Posted by: exiwp | August 9, 1972

CFC: A Collection of Liberation Centers (1972)

One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk.
-Tashunka Witko (Crazy Horse)

CFC is a collective of liberation centers including a school for children ages 3-7; a community counseling center at 498 West End Avenue; a community oriented therapeutic and dental clinic located in the Bronx; a press (CFC Press) at the CFC administrative offices at 2390 Broadway and the Community Media Project, an information service for the people of the upper west side operating out of the same office.

The History of CFC

The history was compiled by a group of old Centers people.  We did it by traveling around to the locations of old Centers for Change projects and taping what we remembered.  For a concise description of the organization, see “What is CFC.”

Spring 1968:  IF…THEN Begins in Context of Columbia Strike

The setting of the beginning of IF…THEN was the spring of 1968.  This was the time of the Columbia Strike, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and the McCarthy campaign.  The peace movement was at its height.

IF…THEN was the first organization which all the rest grew out of.  It was an attempt to get the so-called college activists (or people who thought themselves radicals or revolutionaries but spent the bulk of their time sitting in cafeterias) to do something other than sit in cafeterias.  The modality of IF…THEN was obscenity.  It prided itself on putting out the most obscene brochures and pamphlets in the whole city-filthy-;incredibly offensive.

IF…THEN was a kind of political encounter group.  The attempt was to try to produce encounter workshops between political radicals and activists and what we labeled at the time as white middle-class people (many of those people were actually working class).  It involved a lot of people who hadn’t been involved in political activity before.

IF…THEN had a staff of about 10 people and what we did was to contact families and ask them to let 3 or 4 of us into their homes for one evening.  We’d have about four hours of political encounter groups.  They would invite some of their friends over, 10 or 12 people altogether.  We held a dozen of these meetings.  One of the really exciting things about it was that it made people do terribly tough political work.

The overt attempt of the IF…THEN people was to be sufficiently provocative to get an angry response.  We had an understanding at that point that rational intellectual dialogue was not where it was at but there was not the understanding yet of the complicated dynamic of group therapy.

There wasn’t a clear understanding at this point of who to be angry at.  It ended up that the radicals were yelling at these middle-class people and saying that it was their fault.  Then the middle-class people would say that they felt that was their fault and the radicals would try to convince them that it wasn’t their fault.

We saw IF…THEN as making contact with other people, but primarily it was a self-growth experience.

IF…THEN was supported by donations, some from the people at whose houses we spoke, etc.  Much of it was donated by faculty.

The significant political consciousness that IF…THEN had at the beginning was the realization that politics had to be more activistic.  In terms of political analysis there was very low consciousness.

We got a storefront in May of ’68.  We wanted something to grow out of these meetings but we didn’t exactly know what.  If we were taking seriously the notion that we had to leave the campus then we had to leave the campus.  We couldn’t long support a place committed to getting off the campus unless we got off the campus.  The move was simply to get our own place.  The sense was that we would get a storefront, though no one had the vaguest idea of what to do with it.

Where the IF…THEN people were at was that they didn’t know where they were at.  No one knew what they were doing.  Many of the people had moved out of their parents’ houses, some of the people had not.  Everyone was dealing with these kinds of things:  should they stay in school or should they leave; what would they do if they did leave.

One of the significant features of moving into the storefront was moving into the storefront.  Many of the other experiments going on in education at that time would talk about experimental learning by all those experiments were characteristically framed (framed in the sense that one would do them as part of a course or under the auspices of some other program).  What we were doing was unframed experiential learning.  There was no way in which it was attached to anything.

There’s a contradiction here.  On the one hand we want to point with pride and excitement to the doing of it.  On the other hand, we must emphasize that a lot of it was simply stupid.  That is, we made mistakes; mistakes that wouldn’t happen now, as we’ve grown.  A positive thing about the organization then was the willingness of the people to make mistakes and to do things.

We began to realize that people could really start things.  When one looks at most organizations from the outside you’d think they started in some immensely complicated big-shot, fancy way and we realized that other people might look at IF…THEN that way.  What IF…THEN was, was people making a move to do things.  To start something you just start it.  It could even be one person.  The general credo in our society seems to be you can’t start anything until it’s finished, until you have it all mapped out and you know where all the money is going to come from.

We moved to the storefront.

People came into the store, we talked with them.  Often, old people would come into the store who had nothing else to do; kids started coming in and hanging around and breaking things which we didn’t exactly know how to deal with at times.  Again, it wasn’t exactly clear exactly what we were doing here.  People would ask us what we were doing and we would say, “Anything you want us to do.”

Among the things we did there was a park cleanup.  Once we gave out free food in the park.  On the first day we were there we walked up and down the street with a banner announcing our arrival and handed out obscene literature.  Once we drew on the sidewalk and the neighborhood kids got involved in it.  These were nice brief things but we didn’t really know how to get the park cleaned up or how to get the city to do it; in fact we had trouble keeping the storefront clean.

There was a bar across the street.  It was where the local young guys would hang out.  During the day they would come into the storefront and we would talk with them and argue about the war, etc.  During the day we were kind of friendly with each other.  There was antagonism but there was some communication.  A lot of them were ex-veterans.  They were conservative in one sense politically, but in another sense not at all.  They were a working-class gang.  They either lived at home or were just married.  At night these same guys would bust our windows.  This happened fairly frequently.  Sometimes one of them would come over and say, “You know, it was my buddy who broke your window last night.”  We really didn’t know what to say or what to do.  In a way we really dug each other, but they would consistently break our windows and we never really defended ourselves.  That might be what finally drove us out of the neighborhood.

