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NiLP Guest Commentary Masthead

Ramon Jimenez:

A Community Honors 

a Lifetime of Achievement

by Howard Jordan (September 22, 2014)


All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players.

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts . . .

---William Shakespeare's "As You Like It"


Howard Jordan

On Friday September 19th on breezy rain-cast night, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos from various parts of the city crowded into a cafeteria at Hostos Community College, the city's premier bilingual institution, to honor a Puerto Rican patriot and a historical moment. While billed as a fundraiser for a grassroots organization called the South Bronx Community Congress (SBCC), all present knew the activity was more than an attempt to raise money for a worthy cause. This special night was to honor a lifetime of achievement by Ramon Jimenez, a Harvard-trained lawyer, litigator, activist, writer, former administrative judge, and journalist, who was now also battling stage 4 prostate cancer. During the last decades, this gifted Afro-Boricua leader had come to be recognized by many as someone who best personifies the aspirations of the Puerto Rican people.


photo by Armando Pacheco Matos

Scattered among the audience was a sanchocho of Bronx residents, grassroots activists, students, lawyers, businesspersons, educators and labor leaders representing the various movements this gifted attorney led in our barrios. First, there were the former members of The Committee to Save Hostos who in the seventies were part of a nineteen-day takeover of the institution, participating in mass arrests and protests, and largely credited with saving the college slated for closing by a racially intolerant Mayor. The impact of the movement led to the only time in NYC history the CUNY Board of Trustees was forced to revoke a decision to close a college.


Nilsa Saniel, feminist activist, and Efrain Quintana, prisoners' rights advocate, had been part of the hundreds of working class Puerto Ricans who entered this educational sanctuary in the then poverty stricken land of broken promises, the South Bronx. Now these aging activists --- the symbolic children of the late "Boricua woman warrior" Dr. Evelina L�pez Antonetty who spearheaded the struggles for bilingual education and community control --- were honoring one of their own en nuestra casa.


The night began with presentations by Professional Staff Congress labor leader Lizette Colon, Enrique Colon and Linda Resto of the SBCC, liberation theologian Pastor Lydia Lebron, and a reading of Ramon's favorite poem, "Jibaro, My Pretty Nigger," by Felipe Luciano. Felix Romero, a bomba master and producer of a documentary in production entitled, "Hostos, the Struggle, the Victory," presented a two-minute clip highlighting this period in the history when the Puerto Rican community had staked their ground and fought for the preservation of the then only bilingual college in the Northeast.


Among some of those present in this contingent of activists were: Mickey Melendez, author of "We Took the Streets"; David Galarza of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights and a champion of the struggle for police accountability; Anna Lopez and Armando Pacheco, soldiers in the struggle to free political prisoners Oscar Lopez Rivera; Ponce Laspina of El Maestro, Inc.; Anita Antonetty, youth organizer and daughter of the South Bronx legend Evelina; New York Times staff writer David Gonzalez; SBCC activist Julio Mu�oz; former Assembly candidate Maxi Rivera; businessman Ramon Morales; and Legal Services lawyers Edwin Vega and Magda Rosa who, like Jimenez, had chosen to use their legal skills to represent our people. Lastly, also in attendance was the larger-than-life political godfather, Assemblyman and former Bronx Democratic Party Chairman Jos� Rivera.


Having interviewed Ramon countless times on The Jordan Journal, I had been informed I would join others in saying a few words but, to my surprise, when I read the evening's program I had been given the honor of introducing my brother Ramon. I must confess I had been thinking lately about Ramon's bout with cancer, keeping him my prayers, and balancing hope with bouts of sadness at the possible loss of a dear friend. I had asked myself, why is it that the cutthroats and opportunists in our community, "yerba mala," live long lives while those servants of the people are taken prematurely? But, as I reflected in silence, I pondered what could I tell those gathered who had joined Ramon in the front lines that they did not already know.


The breath of Ramon's achievement was etched in the collective memory of the attendees. Which Ramon should I introduce? The Ramon that grew up in a house across the street from Malcolm X that was firebombed and in his early years was bused to school only to confront white racist mobs? Or perhaps the brother in arms I joined as a member of the Puerto Rican student group at Yale University to do security during the Committee to Save Hostos takeover? Should I tell them about the Ramon that during the cutbacks served Koch with a "people's subpoena" and was later threatened with disbarment? Or perhaps his efforts to organize the first group of home attendants at 1199 or his defense of the rights "Band of Brothers" Black and Latino workers at Woodlawn Cemetery?


Maybe I should remind folks of more recent achievements, Jimenez's organizing of the hearing and protest that led to the removal by the NYS Attorney General of corrupt Boardmembers and business agent of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade Inc. and a new day and cultural renaissance for parade attendees. Or, on the electoral front, maybe remind them about how this fiercely proud Black Puerto Rican Attorney General candidate for the Freedom Party worked to cement bridges with our African American brethren. Or Ramon's new endeavor, his candidacy as the Green Party candidate for AG alongside the multicultural group of political activists looking to ignite a Third Party wave and new political force? While sharing some of these thoughts with friends my voice trembled and tears welled in my eyes and all I could really add is how much I and those present really loved this dear brother and prayed that God would keep him in our presence.


The members of the SBCC then presented a glowing Ramon with the lifetime achievement award. But, as usual, the night belonged to Ramon Jimenez. In his soft and a humble voice he thanked those present and reminded us achievement belonged to nuestro pueblo and not to him alone. He dramatically detailed and transported the audience back to the '70s and the Struggle to Save Hostos and the pain and suffering of the common community folks who rescued the college. After rattling off some of the movements that formed his consciousness as a true organizer he brought us to the present and spoke at length about his Green Party candidacy and the need to take our people in a new direction given the crisis in leadership that has beset a once-thriving community. Ramon made an emphatic appeal for us in the largely Latino audience to help build alliances with our African American, Asian, and Progressive white allies if we were going ensure justice, given American society's growing racial and economic inequalities. In an appeal to our leadership and those present, he emphasized that "We must not rise out of our people but with our people."


Then, with the candor and honesty that has come to characterize this humble South Bronx leader, he spoke of his battle with stage 4 prostate cancer and the room grew silent. This was the unspoken ghost that had cast a cloud over what was a festive occasion. On the initial diagnosis, Ramon said he had grappled to understand this disease and to experiment with alternative treatmentsm and each day was growing a bit better. After a standing ovation, he shared how he had renewed his commitment to struggle to overcome cancer and continue to live an active life as part of the movements of the day, having recently marched in the West Indian Day Parade, participated in a candidate's night, and finished the first draft of his memiors.


In a lifetime of achievement and battles with the ebbs and flows of movements in our community, my beloved friend Ramon is now also saddled with his most serious and challenging battle --- the battle for his health. I pray for my brother and believe that if he brings the energy and dedication that he has put in transforming our community to bear on the big "C," I will have many years to enjoy his company as we bunch of aging activists move around with walking canes and "rattling our false teeth," committed to continue fighting for the people until our last breath.


Howard Jordan, an attorney, is an Assistant Professor in the Public Administration Unit at the Eugenia Maria de Hostos Community College (CUNY) in the South Bronx. He is also the host/producer of the popular radio program, The Jordan Journal, on WBAI-99.5FM. He can be reached at



On The Jordan Journal, Howard interviews Felix Romero, producer of the documentary  "Hostos, The Struggle, The Victory" on the 19-day community takeover in 1976 of Hostos Community College in the Bronx that is largely credited for saving the College from closing. He speaks on the movement to save the college and the life achievement awarded to activist attorney Ramon Jimenez. To listen: