Michael Baisden questions credibility of ColorofChange.org; group responds to accusations
On Monday of this week, Marcus Jones -father of Jena 6 defendant Mychal Bell- made strong statements about a group that has helped raise funds for the accused teens. Jones claimed that $10,000 was unaccounted for by the group ColorofChange.org who was working with the families of the Jena 6 long before the story made national headlines.
Baisden on Monday, and again on Tuesday, said he and some of his staffers got the feeling that someone they talked to at Color of Change was "shady", and that something wasn't right. It's a shame that Mr. Baisden would make such statements about a group that has done so much to help people that they didn't even know before all this started. The bully pulpit he now has is powerful, and demands responsibility of the person who wields that power.
I'll have more on this as the story develops, but I'd like to post a message that ColorofChange.org Executive Director James Rucker sent to the group's members.
Letter regarding false allegations on the Michael Baisden Show on 11/5 and 11/6
Marcus Jones – father of Mychal Bell- was a guest on Michael Baisden's syndicated radio show on Monday, November 5th. They used the occasion to attack and slander ColorOfChange.org and our Executive Director. They made false and misleading statements which have raised the concern of many of our members. It's sad and frustrating to have to focus on this issue when there is real work to be done to support the Jena 6. It is very important to us that our members know the truth. We encourage our members to call on Michael Baisden to explain himself. If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Below is the letter we've sent to members who have inquired.
Dear ColorOfChange.org member,
Thanks for your email. The allegations that Marcus Jones made yesterday on Michael Baisden's show are very troubling to us and we are glad to have the opportunity to share what's going on with you.
To date, Mr. Jones' son's lawyer, Louis Scott, has received $33,150 via the ColorOfChange.org Jena 6 Legal Defense Fund. Mr. Jones is aware that this money was sent to his son's legal team because he signed the paperwork authorizing the payment.
Mr. Jones has made statements challenging ColorOfChange's fundraising repeatedly over the last few months. We have worked hard to communicate with him and he has refused to engage us–we have attended a meeting with all the families which he walked out of; I personally hand-delivered him a letter detailing how funds would be distributed; and we have given information to several people who are close to Mr. Jones, including Louis Scott, Mychal Bell's lead attorney; several of Michael Baisden's staff members; and, at the request of Rev. Sharpton, to the National Action Network Field Director, asking them to make sure he was aware of how funds were being used. I have talked with Marcus, in person, on at least five separate occasions, in Jena, LA.
One hundred percent of the funds raised by ColorOfChange.org on behalf of the Jena 6 go to legal defense for the 6 young men. Donations received by check get processed by us and then sent on to the Jena 6 Defense Committee which is run by the young men's families. Donations by credit card and proceeds from t-shirt sales go into a dedicated ColorOfChange account with Wells Fargo Bank. The funds are then divided 6 ways and we make payments from that account directly to legal teams when we receive authorization from the families. As of the last accounting period, we had paid $210, 809.90 from that account to the legal teams of the 6 young men and have sent over $13,000 in checks to the Defense Committee. This process has been reviewed and documented by ColorOfChange.org legal advisors and vetted by several attorneys working on behalf of the Jena 6.
In order to maintain a level of transparency and accountability with our members who have donated to the fund, we created a page on our website that details how the Jena 6 legal defense money is distributed. Below is a link to that page:
ColorOfChange.org has explained the distribution of Jena 6 legal defense funds repeatedly, both in written communication and verbally, to Michael Baisden's staff, particularly addressing Mr. Jones' concerns. In fact, Mr. Baisden's staff obtained Mr. Jones' signature on the letter authorizing release of funds to Louis Scott, and followed up with the other young men's attorneys to confirm that they had received their funds from us. His team knows that we have distributed money to the young men's legal teams. We are disappointed that Michael Baisden would allow Mr. Jones to come on his program and continue his attempts to attack our integrity. Mr. Baisden's choice to allow us to be attacked without speaking to us first, or giving us the opportunity to respond, especially given all the information we've shared with his staff, makes us question his commitment to fairness and full disclosure about this issue. It also brings up questions of libel. Further, his acceptance of Mr. Jones' statement that ColorOfChange.org had obtained the $10,000 donation made by Davie Bowie to the Jena 6 is deeply problematic. David Bowie's contribution was made via the NAACP to their Jena 6 defense fund and was widely reported–ColorOfChange.org never came in contact with this donation. A link to the NAACP's press release about that donation is here: http://www.naacp.org/news/press/2007-09-18/index.htm.
ColorOfChange.org will continue to work to bring about social and political change in our community. And we will do whatever is necessary to maintain our good name and the credibility of our organization and our work. It is very important to us that we be a trusted member of the black community so that we can be an effective vehicle for change.
Thank you again for supporting the fight for justice for the Jena 6. We value the trust you placed in us and I hope that this addresses your concerns. Please let me know if you have any further questions for us.
— James Rucker
Executive Director, ColorOfChange.org