Box 9, Folder 1, Document 29

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“Try to shake things up with your dissent,” the deputy mayor of New York City was
speaking to an audience of over 2,500 college students (20 of them from Sarah
Lawrence). It was June and the first day of the N.Y.C. Urban Corps’ third summer
intern program.

We seemed a small group, filling only a fraction of Madison Square Garden's new
and capacious Felt Forum. It was flattering to hear Deputy Mayor Costello tell us
that in the course of this summer we should be able to “mobilize energy fast enough
to solve problems” and that he was interested in “immediate effects.”

This was the spring of the Columbia riots, and this was three days after the assassina-
tion of Robert Kennedy. Yet he spoke with calm and with his psychologist’s vantage
point. He said, “Young people do not always know how to handle their guilt.” Dissent
as it existed at Columbia was not the only kind in Costello’s eyes. He called for
another form of dissent, which we were to begin to use that day. Constructive dissent
was the phrase he offered, explaining, “the right to dissent may depend on how con-
structive it is.”

Costello discarded implications that Columbia University was an isolated trouble
area. “As if a Columbia could exist outside New York City!” he said. If we wanted.
to solve the problems of Columbia, he assured us that we had to also want to combat

the insistent troubles of New York City.

By Teresa Baker ‘69



Most of us, I think, left that auditorium with glorious
expectations of what we would be accomplishing in the
summer. We had been dared to “shake up” the city gov-
ernment. With the summer now in the past, I can say
that, of those interns from Sarah Lawrence, several did
“shake things up,” a little anyway. But many left the third
month feeling like they, not the government, had been
“shook up.” Still, they were quick to say the experience
was worth it. And all 20 Sarah Lawrence interns were
anxious to describe what it was they found themselves
up against in their offices or agencies:

“T wondered how they got anything done; it’s so slow!”

“The one good person in our office is leaving.”

“It was never clear what we were supposed to be

“An awful lot of sloppy work!”

“No one knew what was going on.”

“At times it frustrated the hell out of me.”

I heard comments like these every week; it was my job
to listen to them. Working in the administrative. office
of the Urban Corps, I talked with many interns, city ad-
ministrators and community action workers.

Although they all would agree that the Urban Corps

was the best idea around for enlisting students in the
service of the cities, they knew it could be better. The
problems were many even within the understaffed, under-
funded administration of the Urban Corps itself, For
some the greatest problem was to convince the office
they worked for that a college student was capable of
accomplishing something or that the office itself was
capable of doing more than it had.

Katy Ledford ’71 was hired as a tutorial aide to work
in the South Jamaica branch of the Youth Services
Agency. When she arrived she found she would be doing
no tutoring. Leading bicycle outings was the main part
of her duties in entertaining about thirty neighborhood
children. “You weren’t giving them anything useful,” she
complained. “It isn’t enough just to keep them busy.
One of the workers suggested training the older ones to
pass the civil service exams so they could get a job and
earn some money. That would be a good idea.”

But the older ones weren’t responsive, anyway, Katy
explained. They would say, “Ah, you can’t do anything!”
The younger ones were “more open as people” according
to Katy, But the one tutorial aide in the office still couldn’t
handle them. “All the kids sat on the floor, while every-
one else walked around doing their work, It was so noisy.


The Free Theater is about to perform on a street corner in Park Slope, a white ghetto in Brooklyn. The performers, all Ur-
ban Corps interns, played several shows a day all over the city. They pitched their improvisations to the mind of the par-
ticular audience to bring prejudice, especially racial, to the surface. Their concern was with the white middle class. They
hoped to get under attitudes by provoking reaction and then discussion. Here, the theater's leader and creator, Arnold
Middleman of New York University, has sounded his horn to start the show.

So they all just ran around. One of them was a pick-

The program could have done something, Katy said;
but it didn’t. “My supervisor didn’t care what we did
or whom we met, he didn’t have to pay our salaries.
(They were paid through the offices of the mayor.)
So he didn’t care. He said he didn’t want any Urban
Corps workers. I couldn’t talk to him about anything.”

Katy would not criticize the form of the program, the
direct contact with the people. “But the actual workers
were so haphazard in their work.” She remembered,
“They did do one good, thing. They picketed a grocery
store and the prices went down. The owner got really

Another office of the program Katy worked for was
on the corner of Second Avenue and 118th Street in
Manhattan. Lorie Yarlow ’70 worked there and found
that it was possible to do something. In a typical week,
Lorie and the four young neighborhood boys who made
up her team of paid helpers, conducted three or four field
trips. They took pre-schoolers to the Bronx Zoo, junior
high kids to tour NBC, and high schoolers to see the
show, “Walk Down My Street.” It was a surprise to Lorie
that she found herself so comfortable on the blocks so
soon; she knew most of the children by name. But she
was not without her frustrations. She had to start plan-
ning trips two weeks in advance. If the transportation
was too complicated or expensive she had to cancel. Also,
all the children had to have signed parent permission
slips to go. They had to leave behind anyone who lost or
forgot them or whose parents wouldn’t sign them.


