Black Power part 2
BK CORE and the schoolhouse rock
In May, BK CORE worked to support Black parents' groups at JHS 258. While the groups made it clear quality education was the only concern, BK CORE demanded there be a Black principal at the school. Only four principals out of nine hundred and forty in the city were Black but Blacks and Puerto Ricans made up 50.2% of the student population. While the Board of Education (BOE) was petitioned for the principal's removal, the parents groups stated race was not the issue. The issue of race was instead blamed on the district superintendent.
The JHS 258 principal, who was White and Jewish, stated he had been threatened, was fearful for his life and wanted to be transferred. The same week he was successfully pushed out, another principal and nine teachers at PS 284 also requested a transfer. Parent groups and BK CORE charged that students there were being verbally and physically abused.
The presidents of both the JHS and elementary school principals' associations specifically named BK CORE in stating they suspected there was a city wide effort by Black power activists to get rid of several white principals. The superintendent of schools went further in stating 'racial or religious bigotry' was involved in demands by such groups, framing Brooklyn CORE's fight against racism in the school system as being racist in and of itself.
BK CORE responded by 'firing' the majority of the thirty two principals in the area for not doing their jobs. As with the chapter's 1962 campaign with the Bibulds' against the BOE, Carson noted some Bed Stuy students were as much as 3 1/2 years behind in their reading level. BK CORE demanded that classes be brought up to grade level, accountability for teachers who could not meet that goal and an increase in the number of the area's Black teachers to 50%. Only 10% of teachers in Bedford-Stuyvesant were Black and most of them were substitutes.
This was the back and forth dynamic for the next few months. While Carson continued to deny any physical threats and the BOE acknowledged the problems of Black and Latino students, the BOE and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) would continue to frame the discussions as if they were the victims of violent aggressors.
These complaints were further characterized by charges of anti-semitism. Al Shankar, head of the UFT, stated anti-semetic remarks were made at a April 27 meeting in the Brooklyn district superintendents office by BK CORE members. Ollie Leeds confirmed this. Sonny Carson did as well but placed the comments in context. In response to a principal stating that, being a Jew and therefore an underdog, he wanted to help, a member of BK CORE stated, "Whenever it benefits you Jews, you come up with that brotherhood crap." '
Further charges of anti-semitism were made by the Anti-Defamation League against BK CORE and Queens CORE during its demonstrations at PS 40. At a meeting in May, a BK CORE member was charged with stating "We've got to get these Jews out of Bedford Stuyvesant. It's the Jews who are to blame."
Carson stated charges were made to deflect from the racism of the White members in the UFT. Both Carson and the African American Teachers Association, of which Les Campbell was a founding member, accused the UFT of deliberately mis-educating Black and Latino children. Ollie Leeds, whose wife Marjorie was Jewish, continued to support Carson and BK CORE to the hilt. While the complaints were being investigated by the city's Commission on Human Rights, the agency also equally investigated the complaints of the parents groups about discrimination in the school system.
After twenty BK CORE members sat in overnight at the UFT office overnight in order to secure a meeting with Shankar, the chapter increased its demands: No raises for teachers whose job performance was poor; removal of principals who could not maintain their school at national grade level; an end to the harassment and abuse of Black students and teachers. Other demands reflected national CORE's goals in general: more Black teachers, principals and superintendents; inclusion of Negro history in the curriculum , and an independent school board for Bedford Stuyvesant. Harlem CORE was pushing for the same in Harlem.