A lot of people came into the storefront, there was a lot of dialogue, a lot of stuff going on, but internally the organization was not prepared to do anything.  There just wasn’t much internal cohesion.

IF…THEN, in its closing days was like a roving gang, a bunch of homeless people running about the city together, under the name of doing something political.  That was its flavor; about 25 or 30 people roaming the streets together.

Right from the very beginning a whole lot of attention was paid by the organizational people to taking care of each other.  A whole lot of learning went on about how that had to happen for an organization to grow.  A small example was people were always driven home at the end of meetings; it could be way out in Brooklyn at 2, 3, 4 in the morning; that really made a difference.  People really had a strong sense of being part of something where people cared.  There was a sense of people really caring about the organization and a feeling that when you came into the storefront that you were with people who really cared about each other.  People who didn’t have a place to live moved in with other people, people shared money a lot, etc.  It was this context that, IF…THEN became Encounter House.

IF…THEN essentially turned into the school.  Eight or nine core people from IF…THEN became Encounter House.  We began to have a lot of meetings, mostly at people’s apartments.  We talked about raising a lot of money which we never raised.  No one had a place to sleep; things were very chaotic.

The notion was that we were going to start a communal school.  We were going to live together.  There’d be a heavy therapeutic input, a lot of groups, though no one knew a whole lot about groups at the time.  It would involve outside faculty people from various colleges and they would give occasional courses.

The structure of the organization was to be anarchic but characteristic of our kind of anarchistic structure-it was ruled by a benevolent despot.

Five weeks later we moved into a basement at 190th St. and Wadsworth Ave.  There we had our first communal dinners, our first classes and groups.

A lot of people came in.  One very disturbed kid came in one day and got into an encounter rap session with one of our people, Howard McCay.  It developed into a very heavy fight and later that night Howard was attacked by this kid’s gang and was badly cut.

We decided we had to move.  This time the move was to an apartment building in a middle-class neighborhood on Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx.

We did a lot of contact work:  we went to visit the person who started the New School for Social Research; wrote letters, got names, made phone calls, became friends with the neighbors, had Friday evening dinners which we would invite people to and started having classes.  One person came once a week simply to sleep for an hour.  The place was really used.  There were never less than 50 people in the apartment.  People would just come there and hang out without being bothered.

One thing we learned from the experience at 190th St. & Wadsworth Avenue (Encounter House #1) and from IF…THEN was that we weren’t prepared to work with the community.  We were pretty discreet here so we didn’t have much trouble.  We wanted a private apartment.  We tried not to disturb the neighbors and we clearly weren’t going to do much with the community.  As it turned out we did do some work with high school kids, but we became friends with them naturally; they met us on the street.  We had no problem making friends.  The problem was figuring out what we wanted to do with the people we easily made friends with!

We had really grown a lot as a result of that move.  We had much more of a sense of what it meant to organize a community and that was not what we were going to do then.  We were becoming more aware of how much we had to learn and how long it would take.

We began to have Tuesday night introductory meetings which were to tell people what we were all about.  In a lot of ways everything that happened at Encounter House was an introductory meeting because we didn’t really have anything more than the introduction.  That made a whole lot of sense.  We had no clear concept of what we wanted to do so.  That is exactly what was growing at the time.  We learned a lot at Sedgewick Ave. (Encounter House) about working; about what it meant to put in a hard radical days work; getting our mail, etc.

We began to learn how hard it was to work because you wanted to rather than because you were paid to.  The projects we worked on included working with high school kids (the teachers strike was on at the time), running some classes for them, and some classes which we ran for ourselves.  What we were was a place where people, many of whom had never been allowed to do anything, were allowed to do things.  Despite the fact that we lacked all the credibility that people need in order to do things, it nonetheless provided a place for people to do things that they had spent a long time wanting to do.  An example was Warren Garvey.  Warren Garvey was a fifty-year old alcoholic, who offered an acting class.  He was a lonely man; Encounter House gave him a small gratification by allowing him to teach.  He died 3 years ago.

To give an accurate description of it, looking at Encounter House with an objective eye you would say that it was an utter and complete failure.  The classes were terrible.  No more terrible than classes at City College, but nevertheless terrible.  A lot of people anticipated that as soon as we got our own place there were going to be thrilling, exciting classes.  They were not thrilling, exciting classes.  They were boring, tedious classes.  But people would walk out and go into the kitchen and we would have coffee together and that would make the difference.  You could sit down with the people who gave these disastrous courses afterwards and tell them how you felt about it.  There was a sense that even if the substantive stuff wasn’t working well, that at least the failure belonged to us.  There was an enormously moving spiritual sense in the whole project, even as we were failing.

People were always asking, “Is this a school?  How is this a school?” Finally, we decided to say that this wasn’t a school, that we were getting ready to be a school next year.  It was tremendously liberating not to be a school.

There was a lot of talking during this time about work, how the detail work was really important, the importance of getting the phone calls made, answering the mail.  Once we wrote letters to all the famous people we could think of.

Encounter House officially became Centers for Change in the winter of 1969.  The name was changed because there was a drug-rehabilitation program named Encounter House, and for purposes of incorporation we needed to have a different name.

Though the organization was ruled by a benevolent despot, it was also true that anyone could make any decision they wanted in the name of Centers for Change.  This was very important because we were made up of a group of people who didn’t know how to make decisions.  Literally what it meant was that anyone could make any decision in the name of CFC.  It helped people learn what a difficult time they had making decisions.  Anyone could make any decision, yet no one could decide anything.

