N.P.R.L.C welcomes Mr. Felipe Luciano

Help me welcome Mr. Felipe Luciano as our guest keynote speaker for the Puerto Rican Leadership Summit to be held at the University of Central Florida on September 25th, 2017.www.nprlcef.org

Mr. Felipe Luciano is one of the most dynamic Latino public figures in the United States of the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries. His eloquence, vision, and passion for issues of social justice are extraordinary and reminiscent of the oratory talent of civil rights leaders of the 1960s.

This two-time Emmy recipient, former WNBC-TV New York news anchor, and lecturer defied adversity early in life. Luciano was born in New York City and raised in poverty in East Harlem and Brooklyn by a single Puerto Rican mother. In 1964, at the age of sixteen, Luciano was convicted of attempted manslaughter after a gang fight and sentenced to five years in prison, of which he served two. Upon his release, the Harlem antipoverty agency, HARYOU-ACT, recognized his academic potential and creative talent and urged the young Luciano to apply to college. With the support of the college readiness program, SEEK, he enrolled in the City University of New York Queens College campus, where he immediately became involved in the student activism of the 1960s. Luciano soon became known within activist circles for his membership in the Last Poets, the group of black power era artists mentored by Amiri Baraka, whose politically charged live-music and spoken word poetry performances in the 1960s prefigured the emergence of hip hop and rap in the 1970s and 1980s. As a member of the Last Poets, Luciano led provocative political workshops in Harlem that attracted progressive intellectuals and activists, including leading figures of the black power movement like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown.

As a result of his local popularity as a Harlem artist and progressive activist, Luciano was approached by a group of Puerto Rican youth in 1968 who wanted to launch a radical organization oriented around fighting against Puerto Rican poverty and racial oppression. Eventually, that cohort of young students launched the New York chapter of the Young Lords Organization (YLO), the Puerto Rican counterpart to the Black Panther Party. Luciano was elected Chairman of the New York group.

Under Luciano’s leadership, the YLO changed its name to the Young Lords Party (YLP) and became one of the most influential Puerto Rican organizations of the 1960s. Luciano established himself in the YLP by articulating the grievances and aspirations of poor Puerto Ricans in an eloquently accessible manner and by identifying issues that resonated with community residents.

Luciano describes his politics during the 1960s as revolutionary nationalism evolving toward a global view of revolution. Luciano attributes his revolutionary politics of the 1960s to his childhood immersion in the family oriented networks and migrant community culture of Puerto Ricans, and to his grueling and punishing prison experience, which helped to crystallize his understanding of the contradictions between American poverty and repression, and the nation’s democratic promise. His 1960s political activism and his membership in the YLP in particular, were crucial to his political maturation and to the constructive channeling of his energies after prison—a period which he identifies as his “age of disillusionment.” Luciano also attributes his success in navigating his early life’s challenges and his successes in the YLP to his strong Afro-Latino identity. He credits his doting grandmother, who had a profoundly proud sense of her negritude, for impressing upon him a positive view of his Afro-Latino roots.

In the fall of 1971, Luciano left the YLP after a series of political disagreements over the YLP’s new directions in politics, strategy, and tactics. Of his experience in the YLP, Luciano recalls that the Young Lords worked hard, worked collectively, and engaged in revolutionary campaigns that had a lasting effect on Puerto Ricans and New York City.

Following his departure from the YLP, Luciano again immersed himself in the city’s black arts movement. From 1972 to 1975, he founded and produced the acclaimed radio show Latin Roots, the first English-language program in the United States to feature Latin culture and music, and to develop an ethnically and racially diverse audience. Latin Roots aired on WRVR, a New York-based radio station affiliated with Riverside Church and known for playing Jazz and the progressive sermons from the church. During Luciano’s tenure, Latin Roots received an Ace Award for best radio show. Later, Luciano joined renowned program director, Frankie Crocker, at WBLS. Later he was hired by WLIB, the sister station of Percy Sutton’s Inner City Broadcasting Company and produced Conversations with Felipe Luciano, which explored the commonalities between black and Latino communities through dialogue with his listening audience and a cross section of representatives from politics, grassroots organizations, and cultural, financial, and religious institutions.

In the mid-1970s, Luciano’s career evolved from radio to television when he joined the news team at NBC’s New York City affiliate station as general reporter and later, as weekend anchor, becoming the first Puerto Rican news anchor of a major media network station in the United States. While at WNBC–New York, Luciano won an Emmy Award for Best Reporting and Story for a Live Special Report (a concept which he created) on prison life at Riker’s Island. For his reporting at Riker’s, he also won a Silurian Award. In the 1980s, Luciano anchored Channel 2’s The People for WCBS, a weekly local series featuring current events and interviews with cultural and political movers and shakers where he was awarded a second Emmy Award. He was also the original correspondent and host of Good Day New York and cohosted with Ed Koch on a popular local political affairs show called Street Talk.

Luciano’s media success is attributed to his first-rate status as a communicator, his sensibility for cultural trends, and his keen analysis of the most important developments in Latino, African American, and mainstream politics. He recently earned a master’s degree from Union Theological Seminary and just finished the year as the Director of Communications for the City of Newark.

Felipe Luciano lecturers at colleges, universities, unions, and community organizations nationwide. He consults on issues pertaining to emerging markets, the Latino and African American communities, youth and gang violence, coalition building, diversity, and multiculturalism.

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