Friday, November 16, 2007

This From Color of Change

Dear member,
A national Black radio host is making reckless and false allegations that threaten to undermine the credibility of We want you to know the facts. And then we need your help to stop this attempt to defame what we've built together.

Over the last few months, radio personality Michael Baisden has repeatedly implied that ColorOfChange was improperly handling money collected for Jena 6 legal defense. On Monday and Tuesday he outright attacked us.

Baisden's claims and suggestions are completely false, and he and his staff know it. After you've read the facts below, can you take a moment to send Michael Baisden and his producers an email asking that he publicly apologize for slandering the movement we've built together?

You can listen to the damaging segments of the show, review the facts, and send him a message here:

The real story about your donations

Since July, 17th, ColorOfChange members have donated $212,039.90 for the legal defense of the Jena 6, six Black boys being unjustly railroaded by the criminal justice system in Jena, Louisiana. ColorOfChange has already sent $210,809.90 to the six legal teams defending these young men. You can view the cancelled checks here:

On Michael Baisden's show this week, Mychal Bell's father, Marcus Jones, made allegations on air that the Jena 6 families have had no contact with ColorOfChange and that we do not have their authorization to collect money. It's simply not true. ColorOfChange has had contact with all of the families for several months. A member of each family has signed a letter authorizing the payments from our defense fund to their attorneys. This includes Marcus Jones. Marcus also asked us on air to stop fundraising for the Jena 6, and implied that he speaks for all of the families, but he does not – none of the other families have said they want this. All but Marcus are thankful and appreciative. Michael Baisden knows all this, yet he provided a forum for this attack and backed it up. You can view the authorization letters, and the full details, here:

ColorOfChange has not taken a single penny of these funds, not even for overhead or administrative costs. We absorb all the fees from every transaction, ensuring that every dollar donated goes directly to legal defense. Aside from the latest donations that are still being processed, every penny that has come in to help these young men is in the hands of lawyers who have been fighting hard to achieve justice.

Baisden has the facts, so why is he on the attack?

Michael Baisden and his staff know the facts. As early as September, we explained our procedures to Baisden and his staff. In October, we helped them contact the families and lawyers so that they could verify for themselves that the money was being distributed. By mid-October, Yvonne Gilliam, who works for Baisden, indicated by phone that every lawyer she'd contacted had properly received their checks from us.

So why does Baisden resort to slandering us on the air now, after seeing for himself exactly how funds were managed? He's promoting his own fundraising effort this week and is trying to position himself as the only trustworthy source for fundraising around the Jena 6. He's stated explicitly that he started his fund because he thinks other efforts are untrustworthy. Discrediting us is a great way to promote himself and his fund.

But there is no excuse for his behavior, especially from someone who claims to be part of a movement.

We hope Baisden can raise a lot of money for the Jena 6. The families need all the help they can get. But when someone with his reach builds himself up by spreading slanderous accusations about an organization doing innovative and powerful work on behalf of the Jena 6, it damages the entire movement. And it must be called out.

Defending the movement you've built started in 2005 with outrage, tears and a laptop computer. Our hearts were broken by what was happening in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. So we set up a website and emailed a petition to our friends. We realized we had struck a chord, so we decided to keep going. And it's a good thing we did. Because in just two short years, has become a powerful tool and resource -- the largest Black-led online advocacy organization in the world, with nearly 400,000 members. And its because of your voice that we are here today, stronger than ever.

Never before have Black people and our allies had the ability to aggregate our power and our dollars online in such a powerful way. By mobilizing your concern and your dollars when the justice system attacked Black children, we have demonstrated conclusively that all of us working together can impact the courtroom - and the court of public opinion. By flexing our collective power, we have sent a clear message that it is a new day for racial justice in this country.

Baisden's baseless attack could harm our ability to do this work. We need your help now so that we can continue to be effective advocates for the Jena 6, and for other issues important to Black America.

You can help, here:

Thank You and Peace,

-- James, Van, Clarissa, Gabriel, Mervyn, and the rest of the team
November 8th, 2007

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