A group of people from Antioch were looking to get rid of a building they had on 21st Street and we rented it.

Fred Newman, then the director (or benevolent despot), had essentially decided to take the place.  He called a meeting of the people who had been in the organization the longest and were supposed to be able to make decision, to get support for the move.  Except the people couldn’t make decisions either, and the move went ahead anyway.  Sedgewick Avenue (Encounter House) remained open, but 21st Street became the main organizational commune of CFC.

A lot of people at 21st Street felt very guilty about what wasn’t getting done and we weren’t doing it.  We felt very inept.  It helped us to learn how impotent we were rendered by this society.  It was very hard to do everything.  Indeed, it was very hard to do anything.

The organizational commune on 21st Street between 7th and 8th Avenue, a four story brownstone with nine rooms and a basement, housed about 10 people who lived there regularly and about 75 people who lived there more regularly than the people who lived there regularly.  It was not uncharacteristic of 21st Street that you would come in and find a lot of people sleeping in the hallways.  At one point there were 59 names on the mailbox.  We had classes and a lot of the same stuff we had at Sedgewick Avenue (Encounter House) except that it was a much more intensive living situation because there were many more people.

There was a very different tone to 21st Street than to Encounter House (Sedgewick).  There was something rougher about 21st Street-more crazy.  Some really insane people showed up there and lived there.  We were further downtown; there was something more public about us.  We didn’t get to know neighborhood people very well.  It was really different.  The organization had become much less sheltered at this point.  We were shocked by the incident at 190th Street (Encounter House #1) where Howard was cut, and we had become rather cloistered.  More street people got involved at 21st Street and fewer college people.  21st Street was much bigger than Sedgewick Avenue and it felt more real to us.  There was a lot of the same hustle-bustle and crashing at Sedgewick Avenue (Encounter House), but it was more like visiting a home, there was something more comfortable about it.  21st Street was more in the cold, cruel world.  It was much less collegy and there were many more street people, people who were much more overtly crazy.

At 21st Street we moved into a much more communal decision-making procedure.  Out of that developed the first real factionalism in the organization.  The split can be described in one sense as a split between liberals and radicals.  More basically it was a split between those people who wanted to work and those people who didn’t and those people who were committed to a second year for Centers for Change and those people who weren’t.

The Urban Confrontation Program was a program run out of 21st Street that CFC co-sponsored with Sloan House YMCA.  We had groups come up from colleges and we would give them a one-week introductory course in urban problems.  It was a pretty shabby program.  It was very liberal and was much more influenced by the “Y” than it was by us.  They had money; we didn’t.

We weren’t quite a year old yet.  IF . THEN had starred in the spring of 1968.  It was now the spring of 1969.  There was still an enormous sense of trying to figure out what we were doing.

We really had started with nothing; seven dollars at our first meeting.  It was tremendously important to us to have that brownstone and to have all that space even though we were crowded in it.

While we were at Sedgewick we had a meeting at which we decided to pool all our money.  People threw in money that they had been saving since high school:  $400, $500, $1000 . This happened a lot, and was the way the organization supported itself throughout much of its history.

A number of other CFC communes began to open up, one in Woodstock, one in Stonybrook, two in Brooklyn, etc.  One way of looking at what was happening was that CFC had 8 communes going at this time.  Another way of looking at it was that people who didn’t know how they could get an apartment came to us and we would sign their leases.  Both are accurate descriptions of what was going on.

There weren’t really any projects.  People were primarily struggling to live.  However, people lived we would label a project.  The project was living.

There was something remarkably self-delusory about the early days of Centers.  We all kind of half-knew it, but had a need to perpetuate it.  That spring, when some of us started talking about making plans for the fall, people freaked.  The reality was that what people had been doing so far that first year was meeting their living needs, and together, we would label that a project of Centers for Change.  In the spring of 1969 when it came time to make a separation which we know about well now, the organization panicked.  The organization almost fell apart.

Every meeting at Centers for Change (it could be a meeting at which the most important decisions needed to be made) was a first meeting.  Invariably someone would ask “What is Centers for Change?” It never failed.  (This catalogue represents the ultimate attempt to keep people from asking that question ever again.)  There were no second meetings.  Try as you would there was never a second meeting.  In one way that was very frustrating, but the virtue of it was that Centers people became enormously good at conducting first meetings.  It was destructive because the hardest year was the second.  The second year was murder.  The organization never came closer to being non-existent than towards the end of the second year.

The first year the attitude of CFC was:  you do your thing, I’ll do mine.  But, in the second year we had to face up to what we were going to do to help people, since that was what we said we were doing.  During the first year a lot of people got involved, we did whatever we wanted to, signed peoples’ leases and helped people in whatever way we could.  We had to be able to answer certain questions.  Who was in the organization?  Who could work and who couldn’t?  What kind of policy should we have about admitting people?  What was it that we wanted to do?

We didn’t have any money.  Money wasn’t an issue in the first year.  We didn’t need money except for our own support.  In the second year money became a bigger issue.  We needed money to pay for salaries, supplies, etc., in order to work to help others.

In the first year there was no differentiation between the people who had skills and people who didn’t.  As we began to do things, authority problems arose because of the disparity in skills among us.  The skilled people could do work and the other people were uptight because they couldn’t.

The structural look of the organization in the winter and spring of 1969 was:  21st Street was the main organizational commune, in addition there were 8 satellite communes again, a lot of these communes were simply where people were living.

