, contó con la participación de unas 500 personas; entre ellas, miembros del movimiento contra la brutalidad policial (que organizó durante los años 80), dirigentes políticos, representantes de la ciudad, como el concejal Chuck Barron y el abogado Norman Segal y lideres comunitarios.

En la liturgia hubo oradores que recordaron la vida y obra de Pérez en un ambiente de tristeza y admiración. Intervinieron sus amigos más cercanos y comprometidos con su causa como el padre Luis Barrios (que abrió el discurso hablando de Jesús y Pérez), Vicente Alba “Panamá,” Luis Garden Acosta, Jessica San Clemente y su esposa Martha Laureano, quien recordó la dedicación a su familia a pesar de sus muchas actividades.

Luego, una enorme caravana de carros (que no fue escoltada por la policía) llego hasta el cementerio St. Raymond donde todos colocaron una rosa sobre el ataúd del activista.

En el cementerio, el padre Barrios ofreció una pequeña oración que fue coronada por un sonoro “Pa’lante, siempre pa’lante.”

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