But Project Independence, a job-training program, does in fact exist. Some of its graduates have appeared with President George W. Bush at the White House. "We're very proud of it. We talk about our program a lot," said Angelique Beverly, listed as a contributing editor to Corelator, CORE's official organ. But Beverly wavered when pressed with questions concerning numbers of graduates, the program costs, and how CORE funds this and five other programs, including a legal-defense fund and an anti-drug task force.
"There are many people who you could talk to . . . anyway, I will pass on your information. The Village Voice is not our friend. But that doesn't mean he [Innis] won't talk to you." Innis never did return any calls.
He straddles a contradiction, which allows him to operate with impunity. Opposed to affirmative action, busing, and gun control, and a critic of "race mongers" such as presidential candidate Reverend Al Sharpton, Innis is at the head of the post-race movement. "My brand of conservatism is the traditional, most decent and rational expression of the American personality," Innis told The New York Times in 1996. But when he or CORE is challenged, Innis is the first to howl racism.
Since taking the helm in 1968, Innis, once a registered Democrat, has steered CORE to the right, making occasional detours into ideological lunacy such as befriending Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. He ended the group's integrationist tradition, turning it into an operation that gives aid and comfort to those who want to see the civil rights gains of the last 40 years erased. Ironically, it was Innis's plan to get economic investment from Arab states in the late 1970s that might have brought scrutiny from governmental agencies, and a shout of "conspiracy" from Innis.
In its glory days, CORE was part of the big three civil right organizations, along with the NAACP and the Urban League. But it is now a specter of its former self, run as a fiefdom by Innis. In the 1980s, he had a few televised physical dust-ups with white supremacist Tom Metzger and with Sharpton. Last December, Innis defended Senator Trent Lott, saying that Lott was not racist, even though his praise of the good old segregationist days cost him the Senate majority leadership.
For the most part, though, Innis keeps a low profile, allowing his son and apparent successor, Niger, to take the spotlight. Cooper said he rarely saw Innis, but the more he toiled for the organization, the more debased he felt. "My conscience didn't allow me to stay there," says Cooper. "I realized I was working for a guy who was working against the interest of African Americans."