Eric Mann
avatar

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.

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.



Eric Mann's

WP-Backgrounds by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann