Founded in 1967 by the Reverend Lucius Walker, Jr. and a number of fellow progressive church leaders and activists, the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) is an ecumenical agency whose mission is “to help forward the struggles of oppressed people for justice and self-determination” through its “support of community organizing.” A self-described “catalyst and … conscience in the movement for social justice,” IFCO claims to be “the first national foundation controlled by people of color.” It views the United States as an irredeemably racist, inequitable nation, and strives to ensure that the needs of “the poor, the hungry, and the exploited … are not sacrificed for the priorities of the privileged in American society.”
A 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit, IFCO has served as a fiscal sponsor for numerous activist organizations including the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom (whose founding was subsidized by an IFCO seed grant), Not In Our Name, and Refuse and Resist! (The latter two groups are affiliated with the Revolutionary Communist Party.) In addition, IFCO was once a member of the ANSWER Coalition‘s steering committee.
In 1968 IFCO helped establish Operation Connection, which dispatched teams of activists into American cities that had been struck by race riots, “to open dialogue and work through alternatives to violent confrontation.” IFCO also formed Native-American and Hispanic-American Task Forces, as well as an International Task Force to promote support for African liberation movements.
In 1969 IFCO’s National Black Economic Development Conference produced James Forman’s “Black Manifesto,” a document calling for white churches and synagogues to make $500 million in reparations payments to the black community.
In 1970 IFCO lobbied against American corporate and government policies in South Africa and Zimbabwe—emphasizing “the interrelationship between the domestic and international oppression of blacks, and the unity in common struggle of Black Americans and the people of Africa.”
In 1971 IFCO gave major financial support to the American Indian Movement and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee.
In 1972 the IFCO-sponsored Amilcar Cabral Training Institute, named in honor of the famed socialist revolutionary, opened its doors as a college for the study of “liberation arts” and the cultivation of “liberation technicians.”
In 1976 IFCO helped establish the Ecumenical Minority Bail Bond Fund “to assist people of color who were subjected to political harassment” in the United States.
In 1977 IFCO actively supported affirmative action programs whose hallmark was race- and ethnicity-based preferences in business and academia.
In 1983, as the Reagan administration sought to check the spread of Communism in Central America, IFCO sided with the Communists and lamented the “ever more tragic results” of Reagan’s policies. Condemning America’s “militarism, racism, and economic exploitation,” the Foundation emphasized “the importance of drawing parallels and linkages between the Nicaraguan struggle and the struggle of black and Latino communities for social justice in the U.S.”
In September 1983 IFCO began conducting intensive action/education campaigns on Central American issues in selected states and congressional districts, denouncing “the imperialistic arrogance of the U.S.” The organization also offered “Nicaragua Study Tours” to groups of U.S. citizens.
In 1988 IFCO launched its Pastors for Peace action/education project to “educate U.S. citizens … about the brutality of U.S. policy [in Nicaragua], and to engage them in actively resisting that policy by sending aid to the Nicaraguan people.” Between 1988 and early 2013, IFCO/Pastors For Peace dispatched more than 40 humanitarian-aid caravans to Mexico and Central America, plus another 16 to Cuba.
In an August 1990 rally at New York’s Riverside Church, IFCO hosted a speaking engagement by Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s former Communist president.
In 1991 IFCO condemned America’s involvement in the Persian Gulf War and organized weekly civil-disobedience actions denouncing “George [H.W.] Bush’s hypocrisy in fighting a war ‘against aggression in Kuwait’ while waging a war of aggression against the children, the aged, the poor, the African-American and the Latino-American people of the U.S.”
In 1992 IFCO launched its U.S./Cuba Friendshipment campaign, more or less an annual event designed to “directly challenge” the “brutal effects” of America’s “immoral” and unjustifiable “economic blockade of Cuba.” Over the years, delegations participating in this program have transported to Cuba such items as powdered milk, medicines, Bibles, bicycles, and school supplies. Moreover, they have publicly celebrated Cuba’s “innovations in alternative energy” and its “unrelenting commitment to provide free health care services for the poorest people of the world.”
In 1993 IFCO joined clergy, labor organizers, educators, and healthcare professionals in a Ramsey Clark-led campaign exhorting President Bill Clinton to institute “a more humane U.S. policy toward Cuba.” Two years later IFCO helped bring Cuban President Fidel Castro to Harlem, where, according to the Foundation, the longtime dictator was “loved and revered.”
In 1997 IFCO organized its first fact-finding delegation to Haiti, to observe “the increasing impoverishment of the Haitian people which has resulted from corporate greed and U.S. support for the criminal ruling class.”
In 1998 IFCO organized a delegation of key congressional staff to visit Cuba and discuss issues of democracy and human rights with Cubans in the government, in the churches, and at the grassroots.
In 1999 IFCO organized the first Congressional Black Caucus delegation—led by Rep. Maxine Waters—to Cuba. In 2000 Waters returned to Cuba with another IFCO delegation that included also Rep. Barbara Lee, to cut the ribbon at the opening of a trade fair dedicated to “all the Cuban children who were deprived of medicines because of the U.S. economic blockade.”
In a November 2000 speech in Havana, IFCO founder Lucius Walker proclaimed: “Long live the creative example of the Cuban Revolution! Long live the wisdom and heartfelt concern for the poor of the world by Fidel Castro!” When Castro visited New York for the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, IFCO organized a welcoming event for him at Riverside Church.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, IFCO condemned the American people’s alleged “outpouring of racist, xenophobic behavior,” their “vilification of Islam,” and their “blind nationalism.” Moreover, said IFCO, the U.S. had provoked foreign aggression by having been the “direct” cause of “more than 1.7 million” deaths (via “bombs and sanctions”) in Iraq; by having caused “countless thousands … in our own hemisphere” to die “as a result of U.S.-orchestrated coups and so-called ‘low-intensity’ wars”; and by having pursued economic policies that “depriv[e] basic social services to poor nations in exchange for usury and economic plunder.”
In January 2008, IFCO lauded “Cuba’s universal, free health-care system” as a “community based” model that focused on “preventing illness before it becomes more serious and costly,” and was far superior to America’s health-care system. Further, IFCO administered a program for U.S. citizens seeking to get medical training in Cuba.
IFCO has long been an active member of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, a panel whose mission is to whitewash the crimes of five Cuban spies currently incarcerated in U.S. federal prison for offenses that include espionage against American military installations in Florida. IFCO depicts them as “political prisoners” and “heroes” who were “wrongly imprisoned” simply for “monitoring” the actions of “neo-fascist, anti-Cuba … terrorists.”
A noteworthy IFCO official was its treasurer, the late Marilyn Clement (1935-2009), who also founded Healthcare-NOW, was an organizer with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and served as executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights from 1976-89.
For some time, IFCO was one of numerous leftist organizations that rented office space inside a three-story Manhattan office building which was dubbed the “Peace Pentagon” and was owned by the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute (AJMMI).
IFCO receives financial support from the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, the Columbus Foundation and Affiliated Organizations, and the George S. and Dolores Eccles Foundation.
For additional information on IFCO, click here.