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Some critics mistakenly assert that activist Professor Jose Angel Gutierrez was a founder of NCLR. In fact, while Gutierrez was a key player in a number of Mexican American organizations, including the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO), the Brown Berets, and the Raza Unida Political Party, he never had any connection to NCLR. Indeed Jose Angel Gutierrez himself has articulated a clear distinction between himself and his allies and NCLR, an organization he criticizes as being “cautious and careful.”

Others who note the NCLR’s many mainstream supporters and stakeholders make veiled references to a “radical” past or suggest that the organization must have a “hidden agenda” since its programs, publications, and public statements appear “moderate.” In fact, the institution has been well within the American mainstream from its very beginnings. Soon after its founding in 1968, in the midst of urban riots following the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, at a time when some elements of both the African American and Latino civil rights movements were urging the use of violence to achieve social change, the first two chief executives of the organization, Herman Gallegos and Henry Santiestevan, issued "A Call to La Raza for a Personal Pledge to Non Violence," which said in part:

Violence must be courageously and consistently resisted, or we will corrupt the integrity of our cause and deepen the despair and suffering of our people…We must have change in America…[but] we will achieve change through community organizations and positive community action. Non-violence must govern our efforts or we will destroy far more than we will create.

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