In 1966, as part of the Annual Chicano Student Conference in Los Angeles County, a team of high school students discussed different issues affecting Mexican Americans in their barrios and schools. Among the students at the conference were Vickie Castro, Jorge Licón, David Sanchez, Rachel Ochoa, and Moctesuma Esparza.These high school students formed the Young Citizens for Community Action the same year, and worked together to support Dr. Julian Nava's campaign as a Los Angeles school board member candidate in 1967. Sanchez and Esparza had trained with Father John B. Luce's Social Action Training center at the Church of the Epiphany (Episcopal) in Lincoln Heights and with the Community Service Organization.
The organization's name was then changed to Young Chicanos For Community Action or "YCCA".In 1967, the YCCA founded the Piranya Coffee House. In September 1967, Sal Castro, a Korean War veteran and teacher at Lincoln High School, met with the YCCA at the Piranya Coffee House. The group decided to wear brown berets as a symbol of unity and resistance against discrimination. As a result, the organization gained the name "Brown Berets". Their agenda was to fight police harassment, inadequate public schools, inadequate health care, inadequate job opportunities, minority education issues, the lack of political representation, and the Vietnam War. It set up branches in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, New York, Florida, Chicago, St. Louis and other metropolitan areas with large "raza" populations.
The ideology of the Brown Berets was primarily represented by Chicanismo, for example with them having communication with the Black Panther Party in L.A. and having the Black Panther Party promoted, they were mainly aiming for a third world position.