This weekend has been a snowball of learning (for me) about revolutionary groups from the 1960s and 70s – the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, and now the Brown Berets. Learning about one has lead to finding out about another and a big part of that is because many of these movements and organizations worked together on issues that impacted them all in various ways. But a 2003 interview with Carlos Montes, one of the founders and former Minister of Information of the Brown Berets Nation Office, highlights some of the history and aspects of the Chincan@ Brown Berets.
Like the Black Panthers and Young Lords, the Brown Berets did a lot of different things to fight against racism and other issues. The group organized high school walkouts to protest for better school condition and against the racist education system – there’s actually a HBO film based on the story about these 1968 East LA walkouts. But they also did so more – the group protested police brutality and worked with groups like the Black Panther Party and the Poor People’s Campaign.
The Brown Berets, like the Young Lords and Black Panthers, also ran free clinics and free breakfast programs. Gloria Arellanes became the Beret’s Barrio Free Clinic director in July of 1969 and it was a community driven project and cultural center that provided a variety of different services.
And the Berets, again like the Young Lords and Black Panthers, also had a ten point program that addressed many of the issues that the Chincan@ community faced (and unfortunately still do). Arizona made headlines a couple years ago after banning an ethnic study program for K-12 schools – making it exceptionally difficult for school kids to really learn about their history and culture in an academic setting.
Like various actions against different movements during the 1950s to the 1970s, FBI continues to target Brown Beret activists like Carlos Montes. I really cannot emphasize it enough that the FBI has and continues to find movements and groups like the Brown Berets and Black Panthers dangerous. All the work that went into COINTELPRO should really show just how much the FBI wanted to keep the status quo exactly where it was and that the agency had no problem waging a dirty war against people here in the US.