Roy Innis likes to remember how he and a group of "Young Turks" pulled "a coup on the old boys" at the 1968 Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) convention in Columbus, Ohio.
"We took their lollipop from them," he says, describing how he and his followers wrested the civil rights organization from "integrationists" who had directed it since its founding in 1942.
Today, at 43, Innis no longer considers himself a "Young Turk." But he still holds tightly to the "lollipop" he took in Columbus, which he has parlayed into a multi-million-dollar operation.
In its last fiscal year, for example, CORE took in $4,081,559 and ended the period with $61,545 in the bank. So far this fiscal year, Core has raised $2,282,747.
Of the $4 million raised, all but $21,057 came from telephone solicitations. All but $38,997 of this year's $2.2 million in income has been raised by telephone. No money comes from the federal government.
"We're becoming damned good businessmen," boasts Innis, who inherited an estimated $400,000 deficit when he took over CORE in 1968. "We're able to raise funds much more efficiently," he says.
Therein lies the rub.
There are those who believe CORE - once preeminent among civil rights groups - has become a "front" group cashing in on past glory. Among people holding that view are law enforcement officials in New York, New Jersey and Alaska.
Both New Jersey and Alaska have initiated civil suits against CORE, accusing the organization of deceptive fund-raising practices. The New York state attorney general's office is investigating CORE on similar grounds.
Also suspicious are Better Business Bureau officials across the country, who say they have been inundated with complaints from black and white businessmen who charge "harassment" by CORE fund-raisers. Then there are people like James Farmer, a CORE founder and former member, who says he is disappointed by the group's direction.
"There is a lot of disappointment about CORE. There is bound to be," said Farmer, who resigned as national director of the organization in 1966 and is working now in Washington as executive director of the Coalition of American Public Employees.
"CORE had a very good record during the early 1960's," Farmer continued. "The organization really made a contribution to the civil rights movement with the freedom rides and sit-ins ... It just seems tragic. It is not an action organization, now. There is no chapter activity - no chapters, aside from those engaged in fund-raising. It seems to be a national operation only in terms of public relations."
Antoine Perot, a former CORE chapter leader in Cleveland who is now marketing executive in Washington, added: "In my view, the programmatic aspect of CORE does not exist in any identifiable fashion . . . A great many of us [former CORE members] are quite embarassed. It's very unfortunate when we see the type of money that CORE is raising."
Perot said the money CORE raised in fiscal 1976 "seems to be more than we had to work in my 10 years with the organization."
Innis said such criticism is the product of jealousy and hostility.
CORE is no longer the "integrationist" organization it was during Farmer's and Perot's time, he said. It is now a "black nationalist" organization committed to the development of black control of schools, police, hospitals and other instituitions in the black comminity, he added.
But Farmer and many black community leaders say Core has done nothing to accomplish its new goals. One black community leader and former CORE member in Chicago berated a reporter for even raising the subject.
"Life for blacks in this country is atrocious - not only for blacks, but also for browns and poor whites," he said, demanding anonymity. "Who cares about CORE? It doesn't make any sense. The organization doesn't exist. I don't see how you people can write about an organization that doesn't exist," he said.
Still, Innis said, blacks like Farmer and Perot are members of the "civil rights aristocracy" who are now entrenched in the establishment. "These guys are bitter," Innis said. "They will use whatever means are at their command to destroy us. They've been doing this consistently for the past nine years," Innis said in an interview in his New York office.
"They have been singing their tune, 'CORE is dead,' because we have taken their lollipop from them," Innis said. "The Young Turks pulled a coup on the old boys and they've been killing CORE ever since. We have long since stopped answering their criticisms . . . We just keep moving along."
It has been a quiet movement, from all outward appearances.
In surveys of large cities across the nation, there seems to be little or no activity sponsored by or related to CORE. The exceptions are New York, Los Angeles and Baltimore.
Innis likes to say the "real CORE is alive and well in Harlem, the Big Apple, the black capital of America." It is there on 200 W. 135TH Street, in a rundown building identified only by a black and white "Apex Beauty School" sign, that CORE has its national headquarters.
CORE occupies two floors in the building, which includes its East Coast telephone solicitation offices, a job training center, editorial offices for CORE Magazine and various executive offices.
Several doors down the street from the headquarters of the black nationalist organization is a police station manned mostly by whites. A couple of doors from the station is CORE's New York day-care center - described by one CORE staffer as the organization's "best" day-care operation.
The day-care center is located in a converted storefront. The walls are covered with monded tin (circa 1930s) painted a pale green. About 10 blue'cloth, aluminium frame, somewhat soiled cots were stacked in one corner of the one-room center on the day a reporter visited. The center serves 15 children a day, according to CORE staffers.
In fiscal 1976, according to records at the New York State Board of Social Welfare, CORE spent $70,663 nationally for its day-care program.
But Innis refused to say how many day-care centers CORE operates. In fact, "as a matter of policy," he refused to say how many members or chapters core has.