The plan for the structure of the organization that we finally came up with for the fall of ’69 was that there be an organizational commune and out of that would come the organizational work.  The people who did the organizational work would live there together.  That there would be five autonomous projects:  a money making project, the Robin Hood Relearning Company (running sensitivity groups, a free high school, the New World School, a free school for children, Freegarden School, and the Urban Confrontation program, plus a newsletter and monthly meetings).  That was what emerged on paper in the spring of 1969.  We began implementing it in the summer and had a convention in the fall to initiate it.

The organization commune was located [at 343 West] 47th Street.  The Freegarden School was located on the first floor of the organizational commune.  New World and Robin Hood shared an apartment in a brownstone on 22nd Street.

The second year was a stormy year.  There were some successful projects.  New World School, for instance, was a very successful, yet stormy project.

The only project that made a penny for the organization was New World.  Essentially, the total operating budget for the second year was $8,000.  The bulk of that money went to paying off back debts.  This left the organization virtually penniless and without the opportunity of making money as of October 1, which was the date this plan was due to go into effect.  As might be expected, we ran out of rent and security money and virtually all projects folded by January 15.  Year 2 ended January 15, 1970.

The convention that met that fall (Fall ’69) was the first surfacing of feminist consciousness in Centers.  At the convention there was a proposal made by some of the women that they elect their own representative to the board of directors.  The resolution was adopted after very long and difficult discussions.

At the same convention Centers adopted the following resolution calling for the overthrow of the educational system:

“There were two ‘Reigns of Terror’ if we would be remember and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other lasted a thousands years; the one inflicted death upon a thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are for the ‘horrors’ of the minor terror, the momentary terror, so to speak; whereas what is the horror of swift death by the axe compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold insult, cruelty, and heartbreak What is swift death by lightning compared with slow death by fire at the stake?  A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by the brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by the older and real Terror-that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.”

Mark Twain

Centers for Change believes that the educational establishment in this country has been an important part of our own cold reign of terror.  We believe that too much time is spent in remembering the months of terror while little time is spent thinking of the oppressed people who every day endure the cold insult of our educational system.

We believe the educational establishment deals in that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.  We believe that the people, all people, children and adults, rich and poor, are being hurt by our school system.

Therefore, it is resolved that Centers for Change is committed to the overthrow of the educational system, through the creation of radical alternatives and by supporting peoples’ struggles within the system.

The New World School is a radical alternative to the present educational system.  It is composed of thirteen students ranging in age from sixteen to nineteen who have dropped out of various schools both public and private to form it.

We have one full-time teacher and a dozen part time instructors.  We are unaccredited and plan to stay that way.  We not only feel that accreditation is unnecessary but we also believe that it is hinderous to true growth and learning by making motivation external.

The New World School was first conceived in March 1969 but did not actually take shape until September.  Students pay no tuition and teachers receive no pay.  Our money was raised by two of the founding students last spring and summer.  We are running low now and all contributions are helpful.  Students presently working contribute money to the school.  At present there are thirteen courses in progress at New World School.  Others are available according to the students’ interests.  We have general meetings twice a week to discuss school business.

We also have dinners every Monday night to inform people about our school and for them to meet people in it.  We have a coffeehouse on Sundays which is open to all high school students.  The coffeehouse was initiated because we felt strongly that we didn’t want to become a “super-elite,” a privileged class.  The coffeehouse is a place where all high school students can gather to discuss the mutual struggle of all students against the educational system.  Our school has offered its facilities (when not in use) to student groups needing places to meet.  We are striving to make it clear to us as well as to others that we are not leaving school to escape it but rather we are leaving it in order that we may be able to fight and overthrow the educational system more effectively.  There is no grading system at New World and nothing is compulsory.

Out of the women’s resolution at the convention there began a women’s program in Centers.  For a couple of weeks there were men’s consciousness raising groups at New World, but not unlike everything else that year, they failed.

We learnt an enormous amount the second year out of all these failures:  about structure, about work, about models, about authority problems, and about money.

The problems were so real and so difficult that it drove most of the people out of the organization.  The people who lasted through are really very learned now about these problems.

The next year we existed largely as an administrative organization, doing paper work and holding meetings.

The third year was a building year.  It was a year in which Fred Newman began his private therapy practice, the Summerhill Collective was growing, and the first Summerhill Teacher Training program took place.  Quality work was beginning to get done for the first time.

During this time Fred (Newman) took a job at the Narcotics Addiction Control Commission as a counselor.  He began a job action, all the counselors that participated were fired, and many people came to us as a result.

A couple of Centers people began working for the Summerhill Society right about this time.  (Spring-Summer, 1970) The Summerhill Society published material on free education.  The workers of the Society split from the board of directors forming the Summerhill Collective.  The Collective promptly became a member organization of Centers for Change.

The meeting at which the split occurred was packed with Centers people who were recruited by the workers to help.  The workers themselves were all old Centers people.  That meeting represented a coming together again.  It was the first activity that Centers had had in almost a year.  There began to be a renewed sense of Centers for Change.

At a special membership meeting of the Society on Sunday, October 25, the staff of the Society moved to dissolve the present board of directors and establish worker control.  The motion was passed overwhelmingly and a new board was established with only paper power (for legal and tax exempt reasons).

It began to seem incompatible in our eyes for an organization supposedly committed to self-determination for children to employ people at low wages, to do menial work with very little say in what went on.  We could not accept being subject to the veto of people totally uninvolved in the day-to-day realities of the Society while we continued to be totally involved physically and emotionally.

