Philadelphia at-large City Council candidate Juan Ramos greeting Carlos Rivas, 5, outside the Tierra Colombiana Restaurant on Fifth Street in Philadelphia in 2003 . (Photo: April Saul/File)

The funeral services for Juan Ramos, which took place at St. Peter’s the Apostle Church on July 31, was a sad occasion in many ways but also a family reunion for me.

My father, Ray Collazo, first met Ramos, a lifelong community activist and leader, in the 1960s. My older brother, Rafael, was Ramos’ Godson. “Compai!” Juan would often say when he saw Dad. Rafael has been a national Latino community organizer and advocate for over 20 years. Ramos was clearly an inspiration.

We saw his wife, Ana, and his younger brother Pedro, CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation. We got to see Juan’s children and nephews – some of which we had not seen in decades.

I knew Juan since I was a young boy, back in the 1980s. The Young Lords’ days were over. The daring stunts – like being on a boat in Vieques, PR demanding the U.S. military stop playing war games in La Isla Nena – were in the past. The protests and the sit-ins were slowing down. The Juan Ramos I knew indeed was a labor leader and into politics, but also a father who liked to talk boxing and Phillies baseball with my Dad. Juan once took my younger brother, Mario, to a WWF wrestling event at the old Spectrum. Years ago, Ramos provided commentary for the Phillies’ Spanish Language broadcasts.

The Ramos I knew was a deacon. He worked his way up and served his church. As Wilfredo Rojas has always observed, the Chicago Young Lords were the gangsters; the New York City Young Lords were the intellectuals; and the Philly Young Lords, of which Ramos was the leader, were mostly inspired Catholics trying to help the poor.

The Ramos I knew led asbestos removal crews. Dad always said he got a top score on the admissions test. He busted his butt at work, then advocated for squatters or wrongly accused Boricuas in his spare time. Activism will not make you rich – and in many cases, it will not even make you financially stable – so the stress and challenges were real. The union job and, eventually, his city government work eased that some.

“Juan had that kind of practical sense,” said Juan Gonzalez, Ramos’ Young Lords comrade, and former Philadelphia Daily News columnist, on Democracy Now! “He was a revolutionary but also had that practical sense. He wanted to get things done.”

The Ramos I knew can serve as a lesson to any community activist and politician. Activism is hard. Take a win when you get it. All fancy words and ideas aside, what the community needs is usually basic: Help make sure the city takes out the trash; Help families have a dignified place to live; Help someone get a job to feed their family.

The Juan Ramos I knew I think, would want all of us to remember that.

Michael Collazo is CEO of Open Seat Direct and Dahday, LLC and a member of Philly Boricuas. You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @mcollazo215.


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