The Struggle for No Police in the Los Angeles Schools, 2020
I was a white, Jewish student at Cornell University, recruited by the students at North Carolina A and T, to first join a boycott of Woolworths in Ithaca, New York, then they asked me to join the civil rights revolution. While at Cornell University I worked to raise funds for voter registration in Fayette, County Tennessee, 1963, worked with Ralph Featherstone at the SNCC DC office to protect southern sharecroppers.
I graduated college in 1964 and went to work immediately for CORE in the northeast, both the downtown Park Row office and as a field secretary, in Harlem, Brooksly and Bronx CORE (the most militant who had proposed the "stall in" to integrate the 1964 Worlds Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens, N.Y. While I was in CORE, worked in the north to support the MFDP challenge with Kunstler and Laurence Guyot, (NY, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, the Southern struggle was the cutting edge of the social revolution, I was very rooted in northern (racist) cities with SDS, Newark Community Union Project, CORE, SNCC (as an ally) and Black Panthers.
Working with Black porters, led by Eddie Barnes, and Puerto Rican Porters, led by Noel Quinones, we organized a boycott of the Trailways Bus company, a very southern and white racist company with home headquarters in the South, but our specific target was their Northeast spoke, from Washington D.C. to the Port Authority Terminal in Manhattan. NO black people drove the buses, sold tickets, or gave out information (information clerks) when we got there. We organized a one year multi-pressure campaign, sit-ins at terminals, creative disruption of their operations, federal law suits, using the CORE chapters as the main force, again led by a group of about 12 very militant Black and Puerto Rican porters who had been denied jobs to which they were entitled. After about 1 year Trailways settled, that is, collapsed, as all 12 men were hired as either ticket salespeople, information clerks, or bus drivers, freed from lifting bags.
A year later I went back to the Port Authority with Eddie Barnes, who was then a ticket agent, and we went out on his break and saw literally hundreds of Black and Puerto Rican people working at virtually every company at the Port Authority, we had not just broken the back of racism and segregation at Trailways, but at the whole Port Authority.
In another year, I left CORE, partially because James Farmer was preventing the organization from taking a stand against the war in Vietnam (while Ruth Turner from Clevaland was leading a noble effort to get CORE to stand against the genocide) to work in an SDS community organizing project, Newark Community Union Project, in which I worked with Tom Hayden, Phil Hutchins, who later went on to be a chairperson of SNCC, and a solid core of 30 community residents who helped lead the project.
I have spent the next 35 years still in the anti-racist movement, I am still a soldier in the army. I'm presently the director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center, www.thestrategycenter.org, a multi-racial, predominantly Black and Latino civil rights, anti-racist, and environmental justice organization in LA. For our tenth and 15th anniversary, we gave out the Fannie Lou Hamer awards to grassroots leaders and shockingly, even our most militant Black members did not know who she was. So I have been giving talks about her, and now lots of people at the Center and Bus Riders Union know well who she was, and is, and are so proud to have reeived an award bearing her name.
Our key project, the Bus Riders Union, is a civil rights group fighting "transit racism." Working with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund we have sued the Los Angeles MTA for establishing a separate and unequal mass transit system, have won in court, and through a 10 year consent decree between the Strategy Center/BRU and the MTA, have won more than 2300 new compressed natural gas buses, an $11 weekly bus fare, a $52 monthly fare, and more than $1.2 BILLION in public funds to increase transit mobility and equity for 450,000 LA bus riders, 22% of whom are Black, 50% of whom are Latino, and 9% of whom are Asian/Pacific Islander.
I have written a book: Dispatches from Durban: Firsthand Commentaries on the World Conference Against Racism and Post September 11 Movement Strategies, available at: www.frontlinespress.com, or www.amazon.com.
I would like to thank the civil rights movement, the Black freedom movement, for saving my life, and giving me a purpose to my life that is still the guiding direction and motivation.
Addendum: June 28, 2020
I have not forgotten our plans for me to write something specific for the Website but I have been working 24/7, almost literally on this No Police in the LAUSD schools campaign. I want people to know, from my biography after the article, that I was and remain a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement and continue that work today.
When we negotiate with the school board and whenever I negotiate I always carry Fannie Lou Hamer with me. She told a group of us in Newark in 1965, "When the Democratic Party told us to accept the MFDP "compromise" we refused. Not because we did not understand the word compromise. It's because in every negotiation one side wins and one side loses and they always call it compromise but everybody knows who won and who lost. Had we got the Democratic Party to give half the seats to us, MFDP, and half the seats to the white racists, we would have considered that compromise. They of course would not. Then they would have walked out and we would've gotten all then seats.
Remember, when you are representing the people, never make a deal and then try to sell it to your members. They will see right through you and you had broken the trust and your political life is over Stay true to the people and you will never go wrong." (Some of this is from memory, others from notes, but I repeat it dozens of times every year especially to myself. In this case we are not negotiating as much as Black Lives Matter, Students Deserve, and the Labor/Community Strategy Center and Brothers, Sons, Selves are leading the campaign for "No Police in the LAUSD Schools." We are calling for an immediate 50% cut in the LA School Police budget then 75% then 90% and then, well folks can add and subtract.
I, as I describe in my tag line of this article, am a Veteran of the Congress of Racial Equality in the Northeast and the Newark Community Union Project where I worked closely with SNCC and MFDP. This is not an ID line. It shapes the work at the Labor/Community Strategy Center to this day. I am presently working in South Central Los Angeles.
This story of our movement, yes, Black led but also Black/Latinx led is a tribute to SNCC and CORE and truly part of a SNCC legacy.
Also, check out my book, Comrade George: An Investigation Into the Life, Political Thought, and Assassination of George Jackson (Harper and Row) very out of print, but almost every prisoner or ex-prisoner I have met has read it, still, copies float around, I am sent occasionally a brand new copy out of some used bookstore.