Her Story: Denise Oliver-Velez

Denise Oliver-Velez

Denise Oliver-Velez is an American professor, Contributing Editor, activist, community organizer and trailblazing rebel for women’s rights.

Born Denise Roberts Oliver on August 1, 1947, in Brooklyn, NY. Her father was an actor, a professor of Dramatic Literature, and a Tuskegee Airman. Her mother was a teacher in the New York City school system.

Oliver-Velez was a member of both the Young Lords Party and the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The Young Lords was originally a Chicago-street gang turned radical, Puerto Rican political organization in the late 1960s. The organization’s mission was to fight for socio-political and community empowerment and liberation of Puerto Rico. 

Oliver-Velez, along with others, challenged the Young Lords Party to end sexual discrimination and promote the full inclusion of women into the leadership positions in the group. Her outspokenness and fierce leadership lead the Central Committee of the Young Lords to appoint Oliver-Velez as Minister of Economic Development in 1970, she became the highest-ranking woman in the party. 

Denise Oliver-Velez has been a political activist and community organizer, was part of the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement, and the AIDS activism movement. She has worked in community media and public broadcasting for many years. She was a co-founder and program director of the first minority-controlled radio station, WPFW-FM, in Washington DC. Oliver-Velez was also the executive director of the Black Filmmaker Foundation. She is currently an adjunct Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at SUNY New Paltz.

Denise Oliver-Velez is recognized as one of the most formidable activists and leaders of our time, we are grateful to have such a strong Black female role model leading the way. She Made History!

Denise Oliver-Velez

About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.

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