We began to see that the board of directors were more than harmless, well-meaning liberals, but were retarding the growth of the free school movement by keeping it isolated from the rest of the revolutionary movement.  We plan to push the free school movement away from its apolitical and elitist traditions towards an understanding of the intensely political nature of education, i.e., the role it has in nurturing racism and sexism and the manner in which it stratifies people some for war, some for college, some to factories, and some to drugs.  And on the other hand to push to the rest of the revolutionary movement towards understanding the oppression of kids, including scrutinizing the day care movement.  Kids already suffer through 10-16 years of imprisonment in school.  If day care centers simply offer five more years of imprisonment then the liberation of women will be off the backs of kids.

On the Monday following the split we were locked out of our office and are operating with minimal equipment and money.  We now function as a collective of three and need people who can make a full-time commitment to the collective and free education.

In the spring of that year, the Summerhill Collective and Centers for Change co-sponsored a teacher training program.

This was perhaps the most successful project Centers had ever done.  It was attended by a lot of people, it was very well done, a lot of people came into the organization through it, we made a lot of money and people got a lot of help from it.

Dear People,

The Summerhill Collective is a group of adults committed to Children’s Liberation.  We believe that freedom for children involves more than the creation of alternative schools or the changing of institutions.  We believe that it involves changing ourselves.

We publish a magazine the Summerhill Bulletin which carries articles and announcements relating to the Children’s Liberation Movement.  Among the articles that have appeared in the Bulletin are Red Paint, the story of a children’s commune, How to Start a Free School, Revolution and Psychotherapy, Politics of Ageism, What Ever Happened to Perry Street Kids School.2, Children Are Only Little People, Speaking of Spock, a women’s critique of the writings of the famed baby doctor and A Survey of Thirty Free Schools.

We run a unique teacher training program.  It is unique in that it sees teaching not as imparting or instilling but as supporting and inspiring.  The program sees training as helping adults to be themselves because a free school is simply a place where kids can be themselves.

We organize child-care for movement conferences and demonstrations such as the May 5 anti-war action and most recently the Women’s Abortion Conference.

We publish a school list which is distributed free of charge.  Unlike many other lists ours consists only of schools about which we have a great deal of information and which we can confidently recommend.  We answer hundreds of pleas from kids, parents and teachers who want out of the prison school system.

The projects we are hoping to start in the future include an emergency child-care center for working people and a bail fund and halfway house for kids coming out of jails and mental hospitals.

We depend solely on the support of the people (both spiritually and financially) to survive and thus far have managed to keep our heads just above water.

So we are asking for your support in order that we may continue the crucial and expensive job of providing people with information and help.

The Summerhill Collective

In the spring of 1971 a number of Centers people who had been in therapy themselves and had been receiving training to do therapy (including Fred who had now been in private practice for a year) began Centers Clinic.  Centers Clinic provided quality therapy on a sliding scale according to ability to pay.

We had learned a lot from Robin Hood Relearning Company in designing the Clinic.  Robin Hood was a terrible context in which to work.  Some people at Robin Hood worked full time, others worked barely part time; some people depended on Robin Hood as their means of support, others did not.  Some people had skills, others didn’t.

The Clinic was well designed.  People who came into the Clinic Collective were required to do full-time work.  After a short time, communal money sharing was instituted and people who were admitted to the collective all had skills.  The clinic was an enormous success, a success both in terms of the growth of the workers and the patients, as well as financially.

Shortly after the inception of the Clinic), a free school for children was begun under the directorship of Jackie Perez called Centers School (what else?)

Activities that went on at the Clinic, in addition to individual and group therapy, were a twenty-four-hour a day emergency program, therapist training program, and a free high school called Grand Central High.

The Clinic had approximately eighty-five patients, ran on an operating budget of between $150-$200,000, occupied two six-room apartments on West End Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets, and was a smashing success.

CFC, a collective of liberation centers, represents two things.  It is another stage of Centers, a coming together in a new way, and it is still another rebirth.

All of the projects that we are undertaking and that are written about in this brochure have roots in the history of Centers for Change.

What is CFC?

CFC currently has twenty-eight workers.  These twenty-eight workers form a legislative body which makes all the organizational policy decisions.  This body functions on a one vote-one worker basis, meeting weekly in town hail fashion under the chairwomanship of Hazel Daren, assistant director.

The executive body of CFC consists of the director of CFC, Fred Newman, the assistant director of CFC, Hazel Daren, the director of Centers, the children’s school, Gail Elberg, and the director of the Community Center, Ann Green.  This body meets throughout the week and implements the decisions of the legislative group.  The implementation of these decisions is done with the help of the organizational staff which works out of the CFC office at 2390 Broadway.  All workers of the organizational staff are members of the legislative body.  The executive board and the organizational staff are not “boss” groups.  Rather, they are workers who work for the workers.  They form a help group which provides communication services and general administrative support to the workers of the service projects.

In addition to the regular service projects (the school, the therapeutic and dental clinic and community counseling center) CFC runs a therapist training program under the directorship of Fred Newman and a political consciousness raising program under the directorship of Hazel Daren, and a yearly program of therapy marathons (including 1/2 day mini-marathons, weekend marathons and one week maxi-marathons).  These marathon programs, open to all, are run by skilled therapists all of whom are members of CFC.  These therapists work the marathon programs without pay and all the money made by these therapy marathons is donated to CFC to run the free service projects of the organization.  The marathon program is under the directorship of Lewis Steinhardt.

The therapist training program provides intensive training for the staff workers of CFC who are providing therapeutic services.

The political consciousness raising is an intensive program of class consciousness for all worker members of CFC.

For more information about any of these programs Contact the CFC office, 2390 Broadway or call 724-4758.