Innis believes it is enough to say, "We are operating in many major cities across the nation. Harlem is the national headquarters and East Coast headquarters, and Los Angeles is our headquarters on the West Coast."
The day-care operation in Los Angeles is supposed to be located in CORE's office in the predominantly black, south east central part of the city. The office is one of two CORE has in Los ANgeles. Both do a heavy volume of telephone soliciting.
"Our day-care center isn't open for everyone, just for the employees of CORE and for the children of volunteers." a CORE worker told a reporter during a tour of the organization's Los Angeles facilities.
The worker continued: The kids get three hot meals plus three snacks every day. They get a 30-minute nap time and we take them on outings and sometimes on speciallu escorted walks.
When asked where the day-care space was located in the south-central Los ANgeles office, the CORE worker pointed her index finger downward and said, "right here."
But the only things and people 'right here,' were desks where teenagers sat holding telephones to their ears. A woman walked around the room, supervising the teenagers.
There was a musty bathroom in the rear of the office. There was no basement, no second floor, no visible place for a day-care program. An asphalt parking lot was in the back of the building. No playground equipment was visible. Next door was a beauty shop.
The CORE telephone solicitation office in south-central Los Angeles is responsible for raising funds within the state. About 25 miles away, just a few blocks from Sunset Strip in Hollywood, on the fourth floor of a fading residential hotel, CORE has another telephone office which solicits funds all over the nation.
The telephone solicitations are designed to secure ads for CORE'S Equal Opportunity Journal, a supplement inserted into CORE Magazine.
The magazine is a quarterly, usually about 40 pages long. The most recent issue, Winter-Spring, 1977, carries a lengthy interview with Alex Haley, author of "Roots," an article on Jamaican politics, and several opinion pieces - including one on prison reform.
Innis and Haley are posed in a picture on the cover of the glossy periodical. There are seven other photos of Innis throughout the magazine which itself, carries three major liquor companies, a full-page ad for Schaefer Beer, one for CORE Publications, and one each for American Airlines and Western Union International, Inc.
The magazine cannot be found on newsstands or other traditional outlets. But CORE officials contend the magazine and its advertising insert have a combined, national circulation of 20,000 copies.
In addition to seeking ads, the telephone solicitors also ask for more contributions to CORE. In return for their efforts, the solicitors receive a 10 per cent commission and a 5 per cent bonud if they are good workers, CORE officials said.
In terms of dollars, the solicitors can earn from $35 to $125 a week, said ELizabeth Sharkey, director of CORE'S equal opportunity division. Innis said it is good business and a good deal for the young people who operate the phones.
Most of the solicitors are high school dropouts. Innis said some had problems with the law. Others are otherwise unemployable, but use the telephone soliciting jobs to develop a "job ethic" and acquire saleable skills, Innis said.
"It's my job to be the employer of the last resort," he added.
A frequent ad in the New York Daily News carries Innis' message. It says: "Telephone Sales - Are you having a hard time finding a job that is interesting as well as beneficial.Well, your problems are over! We will train you to sell advertisements for a well-respected Civil Rights Organiation. Top commission, inside work and good leads. CALL TODAY: 690-4501.
The ad does not mention CORE. But when the telephone number it dialed, a CORE worker - who identifies herself as such - picks up the receier on the other end.
"All you need to bring is a pencil," she said on one occassion when a caller asked about qualifications for a telephone soliciting job with CORE. She gave the address of the organization's New York headquarters and told the caller to be there the next morning at 8:30.
Job-training? Yes, said Innis. "Our fund-raising program is a job-training program. We're the only ones who do our own fund-raising.
"I do not use professional salesmen or fund-raisers," he continued. "We raise funds in one hand, and through the same vehicle we teach kids a job ethic. We tried it and found that it would work."
If the fund-raising job training program benefits the inner-city young people who fill its ranks, it helps CORE as well, according to a New Jersey investigator who has been looking into the organization's fund-raising practice.
"Before, they used to call it fund-raising," said Dennis M. Lies, an investigator with the New Jersey State Office of Charitable Solicitations. Now they say it's sales-training. When their sales-training was fund-raising, their fund-raising expenses were much higher. Now that their fund-raising is sales-training, their fund-raising expenses are much lower," Lies said.
He added: "It's legal. You can do almost anything with accounting."
Many eyebrows were raised when CORE reported last fiscal year that it spent 38 per cent - $1,562,753 - of its $1,585,251 - of its $4,081,559 income on "program services." Fund-raising costs amounted to $1,585,251, or 39 per cent. Administrative cost - including Innis' $30,000 annual salary - were $795,294 or 19 per cent.
According to the CORE report, 1976 expenditures for "program services" included:
Editorial program - CORE Magazine . . . "to keep the public informed of the organization's activites . . . and positions on issues affecting the black community," $376,221.
Community referral - To assist CORE constituents in the community. To provide solutions to individual complaint such as police brutality, health, etc.," $124,468.
