John Boelter video interview and biography


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John Boelter video interview and biography



Jiménez, José, 1948-


John Boelter was one of the Chicago Teachers Union members on strike in September 1968 at Waller High School, known today by its new name, Lincoln Park High. Today he is a Professor of Biology at Chicago State University. In 1968, a prominent Young Lord, Ralph “Spaghetti” Rivera returned from Puerto Rico and subleased a room from Dr. Boelter. Mr. Rivera, who grew up in Lakeview, wanted to be closer to the Young Lords who were then hanging out in front of the Armitage Avenue United Methodist Church which later to become the People’s Church, on the corner of Dayton Street and Armitage Avenue. In Puerto Rico, Mr. Rivera had been hanging out with M.P.I. (Movimiento Pro Independencia) and F.U.P.I. (Federacion Universitaria Pro Independencia) their student auxiliary, at University of Puerto Rico campus in Rio Piedras. He was going through a political transformation. Upon arriving in Chicago, Mr. Rivera soon discovered that his Young Lords colleagues were also going through a transformation. They had been reorganized once again by Mr. José “Cha-Cha” Jiménez and the members were struggling with each other on whether to remain apolitical as just a gang or to become a human rights movement. Mr. Rivera joined in fully to help Mr. Jiménez, and they together designed the original Young Lords button that read, “Tengo Puerto Rico En Mi Corazón ( I have Puerto Rico in my heart) with a green map of Puerto Rico in the center, and a brown arm and fist holding a rifle. The initials YLO, which stood for “Young Lords Organization,” was at the bottom. They had added organization to their name, to make it clear that they were now involved in a class struggle, fighting for Latinos, the poor, and for Puerto Rican self-determination. Mr. Rivera became one of the Young Lords’ first P.E. (political education) class teachers, as these sessions were being held in the different homes of members including. LP Records of speeches by Malcom X, Fidel Castro, Don Pedro Albizu Campos, Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book, the National Question, Panther films, and Saul Alinsky strategies were being used as tools for study. It was in Mr. Boelter’s and Mr. Rivera’s house where Chicago Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton and the Panthers first arrived on Dayton and Armitage. They were led from the corner to the house to meet Dr. Boelter, Mr. Rivera, Mr. Jiménez, and the Young Lords. The Black Panthers broke bread and drank Wild Irish Rose (Fred Hampton did not drink or use drugs) on ice, smoked some weed, and joked a little, cementing a relationship that has lasted to this day. On a different day within a few weeks at the same location, it was informally agreed to join together with the Young Patriots. BPP Field Marshall Bob Lee was working with them. The three groups, who were already major players within their own communities, became the original members of the alliance known as the Rainbow Coalition. This was followed by several press conferences announcing the Rainbow Coalition, including one where Congressman Bobby Rush, appears in a photo with the Young Lords, Young Patriots and other Black Panthers but where Mr. Jiménez and Mr. Hampton were unable to be present. The Rainbow Coalition was strongly woven together to the credit of the organizations that took part in it. They all were committed and followed the same vanguard ideology of the BPP. But it is significant to note that the Rainbow Coalition was more symbolic than a structured organization. It was the mass way for all the grassroots organizations to find common ground and to join together for support of each other’s struggles, and it soon spread to other movements and groups like Rising Up Angry, the Intercommunal Survival Committees, Red Guard, Brown Berets, S.D.S. and many other groups in many cities. After the Young Lords went underground and the Puerto Rican and low income residents of Lincoln Park were completely removed by Mayor Richard J. Daley and his patronage machine, Dr. Boelter moved south to Morgan Park. Dr. Boelter also joined the Progressive Labor Party. The Progressive Labor Party had left the Communist Party years before, because their belief was that “they want to skip the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and go right into utopia.” They are against racism and respect workers, but do not want to cling on to leaders or unions, preferring to organize the masses. They have been accused of “catering more to the petty bourgeoisie and the aristocracy of labor.” Then they rejected the Black Panthers and Young Lords use of Nationalism as an important step. They also had become part of S.D.S. and by 1969 were their largest faction. Dr. Boelter today is still a member. These political discussions on all sides were part of the Lincoln Park era in the late 60s and 70s.





Grand Valley State University. University Libraries. Special Collections & University Archives






Moving Image




John Boelter vídeo entrevista y biografía


Young Lords (Organización)
Puertorriqueños--Estados Unidos
Derechos civiles--Estados Unidos--Historia
Lincoln Park (Chicago, Ill.)
Puertorriqueños--Relatos personales
Justicia social
Activistas comunitarios--Illinois--Chicago


Boelter, John, “John Boelter video interview and biography,” Digital Collections, accessed November 30, 2023,
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