CFC believes in the curative power of good therapy and the mind expanding power of good teaching.  Moreover, we believe that the possibility of eliminating the pain and increasing the creative capacity of the mind is a difficult if not impossible task when it is attempted in a setting which in its very structure smirks at the possibility of cure and growth.  The design of a traditional public school reflects the real attitude of those who have designed it about learning.  The ruling class does not believe in learning for the masses; they believe in control for the masses.  This is reflected in the design or structure of traditional schools much as it is reflected in the design or structure of the society as a whole.

Likewise for clinics or counseling services; those who are ultimately responsible for the design of these institutions-namely, the ruling class-do not believe in curing the people or alleviating the pain of the people.  Rather they believe in keeping the worker in shape enough to run the factory.  This, of course, is not what they say for the record, but it is reflected in the design of these institutions.

So when we say that schools, clinics, and community centers are potentially liberation centers, we mean that they are the kinds of places where one would expect liberating experiences.  Typically they are not liberation centers because traditional schools, clinics, and community centers are only pretending to liberate because the real owners of these institutions-the ruling class of this society-do not wish to liberate anyone.  Liberation isn’t their business.  It is our work.

Yet it should not be thought that worker ownership is sufficient for good teaching or “good” therapy or “good” dentistry, for teaching and therapy and dentistry are complex arts.  Worker ownership is necessary but not sufficient.  Thus, CFC is committed to intensive training and consciousness-raising for its workers, it is a classist myth that workers cannot do “smart” work.  That is, that teaching must be left to professionals.  It is a myth twice over.  For one thing workers are smart.  For another, teachers are workers.  But-and this is most important-though it is a classist myth that workers cannot do “smart work” it is a classist myth that we have all lived under-workers as well as everyone else, and it has taken its toll.  That is, though a myth it is still believed by workers.  Hence, we must simultaneously regard it as myth and, therefore, work to make it otherwise.

Let me put this important point even more strongly and in another way:  It is a myth that Blacks are more stupid than Whites.  Yet, it is true!  It is true because that myth has been imposed on all of us . Blacks and Whites and moreover, those who design the society have designed it in such a way as to make the myth true.  Therefore, it is not enough to see that it is a myth.  Rather, we must see that it is both a myth and true and then work to rid ourselves and our society of this myth.

CFC is aware of this and struggles continuously to escape from those myths which oppress all of us.  Thus, in addition to CFC being liberated by virtue of being owned by workers, it is liberated by virtue of being owned by workers who are liberating themselves from the classism imposed upon us all by the rulers of this society.  One major piece of classism is that workers cannot do “smart” work.  We at CFC are doing “smart” work very well and will continue to struggle to provide good “smart” services for the people of this society.

Several members of CFC are trained therapists with private practices.  In addition to donating money to CFC, each of these therapists works a “full day” as a CFC worker without pay.

Other members of CFC hold traditional jobs and donate money to CFC in addition to working a “full day” at CFC.

The therapists also work the marathon projects without pay, which are a major source of CFC revenue.

CFC is a member organization of Centers For Change, Inc., which is a N.Y. State tax exempt educational foundation.

The school is a place to free children from external academic and social pressures so that they may grow to be themselves.  Children and adults work together in creating their own educational environment.  Teachers share their own learning experiences with the children and help them make space for themselves.

CFC, in part, is a school for adults, the learning is the raising of the political consciousness of its members.  The teachers at Centers School are members of CFC.  The parents of the children in the school are required to join a therapy group at CFC.  A growth experience as significant as the one the child will be having at Centers, demands a parallel growth experience for parents.

Centers School opened in September 1971.  Since then it’s been meeting five days a week from 9-3.  There have been several sleepovers and a two day trip to the country.  This past year Centers was located in Brooklyn.  It will be located on the upper west side of Manhattan in September.

The director of the school is Gail Elberg, the assistant director is Fran Costa and Vashti Gittler is on staff.

The staff visits various community centers throughout the city learning about their experiences and problems, especially relating to drugs.  In the fall we plan to provide counseling for people with drug problems and a drug education program for the community.  Future plans also include a free day care center.

The community center will be working closely with other community centers in the area and will act as a referral agent to other services such as more intensive therapy, heroin detoxification programs, abortion clinics, etc.

The director of the community center is Ann Green.  The counselors are Helen Abel, Ann Feder, Neil Golden, Nancy Mittman [Ross], and Steve Taub.  The staff are members of CFC and the CFC Therapist Training program.

CFC CC is located at 498 West End Avenue at 84th Street, Apt. 1C.  The telephone number is 799-3777.

CFC Community Center is supported by donations and fund raising projects.

The Community Clinic is in its early planning stages.  We expect the Clinic to be operating on a full-time schedule in the fall of 1973.  During the first year we will have a small staff-probably five people.  The Clinic will provide therapy, approximately ten hours per week of dental care and family counseling.

The Community Clinic will be located in a working class neighborhood in the Bronx.  The Clinic will have two locations in this neighborhood.  The therapy and the dentistry will take place out of an office in an apartment building.  The counseling service will be located in a storefront.  The storefront will also be the organizational and community relations section of the Clinic.

All services at the Clinic will be free or very low-cost.  We will accept Medicaid and Insurance coverage for the dental services.

The Press is also responsible for publishing an internal newsletter.

The director of the Press was formerly with the Summerhill Collective which published the Summerhill Bulletin.  The Summerhill Collective felt that children’s liberation and free schools could not be separated from other revolutionary struggles.  Recent issues of the Summerhill Bulletin have contained more and more articles on women’s liberation, class consciousness, etc.

