Women's Activism NYC

Denise Oliver-Velez

1947 - Today

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Denise Oliver-Velez was born in Brooklyn, NY, her father George Oliver was an actor and professor of dramatic Literature at Nassau Community College. Denise Oliver-Velez was a member of The Young Lords and The Black Panther Party and was a women’s activist. While she was in the Young Lords she challenged one of the organization's points in their 13-Point Program and Platform. As she states, "I was in the Young Lords, and one of the points in the original program was ‘Revolutionary Machismo.’ Machismo is reactionary, so you can’t have revolutionary machismo. We women weren’t having it. So we made a very different kind of statement. ‘We want equality for women. Down with machismo and male chauvinism.” The women’s caucus issued demands to the Central Committee of the Young Lords that called for an end to sexual discrimination and the full inclusion of women into the leadership of the Lords. The Central Committee reacted by quickly promoting Oliver-Velez and Gloria Fontanez to the Central Committee. They also adopted a new slogan, ¡Abajo con el machismo! (Down with Machismo!). These changes didn’t happen rapidly, Oliver-Velez was aware that the central committee made gendered assumptions about who could and could not perform certain tasks. One of the major contributions women made to the success of the Young Lords Party included publishing its Position Paper on Women. Denise Oliver-Velez always spoke her mind when it came to something that she didn’t agree with. She brought many changes to the way women are viewed.

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