On November 24, 1947, Phillip “Felipe” Luciano was born in East Harlem, New York. His parents were Aurora Olmo Luciano and Joseph Luciano, Jr. Aurora was a first-generation Puerto Rican born in America who worked as a factory worker and a practical nurse. I don’t have any information on Joseph Luciano, Jr., other than he wasn’t involved in Felipe’s life, according to my sources. Felipe lived with his mother in housing projects which was not the best environment for them to live in. Despite the conditions of their community, Aurora was a devout Pentecostal who prioritized reading to her child. Felipe’s teacher Ethel Schapiro, introduced him to the works of William Shakespeare and Earnest Hemingway, he also learned about Judaism and how to speak Yiddish. Although Felipe’s learning environment was rich, he was also influenced by the environment outside of his home. He became involved with a gang called the Canarsie Chaplain Gang. As a member of the gang, Felipe was involved in an incident that caused him to spend two years of his life incarcerated. During a scuffle with a rival gang, one of the members of the rival gang was stabbed to death. Felipe did not stab the boy, but he was one of the people charged and convicted of manslaughter. During his incarceration, he earned his GED and placed himself on a path to further his education.
After Felipe served his two years in prison, he began attending Queens College where he majored in political science. On May 19, 1968, Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain, and David Nelson became the original members of the legendary Last Poets. The Last Poets were musicians and spoken word artists who created the foundation for Hip-Hop music. As a member of the Last Poets, Felipe’s first performance was held on May 19, 1968, the birthday of Malcolm X, in Harlem, New York. Felipe was beginning to build a reputation as an advocate and activist for the upliftment of his people and other communities. In 1968, Felipe co-founded the New York chapter of the Young Lords with a number of other young Puerto Ricans. The Young Lords were a Puerto Rican ally of the Black Panther Party that fought for human rights, civil rights, and empowerment for Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and colonized people. Felipe eventually became the chairman of the Young Lords. Under his leadership, the Young Lords changed their name to the Young Lords Party and became an asset to the communities they served. Like the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Party provided food, education, and resources to their community. The Young Lords Party was becoming quite popular, attracting the attention of prominent black leaders, they also got the attention of their local mafia. It is believed that the mafia placed a $20,000 bounty on Felipe because of his community work.
Felipe was a member of the Young Lords Party from 1969 to 1971. After leaving the Young Lords, he began producing his award-winning radio shows, “Latin Roots” and “The Third Bridge” on the WRVR radio station. In 1976, Felipe became the first Puerto Rican news anchor for WNBC News as a weekend anchor. He served as the weekend anchor until 1980. During his time as the weekend anchor, Felipe won several Emmys for his excellent reporting. He was one of the original anchors for the Good Day New York Fox tv program and was one of the founders and original hosts of the Good Day Street Talk with Mayor Ed Koch program. In 1997, Felipe served as the commissioner of the New York City Task Force on Police and Community Relations. In 2006, he became the Air America vice president of news. He challenged Phillip Reed to represent Manhattan’s 8th District but lost twice. He co-founded the Eagle Academy, became a member of the 100 Hispanic Men, and traveled to China representing the Black Workers Congress in 1972. Felipe Luciano dedicated his life to the upliftment of his people and went about contributing to that upliftment in many ways. To Mr. Felipe Luciano, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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