Friday, August 20, 2004

New York Sun
August 17, 2003
A Look Inside CORE
ALICIA COLON The headquarters of the Congress of Racial Equality, located on 12th Street and Broadway, looks like a typical nonprofit organization, or at least what one should look like. There is no fancy furniture in the waiting area or expensive artwork on the wall. Instead, simple bulletin boards list upcoming events and the office is a beehive of activity with workers walking in and out of the multiple offices, carrying faxes and other paperwork.The sound of phones ringing is muted but constant. Friday was a hot and humid day and I was caught in a rain shower before my scheduled meeting with the Roy Innis, the chairman of CORE, and Niger Innis, his son and CORE’s national spokesman. The low-rent, casual environment was a blessing for this bedraggled writer waiting to meet two of New York City’s most respected members of the black community. Last month the headlines in most of the mainstream press declared, “Bush snubs the NAACP convention.” The resultant ballyhoo was a delight to Senator Kerry’s campaign.Mr.Kerry admonished President Bush for his snub, saying,“When you are president, you need to talk to all the people.” One would almost think the NAACP was the only conduit to the black community. CORE has always had easy access to Mr. Bush, but its notable achievements do not get the recognition it deserves. CORE has a network of local affiliates and chapters across America,parts of Africa, Central America, and the Caribbean. Roy Innis has led delegations to monitor elections in Nigeria and was very involved in the 2000 peace talks between the Arab government leaders and the African rebels in the Sudan. Roy Innis, who recently met with Mr.Bush in Washington,said,“The president is very much engaged in what is happening in the Sudan.” CORE is essentially a nonpartisan organization. Roy Innis is a registered Democrat who ran against David Dinkins in the 1993 primary. Many of CORE’s programs center on assisting the neediest in communities regardless of race. Project Independence is a unique “welfare to work” job-training program. Its “Fear to Freedom “program offers an immigration crisis and counseling center. CORE also assists the victims and witnesses of violent crime and helps ex-offenders become productive citizens. Niger Innis said, “The majority of the black community supports school vouchers, opposes gay marriage, and has strong religious and family values. Those concerns are best being addressed at this moment by the Republicans.” In an essay for Afrocentric News, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author of “ Crisis in Black and Black,” wrote: “The sad truth is that blacks have narrowed their political options down to essentially one: the Democratic Party.The result: many black leaders have cradled even more cozily into the Democratic Party and pared their demands down to more party appointments and political offices. Some black leaders have become even more mainstream and less responsive to the neediest, and most dispossessed in black communities.” I asked Niger Innis to explain the main difference between the NAACP and CORE. He answered, “Sadly, the NAACP leadership is serving the interests of its sponsors rather than the interests of black people, and that is a disservice to the country. I happen to be a registered Republican, but I would never let my partisan interests come before the interests of the black community.” Niger Innis also noted that many NAACP chapters he visits throughout the country surprisingly do not share the same views of the national organization. With the GOP convention coming to New York, CORE is making sure the black community has the eye and ear of the Republicans. It has invited the Republican convention delegates to a gala reception August 29 remembering historic Civil Rights milestones — the 1964 assassination of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner; the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It will be held at the Museum of the City Of New York. Two days later, CORE will co-sponsor a special function for Republican dignitaries at Gotham Hall, where Ronald Reagan’s son, Michael Reagan, will be the host. As the national spokesman for CORE, Niger Innis is a familiar face on the TV screen and is frequently asked to comment on current issues. He blames the hip-hop culture for promoting the worst manifestations of the black community as acceptable behavior. While debating rap mogul Russell Simmons on the “American Black Forum” program, he issued him a challenge to argue the merits, if any, of hiphop while also promoting a voter registration drive for youth. Mr. Simmons has declined the offer. Frequently, Hispanics and blacks who espouse conservative values are denigrated as puppets of the white man. We are called “oreos” or “coconuts” by those who believe those values are the exclusive property of whites. Niger Innis has had that insult hurled at him, but it’s the least of his worries. “What I fear…the trepidation I feel, is that we are returning to the segregated society of the ’40s. We are voluntarily separating ourselves into isolated little groups of race, religion and gender. ”


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