Janice Simpson ’72 found frustration of a different
sort. Hers was also a Youth Service office. But it had
nothing to do with the neighborhood children, except
accidentally. In fact, “There really wasn’t enough to keep
me busy,” Janice said.

For Bonnyeclaire Smith °69, who worked for Head
Start, there was plenty to do. Her objection was to how
it was done. Community Life Centers Incorporated, a
Black agency funded by Head Start, was missing the boat
in her opinion. ‘‘My big gripe is that, OK, so they’re doing
a lot; there is always a big improvement in the kids, like
even 200 per cent. But they could improve much more
by gearing more toward Black culture. Make the class-
room more relevant to Black people.”

Bonnye saw that they were “actually excluding Black
culture” by avoiding the use of any picture or anything
that reflected clear racial identification. Her other com-
plaints described the common bureaucratic trials. “Too
many kids. The chairs don’t fit under the tables. A woman
who is getting her masters in education bought all the
materials. She also got this blackboard that you couldn’t
write on. All sorts of things like that made for an un-
easy day.”

Brumas Barron ’71 suffered even worse bureaucratic
tribulations, although she worked for an extra-govern-
mental project. It was the Free Theater of New York,
the brainchild of a New York University student who
managed to get government funding. The Free Theater
performed on the busiest street corners of Manhattan,
the Bronx and Brooklyn to large, standing audiences.
They chose white neighborhoods, because their message

Top left: Karen Gilbert 69 at the New York City Theatre
Workshop where 100 children worked all winter preparing
for summer productions.

Bottom left: Joan Griffin, graduate dance student, coordin-
ated the production of a movie about Brooklyn’s Park Slope.
The filmmakers used crowd reaction to the Free Theatre and
the institutions of Park Slope to help develop an awareness
of the problems faced by it and similar communities in the

Upper right: A string of tennis shoes flies from a street lamp
on the block where Janice Simpson ‘71 managed a “Youth
on Wheels” office. She dispensed bikes for planned outings
of the various Street Corps groups.

Lower right: (left to right) Barbara Huvumaki '69, Eli
Hausknecht '70, Judy Parker ’70, and Teresa Baker ’69 were
among the Urban Corps interns who had summer jobs in
the offices of the mayor, city agencies and organizations.
The program which the City of New York began three years
ago is designed to provide students with an opportunity to
learn about city government by doing actual work, provide
a source of financial assistance to students, and attract them
to public service.

“Our program wasn't just a bandaid. . . . This was a little more, like mercurochrome maybe. It was sting-
ing anyway, and it was doing something.”

was for the white middle class. The only black faces
around were always those of three of the performers.
They hoped to bring prejudice, especially racial, out into
the open with their provocative shows. They usually suc-
ceeded easily; then they would move into the crowd and
start talking about justice, the flag, and Negroes. These
interns found they could truly “shake things up.”

The problems Brumas had were not from within the
organization, but from without. It was her task to secure
permits from the Department of Commerce and Indus-
trial Development for every show, usually two a day. Not
uncommonly, the group didn’t know whether it could
perform at a location until the day of the performance.
“One day,” she said, “I walked into the Department.
The man I was to see was talking to a cop about our
group. He said, ‘I really don’t know what’s wrong with
this group we haven’t had any trouble with any other
group in the city.’ The cops just didn’t know what to do
with our group. So they created trouble by delaying the
permits. They would say, ‘Why do you want to go into a
community like that? Why don’t you go into the Black
community and keep them busy?’ ”” Brumas has an an-
swer, “What do we have to tell Blacks about injustice?”

The police were suspicious of the Free Theater because
it had people yelling in the streets at each performance.
At one point in the show, the group asks for an audience
vote on whether or not to shoot the black performer who
is wrestling on the ground with a white performer. A
plant in the crowd starts shouting, “Kill him, kill him!”
The ice broken, the rest of the crowd then starts saying
what they really think. The performers spread into the
excited audience and turn the reactions into dialogue.
It was an amazing thing to watch, As Brumas said, “Our
program wasn’t just a bandaid as Barry Gottehrer (an
aide to Lindsay) has said most of the summer programs
are, This was a little more. Like mercurochrome maybe.
It was stinging anyway, and it was doing something.”

No other interns were as successful as the Free Theater
at “shaking things up,” But Nancy Jervis ’69 and the
film crew she worked with also found that it was possible
to really accomplish something. The crew was composed
entirely of Urban Corps interns. Together they produced
a film about the Phoenix Houses of New York City where
addicts work things out in a community atmosphere. “We
lived in the house for awhile first and really got to know
the place, Addicts are just people with a particular kind
of problem. They are very sensitive to the ills of our
society. They are very articulate. We narrated the film
through the voice of an addict.”

