The Puerto Rican Cultural Center pays tribute to Christine Anne “Chris” Geovanis, a lifelong solidarity activist with the struggle of the Puerto Rican Diaspora and for Puerto Rico’s Right to self-determination, who passed away on the evening of February 11, 2024. Her partner, Richard “Dick” Reilly, was also an exemplary solidarity activist. He passed away in 2020.

The PRCC met Chris and Dick in the early 1990s. For the next decade, they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us during one of the most challenging periods of the PRCC’s existence, confronting State repression in the form of FBI-driven media attacks as a consequence of FBI agent provocateur Rafael Angel Marrero’s allegations. Marrero, who, in a textbook example of COINTELPRO tactics against progressive movements, infiltrated the Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s day care and affiliated high school, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School, courted several Puerto Rican woman activists and married the eldest daughter of a prominent Puerto Rican activist family with two members of the family in prison who were charged with revolutionary activities and imprisoned since the 80s. 

Front page of the February 4, 1997, Chicago Sun-Times, initiating a full-scale attack on the PRCC and its allies.

With Marrero as its mouthpiece, the US Attorney and FBI convened, in a decade, four grand juries and spent over 2 MILLION dollars trying to charge and indict various PRCC activists, in particular José E. López, the co-founder and Executive Director of the Center.

One of several proposed logos for Clemente’s Homework Net is an idea combining technology, distance education, and community institutions during the period of educational reform.

Chris played an outstanding role in the Friends of the Puerto Rican ​​Center, working with progressive media and helping put together talking points, especially in defense of the PRCC’s community work and educational reform efforts at Clemente. She wrote drafts of press releases and conducted press training for the family members of prisoners as President Clinton’s 1999 release of the prisoners drew near. 

She challenged other white activists and educators, who, while seemingly progressive, disparaged the PRCC behind its back by defending our work and principles. She published, under her byline, a comprehensive article in Chicago INK, a small progressive paper based out of the University of Chicago, titled “Battle at the Cultural Divide: Latinos Struggle to Preserve Cultural Identity and grass-roots Autonomy at Chicago’s Clemente High School” that contextualized the attacks on the PRCC by naming the players: The US Attorney, FBI, the Real-Estate forces and the right-wing Puerto Rican, Cuban and other Latino elements that came together to try and destroy the work and reputation of the PRCC.

The Puerto Rican Cultural Center weathered that attack. It rebuilt its community and political work ten times stronger to support Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination, becoming a model for the struggle of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. Thank you, Chris Geovanis, for contributing to our struggle at that crucial time.

A photo of some of the audience attending the “Community Hearings: Determining the Truth Behind the Clemente Story”, which featured nationally known academics and Clemente staff, students, and family members defending educational reform. This occurred on September 18, 1998, at Malcolm X City College.

Memorial donations to Palestine Children’s Relief Fund would be appreciated.