East River CORE (pt.3)

The initial rally on July 18th,1964 was attended by approximately two hundred and fifty people. According to the press, at least two East River CORE members, Ernie Russell and education chairman Charles Saunders, played a central role in leading the rally. At the end of the rally the protesters were led to the nearest police precinct by Rev. Nelson Dukes. When the protesters were blocked by cops from getting into the precinct, the street in front filled up. Some were arrested for sitting down in the middle of the street. The riot began after the cops pushed people off the street and away from precinct into avenues.

The 6 CORE members arrested at the start of the Harlem riots (Judith Howell of Bronx CORE, Walter Flesch, Mike Kinsler, Ernest Russell, Charles Saunders, Arthur Harris of South Jamaica CORE) were eventually found not guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

These events are the beginning of the ‘long hot summers’, the urban rebellions or riots that took place in northern cities across the nation during the mid to late 1960s. It also was the beginning of the White members eventual exodus from the chapter. Some stayed in CORE. Stu Wechsler, who became a field secretary, was one of the last White members to work at the national level. Strangely by 1965, Blyden Jackson had left the chapter, claiming the “Whites were trying to take over”. He would go on to become a leader within the Harlem chapter of the NAACP.

Death and Rebirth
By the fall of 1964, ER CORE appears to have been ‘deactivated’. It was placed under trusteeship by CORE’s Northeastern regional office located at 48 west 125th street. The regional office established the Council for Jobs and Freedom at 72 west 125th street with the hopes it could ‘reactivate the chapter’ using ‘some people formerly with the chapter’ and some of the ‘few remaining members of ER CORE’. It covered the area of 125th – 141st streets between Madison avenue and the FDR Drive. In the short time the Council existed, it created a Welfare Mother’s League and a complementary typing school, two basketball teams and an arts and crafts class for local kids. It also created a remedial reading program using the Myron Woolman method from the Institute for Educational Research. The council ended May 21, 1965 presumably due to lack of funds.

Prior to the Whites being pushed out of the chapter, some members were going to the Tersesa Hotel where Malcolm X had the offices for his Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) to attend meetings, listen to him speak and meet with him. Conventional wisdom says Omar Abu Ahmed may have much to do with this.

Ahmed would eventually be identified as the head of ER CORE by both the New York Times and the Amsterdam News. He and Roy Innis even worked together to try and convince Adam Clayton Powell to come back from the Bahamas to deal with Powell’s political problems. By the end of 1966 however, Innis led the effort to close the chapter, arguing it was ineffective. Though there was an effort to re-activate the chapter, by April 1967, the chapter was officially disaffiliated. Whatever group still existed was told they could no longer use the name CORE.

Ahmed became one of the chief organizers for the National Black Power Conference held in Newark in the summer of 1967, the second of such Black Power conferences. Many of the ‘Rustinites’ from ER CORE became leading members of the Social Democrats, USA (formerly the Socialist Party of America) and worked along with Michael Harrington. Most interesting, though, was the eventual election of Sandy Feldman as head of the United Federation Teachers (UFT), the country’s leading teacher’s union. The well respected Feldman had been the protégé of former UFT head Al Shanker, a man still referred to as ‘the enemy’ by former CORE members. His racist actions during the Ocean Hill-Brownsville school demonstrations of the late 1960’s led to many of the Black Power advocates of CORE to be labeled ‘anti-semitic’ in the press.


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