The consolidation of the Summerhill Collective into the larger collective of CFC and the change in format from a bi-monthly bulletin to a monthly newspaper are a further reflection of the changes we have been going through.

The first project of the Press is the publishing of this catalog.  We will move into full operation October 1, 1972.

CFC Press is located at the CFC office at 2390 Broadway.  The Director of the Press is Mike Weinstein, and Vicki Goldstein is assistant director.

They want to keep the people from getting too “smart” for their own good.  Hence they monopolize the airwaves and print media.

Informing the people is a primary task in creating liberation struggle.  The Community Media Project utilizes all forms of communications in order to inform the people.

The struggle to make information accessible to the people must proceed on many levels at once.  This means providing information to support existing liberation work as well as to create new fronts.  And it means using this information to generate from all the separate centers of struggle a powerful, unified community.

The Community Media Project will report to the whole Upper West Side community information about liberation work in progress in various parts of the community, including our own work.  These reports will share work experiences that will help others to grow in struggle.

The Community Media Project will also be a channel through which information and experience comes into the CFC community, thus maintaining vital connection between the work going on within CFC and the needs of the greater community.

The Community Media Project will explore and employ all media forms that make information accessible to the people.  These include printed media posters, leaflets, street journals, community newspapers, etc.), radio and television, and film-plus “live” media such as concerts, political actions, workshops, etc.

In addition to learning how to use media tools, we will teach others in order to make the tools themselves accessible to the people.

JIM RETHERFORD is director of the Community Media Project.  Bob Friedman is co-worker.

ELLEN APPELSON—age 21; editor New Dealer, FDR High School; dropout FDR High School; taught at Avard Learning Center, a school for emotionally disturbed and retarded children; member of 21st Street commune of Centers for Change; member of Alice Kramden Print Shop, a women’s printing collective; member of the Summerhill Collective; presently member of CFC organizational staff.

EUNICE BEECHING [STRONGER]—age 25; born of a large, working class family in Paterson, N.J.; attended Farleigh Dickinson for three years; assistant teacher at Emerson School, N.Y.C.; worked at Camp Hope, a camp for underprivileged children; recreation counselor for old people; worked as typist and secretary; did volunteer work at the St. Marks Free Clinic; living collectively with CFC members; staff worker at Centers Clinic; presently member CFC organizational staff.

RUTH CHARNEY—age 29; born and raised in New York City; attended Antioch College; graduated Boston University; member Students for a Democratic Society; dropout Bank Street College Masters Program in education; public school teacher in Harlem; worked in the women’s movement and various teachers’ groups; presently full-time staff worker at CFC Community Clinic and member of the therapist training program; expecting a child in the fall.

ED COSTA—age 27; BA Queens College; while in army practiced therapy in mental health clinic; narcotics rehabilitation counselor at Queensboro Rehabilitation Center of State Narcotics Addiction Control Commission (fired as a result of lob action protesting conditions in the institution); vocational guidance counselor with high school kids for State Dept. of Labor; staff worker Centers Clinic; presently member of CFC organizational staff and member therapist training program.

FRAN COSTA—age 25; attends Richmond College; librarian for Merke Corp.; presently assistant director of Centers School.

HAZEL DAREN—age 24; working towards B.A. at Richmond College; Member of If . Then; founding member of Centers for Change; trainee and worker at Robin Hood Relearning Company; director Basement Coffeehouse, a student and community center; member of Alice Kramden Printshop, a women’s printing collective; assistant teacher at Rugby School, a school for emotionally disturbed and retarded children; founding member of Centers Clinic; has done extensive work in free school and women’s movements; presently assistant director of CFC, director of CFC Community Clinic and has a private therapeutic practice in New York City.

MARCIA DUBETSKY—age 26; BA Kalamazoo College; studied at University of Caen Caen, France; dropout University of Mass. graduate school-teaching assistantship in French; English teacher in Guatemala; production assistant Stage Right Org.; member Barbara Gardner Construction Company, a dance-theater group; graduate Summerhill Teacher Training Program; past president of Centers for Change; administrative director of Centers Clinic; presently member of CFC organizational staff and the therapist training program.

ANN FEDER—age 26; BA sociology City College of New York; public school teacher; presently worker at CFC Community Center and member of therapist training program.

GAIL ELBERG—age 24; BA in psychology Brooklyn College; Vista-Fallon Indian Reservation Director of youth projects of Paiute Shoshone Tribes; administrator West Street Jail Study; graduate Summerhill Teacher Training Program; counselor at Grand Central High; presently director of Centers School and member of therapist training program.

BOB FRIEDMAN—age 28; BA Hunter College; dropout Queens College Graduate School; geology teacher Queens College; member of Radio Free People; produced audio tapes for movement groups; staff member Centers School; organizer and worker in food co-op movement; presently member of Sparrows Quartet and CFC organizational staff.

VASHTI GITTLER—age 15; founding member Elizabeth Cleaners Street School; co-author of Starting Your Own High School; co-founder and member of Grand Central High; presently teacher at Centers School.

NEIL GOLDEN—age 26; BA Lafayette College; graduate New York University Law School; Law Review; worked at MFY Legal Services; dropout graduate school in city planning; owner of silkscreen printing business; part-time teacher at Centers School; presently staff member of CFC Community Center and member of therapist training program.

ALAN GOLDSTEIN—age 29; graduate Stuyvesant H.S.; BA City College of New York; graduated University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine; U.S. Army-Republic of Vietnam 1969-1970; private dental practice; dental consultant American Civil Liberties Union Prisoner’s Rights Fund; dental consultant for various movement groups; father of Elyse, age 4; presently dentist at CFC Community Clinic and member of therapist training program.