The usual red tape plagued this group, too. “We spent
a whole week talking to people in the agency so that we
wouldn’t step on anyone’s toes,” Nancy said. But that


was more understandable to her than the time that they
couldn’t get any film. “We were renting equipment that
costs thousands. We were out of film and lost a whole
day of shooting time simply because we had to buy it
through one store with a city contract. The store couldn’t
get it to us in time for some reason.”

Joan Griffin; graduate dance student, helped with
the coordination between the film crew and the people
in the agency. She became so sold on the importance of
the work of the Phoenix House that she now plans to use
her dancing as a rehabilitative tool. She is hoping to teach
there on a part-time basis during the school year.

Another house, the Fountain House, a schizophrenic
rehabilitation center, had two Sarah Lawrence interns.
Shoshanna Zwickelberg °70 and Dolores Janiewski *70
joined the “members” in two of their business enterprises,
the thrift shop and the snack bar. Therapy is activity
there, and the Urban Corps interns joined in the work.
“T do everything in the snack bar,” Dolores said, “from
throwing out garbage to cleaning toilet bowls. I try to
help the members succeed at something. I’m frustrated
at times. It’s hard always smiling, being kind and con-
siderate. We have to learn how to do these things so we
can teach the others.”

Shoshanna noticed that “the emphasis of the place is
on extroverting people,” something which she believed
Sarah Lawrence could use too. To improve Fountain
House, both girls suggested more structure, more staff,
and more young people with the necessary enthusiasm.

The calmer Urban Corps jobs and the least frustrated
interns were found in the American Museum of Natural
History. They didn’t have the chance to “shake things
up,” but they did get incomparable experience in their
fields of interest. “Between what I do and the people I
meet, I mean, what could be better?” said Cynthia God-
dard ’71. Her research for a curator of Asian ethnology
gave her fresh insights into a recent sociology paper she
had written on the structure of the Negro family, and it
has inspired her to pioneer in the field of urban anthro-

Nadine Seltzer ’69 was also attracted by the people at
the museum. “Scientists are fascinating people who are
fascinated by the mind. And every other scientist is a
musician here.” In the ichthyology department, Nadine
reclassified the skeletons of dry fish. “I really got a feel-
ing of what an academic atmosphere is. It’s not like the
real world. It’s relaxed.”

Barbara Havumaki °70 had a position similar to those
at the museum. Working for the Metropolitan Regional
Council, she researched everything from air and water
pollution to recreation and open space to jet noise. “It’s

Brumas Barron ’'7] prepares to accompany the Free Theatre
on her tambourine.

a very relaxed and constructive atmosphere here,” she
said. “Terrific people. They get a lot done. Constantly
on the ball. As a result of this job, I’ve given a lot of con-
Sideration to going into government.”

The Metropolitan Regional Council is a specially-
funded, new organization and not actually part of the
government of New York City. The girls who did re-
search for regular government offices found it less excit-
ing, but still worthwhile.

As Judy Parker 71 put it, “The actual work was often
very boring, but I was finding out about government.
At least I felt I was doing something constructive. It’s
important to be doing work for people who need it.”
Judy worked for the Mayor’s Commission on Physical
Fitness and the Urban Action Task Force. Her office
ran a program called “Broadway in the Streets” which
brought movies and entertainers into ghetto neighbor-
hoods for free. Some had criticized the program as just
a diversion, but Judy reasoned, “New York City is an
entertainment center, yet there are millions of people
who have never seen a show. Entertainment is a really
good thing for people who have bad lives.”

“The whole Task Force serves as a problem
squelcher,” Judy went on, “but it also enables the people
to be heard and then their problems to be acted upon.”

Lorie Yarlow ’70 organized and conducted cultural and
recreational activities for the neighborhood children around
her New York Street Corps Office at 118th Street and Sec-
ond Avenue. The City’s Youth Service Agency runs the
program in 27 poverty areas.

She added that the job had been a great opportunity for
her to see what government is and could be.

Karen Gilbert *69 also found herself doing boring
work, but staying on because she believed so much in
the program she was with. She worked in the office of the
New York City Theater Workshop which trained and
directed 100 children in a full stage production. “It was
the greatest thing I’ve ever participated in. Those kids
had been in intensive training all winter. They were so
disciplined, it gave me inspiration.”

The jobs these Sarah Lawrence girls did are fairly
representative of the variety available through the Urban
Corps. Each intern applies for a position according to
his interests. He qualifies through the Federal workstudy
program on his campus. Among the other kinds of in-
ternships were psychiatric aides and lab technicians in
hospitals, announcers and researchers for a city radio
program, interviewers for the Urban Coalition, commu-
nity workers for the Model Cities program, and legal
aides for community legal services.

Mayor John V. Lindsay has commented nationally
that the Urban Corps could take 10,000 more students
into New York City immediately. He has backed the
program as an alternative to military service. With the
money and the Congressional support, it could -happen.



CORPS NEW YORK, N. ¥. 10007

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