Day-care - "Provides the opportunity for working mothers . . . to obtain employment as a means of finding an alternative to public assistance by providing recreational, educational skills cultural exposure and quality care for pre-school children of socio-economic disadvantaged parents,"$70,663
Prison reform - "Secure commitment from community organizations, individuals and various agencies of government to work closely with CORE in carrying out its prison rehabilitation program."$196,371.
Tutorial reading - "To aid elementary and secondary level students to improve their reading skills ...."$37,419
Media communication - "A media committee which acts as a n informed and select group of 'watchdogs' over the movie and television industry . . ." $55210.
Job bank (located in Baltimore and described by community leaders there as a "worthwhile" and "helpful" CORE operation). "To provide opportunities for CORE constituents to secure jobs in industry and to inforn CORE constituents of training and apprenticeship programs," e95,234.
Housing - Conduct periodic inspections of apartment dwellings for safety and health problems, using volunteers from [the CORE] housing committee . . . " $164,106.
Employment referral - "Makes contact with many corporations, businesses, etc., seeking to secure information regarding openings and a commitment to assist those constituents of CORE," $43,876.
Modeling - "Provides a vehicle capable of assisting young black men and women to become successfly in the mainstream of modeling/advertising and fashion . . .," $197,873.
"Operation Self-Help" - "To assist constituents of CORE to find solutions for problems such as employment, welfare, police protection . . .," $197,873.
"Operation Self-Help" - "To assist constituents of CORE to find solutions for problems such as employment, welfare, police protection . . .," $142,272.
Other program costs - "a training program for minority individuals in the area of computer operations which in turn will provide training in the area of key punching, verifying and key operations. A youth program . . . A program to help senior citizens in securing the services designed to help them have a better life,"$54,040.
Based on the most reason national figures filed with the New York State Board of Social Welfare, the organization said it has spent 60 per cent of this year's $2,282,747 in income on "program services" and 40 per cent on fund-raising and administrative costs.
Innis ws asked how CORE made such a dramatic turnabout. He smiled and said: We're geting more efficient." At another point, he said: "We're now hard-nosed businessmen in running our magazine business." And still, at another, he said of the fund-raising, job-training operation: "We developed it over he said last 3 1/2 years. Now, it's a perfected machinery."
However, inns acknowledged his mavhine sometimes has troubles - as reflected by the civil suits brought by Alaska and New Jersey and by complaints from businessmen in places like Charlotte, N.C., where CORE-s Los Angeles office has been soliciting funds.
Last May 10, a New Jersey chancery crown court issued a preliminary injunction barring CORE from using nine fund-raising tactics in the state such as misrepresenting itself as a federal equal employment opportunity office. Lies says the state is now seeking a a permanent injunction. A spokesman for the Alaska attorney general's office said his state is seek.
Typical of the comlaints that prompted the legal actions are those made by Akers Motor Lines, Inc., of Charlotte, N.C., and Mrs. and Mrs. James T Ridge, proprietors of an electronics firm on Long Island, N,Y,
In a complaint filed last April 4 with the Charlotte Better Business Bureau, an Akers official wrote:
"We have been sent a statement from CORE for a magazine advertisement in the amount of $495. No one in our company has given any written permission for this advertisement, and we are constantly billed for this advertisement, and we are constantly billed for this ad and receive several phone calls each week asking for payment ..."
The Akers official said her company bought a CORE ad in 1976 "because we felt very 'pressed' to do so: however, we do not wish to end up in the same predicament this year."
Mrs. Ridge said she and her husband also felt pressed by CORE in a complaint they filed with the New York attorney general's office. She said in an interview she was profanely "cursed and insulted" by a CORE telephone solicitor after refusing to place w $395 ad in the Equal Opportunity Journal.
"They said that if we have a contribution we could also have a plaque in our office saying we didn't discriminate ... But it sounded like they just wanted the money," Mrs Ridge said.
Some businesses that bought ads in CORE's journal complained they never saw the ads they paid for, even though they said they were led to believe the publication would be circulated in their areas. Others, like Family Dollar Store, Inc., in Charlotte, complained they were promised big display ads in the publication but received "nothing more than advertising space similar to what would be found in a small town football program."
Innis said most of the complaints against his group are the products of misunderstanding and, sometimes, racism.
For example, he said, because many of his telephone solicitors are teenagers "with no previous training," they are sometimes overzealous in seeking ads orcontributions. Others like an unidentified ex-CORE worker in Alaska, were occasionally unscrupulous and tried to make a profit for themselves he added.
Also, CORE's game frequently is misused by white "seam operators" who send out phony invoices and try to raise funds by telephone, innis and several CORE officials said.
Then, there is the Better Business Bureau. Both Innes and his associate national director, Mary Dennison, have accused Better Business Bureauaffiliates of "racism" for ating as conduits for complaints against CORE. Dennison says the BBBs are "privately funded representatives of white businesses" who have a vested interest in destroying organizations like CORE, which purports to represent the interests of black consumers.