Born in 1947 in East Harlem, New York City, Felipe Luciano is a prominent and dynamic Afro-Puerto Rican public figure in the Latino community and one of its foremost activists, pundits, lecturers, writers and journalists. He is a two-time Emmy Award-winning reporter and was the first Puerto Rican news anchor of a major media network station in the United States at WNBC-TV New York. In 1969 he co-founded New York City’s Young Lords Party for which he also served as Chairman. He currently hosts “Latin Roots” on WBAI in New York, which he originally founded and produced in 1972 as the first English language program in the United States to feature Latin culture and music and to develop an ethnically and racially diverse audience.
Luciano was one of the four members, and the only Puerto Rican, of the The Original Last Poets, formed on May 19, 1968. It was the first of several The Last Poets groups composed of black power era poets and musicians and mentored by Amiri Baraka. The Last Poets groups emerged in the late 1960s, birthed from the African-American civil rights movement. Critic Jason Ankeny wrote: “With their politically charged raps, taut rhythms, and dedication to raising African-American consciousness, the Last Poets almost single-handedly laid the groundwork for the emergence of hip-hop.”
Luciano is committed to community empowerment, ethnic pride, and civil rights. Born into poverty and raised by a single Puerto Rican mother, his passion for issues of social justice reflect the courage of a generation that organized, taught and struggled against the powerful institutions of discrimination.
In 1966, 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 and as a member of the Last Poets, Luciano led political workshops in Harlem that attracted progressive intellectuals and activists.
In 1968 Luciano was approached by a group of mainly Puerto Rican, Latino youth who wanted to launch a radical organization oriented around fighting against Puerto Rican poverty and racial oppression. Eventually, those same young students launched a New York chapter of the Chicago based Young Lords Organization (YLO), the Puerto Rican counterpart to the Black Panther Party. Luciano was elected chairman of the New York group.Under his 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. The YLP, worked hard, worked collectively, and engaged in radical activist campaigns that had a lasting effect on Puerto Ricans and New York City
Luciano distinguished himself in the YLP through his natural talent for articulating the grievances and aspirations of poor Puerto Ricans in an eloquently accessible manner and by identifying issues that resonated with community residents. Luciano attributes the ease with which he related revolutionary politics to the East Harlem of the 1960s to his childhood immersion in the kinship networks and migrant community culture of Puerto Ricans and to his grueling and punishing prison experience as an adolescent. There, he was able to defuse inmates’ fights by illuminating the contradictions between American poverty and repressiveness and the nation’s democratic promise unfulfilled as the source of their anger.
Following his departure in the fall of 1971 from the YLP, Luciano again immersed himself in the city’s black and Latino arts movement. From 1972 to 1975, he produced his acclaimed radio show Latin Roots which aired on WRVR. Latin Roots received an Ace Award for best show in Radio and within 3 years, Latin Roots and The Third Bridge, Luciano’s multi-cultural Saturday music show, were winning official acclaim and making WRVR one third of its annual revenue.
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. Luciano won an Emmy for best reporting, a live special report (a concept which he created) on prison life at Riker’s Island, where Luciano lived and reported from for five consecutive days. For his reporting at Rikers, he also won a Silurian award. In the 1980s, Luciano anchored Channel 2 The People for CBS, a weekly local series featuring current events and interviews with cultural and political movers and shakers for which he also won an Emmy. He was also one of the original correspondents and morning anchors of Good Day New York for Fox T.V. In addition, he co-hosted and helped create the new style, fast-paced news magazine “Good Day Street Talk with Mayor Ed Koch.
Luciano is currently a lecturer and public presenter for Fortune 500 companies, colleges and universities, unions, and fraternal organizations. He offers consultation on issues pertaining to emerging markets, the Black and Latino Community, coalition building, diversity, and multiculturalism and frequently serves as an adviser to state and local government leaders. He is a proud Co-Founder of the Eagle Academy for Young Men charter school system and holds a Master’s Degree in Christianity and Social Justice.
Saturday from 2-4pm on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC radio: https://www.wbai.org/program.php?program=286
Latin Roots Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FelipeLatinRoots/