VICKI GOLDSTEIN—B.S. City College of New York; public school teacher; mother of Elyse, age 4; presently assistant director of CFC Press and member of the therapist training program.

ANN GREEN—age 25; associate degree in nursing Brooklyn College; New York State registered nurse; born in Czechoslovakia and grew up in various European and middle eastern countries; worked for Visiting Nurse Service of New York; abortion and contraception counselor at Planned Parenthood; founding member and worker at the Summerhill Collective; lived in Centers for Change Organizational Commune; founding member of Centers Clinic; presently director of CFC Community Center and therapist in private practice.

MARY LOUGHMAN—age 20; born of a large working class family; dropout Rutgers University; participated in Alternate U. Women’s Guerilla Theatre Group has done work in the Women’s movement; presently member of Grand Central High and teacher at Centers School.

NANCY MITTMAN [ROSS]—age 29; BA New York University; taught public school; mother of Laurie, age 5; staff member at Centers School and CFC Community Center; presently member of therapist training program; will go into private therapy practice in September 1972.

FRED NEWMAN—age 37; born of a large working class family; graduated Stuyvesant High School; BA City College of New York; PH.D. Stanford University; U.S. Army for three years in Korea; taught philosophy and logic at several colleges and universities including Knox College, Antioch College, Western Reserve University, City College of New York; founder and past president of Centers for Change; author of Transformation of Feelings; two children by former marriage, Elizabeth 2 and Donald 8; presently director of CFC and therapist in private practice.

INGRID PINCUS—age 30; lived in Sweden ages 12-23; dual citizenship in U.S. and Sweden; participated in drug rehabilitation workshop; president of Centers For Change; member of the Summerhill Collective; member of Women’s Bail Fund; staff worker at Centers Clinic; has done extensive work in the women’s movement; working towards MA at GROW Institute in family, child and parent counseling; participated in study group at Youth Against War and Fascism; presently member of CFC organizational staff.

JIM RETHERFORD—age 30; BA Indiana University; dropout Indiana U. Graduate School; English instructor at Indiana U.; journalist at Cincinnati Post and Times-Star, Indianapolis Star, Chicago Tribune, and Louisville Courier-Journal; winner William Randolph Hearst Foundation, National Headliners Club, and Maurice J. Early Foundation awards for editing and writing; founder and editor of underground paper The Spectator; ghost writer for Jerry Rubin’s Do It!; cofounder Liberation News Service; co-founder RYP Off.  Collective NYC; member of Alternative Media Project, New York Revolutionary Media Coalition, WPAX radio station, and the Rest of the News radio collective (Ithaca, N.Y.); teacher at Alternate U.; former member of SDS and of the Youth International Party/NYC collective; organizer for Pentagon demonstration 1967, Chicago Convention 1968, Chicago Days of Rage 1969, New Haven May Day 1970, and Washington Mayday 1971; convicted draft violator (overturned on appeal) and pie thrower; presently director of Community Media Project and member of CFC organizational staff.

CATHY SADELL—age 18; dropout Ferris High School, Jersey City; member Women’s Guerrilla Theatre Workshop at Alternate U; staff member New York Herald Tribune; member White Panther Party; member Pittsburgh Women’s Collective; presently member CFC organizational staff.

SEMA SALIT—age 42; therapist at Centers Clinic; founding member Elizabeth Cleaners Street School; founding member West Side Women’s Liberation Center; member Abortion Counseling Collective; member speakers bureau downtown Women’s Center; mother of Jackie, 9 and Cathy, 4; presently on leave from CFC.

LEWIS STEINHARDT—age 33; BA New York University; Lt. in the US.  Army; involved in drug rehabilitation work; therapist at Centers Clinic; staff member at Centers School; presently director of CFC Auxiliary Projects and therapist in private practice.

STEVEN TAUB—age 20; high school student organizer; founding member of United Federation of Communes; staff worker at Centers Clinic; presently living collectively with CFC members, member of the therapist training program; will become staff member at CFC Community Center in October 1972.

ELLEN VARADY—age 24; BA in psychology City College of New York; working towards masters in psychology at the New School for Social Research; worked with War Tax Resistance; involved in women’s consciousness raising groups; camp counselor for Catholic Youth Organization; tutored children at City College Psychological Center and Brandeis HS.; presently staff worker at Centers School.

JULIE WEINER—age 24; BA City College of New York; assistant kindergarten teacher; worked as a secretary; performed in acting workshop Women’s Inter-art Center; studies art; past president of Centers for Change; presently counselor at Grand Central High and dental assistant at CFC Community Clinic.

MICHAEL WEINSTEIN—age 19; worked on McCarthy and O’Dwyer campaign staffs; high school student organizer; dropout High School of Art & Design; community organizer; founding member of New World School; worked with Freedom and Peace Party of New York; counselor at Fresh Air Fund Camp for underprivileged children; past president of Centers for Change; student at the Robin Hood Relearning Company; founding member of the Summerhill Collective; administrative director of Dolphin Center, an office cooperative of radical groups; presently living collectively with CFC workers, Director of CFC Press and member of the therapist training program.

BETH WHITE—age 22; dropped out of Guilford College to come to Centers for Change; lived at Centers for Change Organizational! Commune; worked tom Student Forum which put out peace education resource materials; acted in Alternate U. Women s Theatre Group; Women s Bail Fund; counselor at Grand Central High; teacher at Centers School; presently on leave from CFC.



  1. Hey there! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone!
    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts!

    Keep up the great work!

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