An Open Letter From Former Directors of Justice Together
November 13, 2015
You may have heard of us, but you likely do not know who we are. So, we would like to formally introduce ourselves. You likely never see us, because we are the people who work behind the scenes. You likely never hear about us, because we are the people who volunteer our time without receiving much credit. And quite frankly, we are fine with that.
As individuals, we come from all walks of life and are scattered around the world. We are Black, White, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Latino/a, multi-ethnic and multi-racial. We are single, husbands, wives, partners, mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. We are people of various identities on the spectrums of gender and sexuality. We are entrepreneurs, managers, writers, students, lawyers, doctors, nurses, journalists, engineers, social workers, scientists, missionaries, educators, sociologists, receptionists, fundraisers, accountants, fiduciaries, analysts and have various other occupations.
As a collective, we are hard workers and undeniably passionate about pursuing justice. We are a diverse array of activists. And with our variety, we have the immeasurable potential to utilize our experiences to combat injustices throughout the United States.
So, it was only natural that we answered the call to action by Shaun King in August of 2015. Shaun King, a prominent voice in raising awareness of police brutality, announced the mission of a new coalition that he was spearheading and inspired us to join. We each stepped up to the plate to comprise the State Directors of Justice Together, a non-profit organization founded by King to fulfill the mission of “Ending Police Brutality in the United States.”
The coalition was fully dedicated to support the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the combined efforts of other local organizations in order to assess police departments and substantially reduce police violence, including the disproportionate impact that it has on people of color and poorer communities.
Some of us volunteered for Justice Together with a large amount of experience in activism while others were armed with a deep sense of personal commitment to honor the memories of Tamir Rice, Natasha McKenna, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Jr., Mya Shawatza Hall, Rekia Boyd, Walter Scott, Jessie Hernandez, Zachary Hammond and countless others. We were all prepared to work tirelessly to prevent the next unwarranted hashtag.
By mid-August, the State Directors of Justice Together began working under the authority of Shaun King. We dedicated ourselves to the mission by devoting time and money to organize locally to support a statewide, national, and eventually international, effort to eradicate police brutality. We brainstormed, collaborated, created assessment tools, promoted the mission, and mobilized volunteers. However, by October, we realized that our devotion was in vain.
Throughout the month of October, we waited for instruction while frequently reaching out to an absent executive director. We asked King to delegate tasks and responsibilities to ease his workload, but those requests fell on deaf ears. It became glaringly obvious that King had abandoned our efforts and failed to serve as a liaison between State Directors and the Board of Directors. Volunteers questioned leadership, and we conveyed those concerns to Shaun King. On November 5, 2015, despite our collective talent, our hard work, and our commitment to justice, Shaun King made an executive decision to erase the collaborative efforts that State Directors had worked to create, and he effectively closed all state chapters of Justice Together except the chapter in his home state of Georgia. As a result of that decision and our experience with King during the months leading up to it, we have legitimate concerns regarding the leadership of Justice Together, King’s failure to communicate and lack of accountability, and the ongoing security risk of volunteers’ personally identifiable information.
King has attempted to dismiss the efforts of our coalition with a claim that it contained as many as 500 ‘trolls’ and impostors out to thwart him. But, King failed to mention that throughout the process, we took careful steps to identify and alert King to potential infiltrators and requested that King remove several people from our ranks for failing to comply with verification procedures. King has attempted to detract from our legitimate concerns about transparency and accountability within Justice Together by bringing up past financial concerns resulting from his previous organizations as well as highlighting unrelated fundraisers. And, to date, King has failed to acknowledge the fact that some people budgeted and penny-pinched in order to donate to an organization for which he refused to provide a detailed accounting. Furthermore, King has failed to explain why “JusticeThatsAll.org” appears on statements when volunteers intended to donate to “Justice Together.”
We are reasonable people with reasonable concerns. We are not trolls. We are not attempting to splinter the movement. We are merely practicing what we preach in order to ensure unadulterated justice instead of tainted glory.
In fact, we understand now, more than ever, that to achieve justice we must embody the ideals we demand of others: transparency, accountability, and integrity. We understand that to increase police accountability and improve the criminal justice system in the United States we will face a great deal of scrutiny, particularly when we are in the public eye. We understand that the racist opponents of our movement are powerful, and they are organized against the work we are doing on a daily basis. We understand that the goal of these opponents is to fracture our cause and to maintain America’s existing system of social and economic control steeped in white supremacy.
We held a great deal of respect for Shaun King. Honestly, we are grateful that King launched Justice Together, because without that step, we would not have connected as a team. Ultimately King is a great reporter and motivator, but he lacks the necessary skills to lead a platform like Justice Together. He silenced dissent without productive discussion, he removed volunteers for speaking up due to his self-proclaimed paranoia, he repeatedly failed to meet his own timelines for his participation in the work, and he failed to delegate or discuss internally anything of consequence within the organization.
We represent this movement wholeheartedly and cannot imagine stopping our efforts simply because Justice Together failed to launch. We refuse to let our work of organizing against police brutality be so easily erased or ignored, and although we will not be under the leadership of Shaun King or the auspices of Justice Together, we will continue to volunteer at the national level and organize at a grassroots level. We are working to build consensus around issues that impact all of us, and we are certain that we will emerge from this setback stronger and better suited to fight injustice in America.
So, you may not have known us before, but hopefully you have a better understanding of who we are now. And, just know that the change of course in Shaun King’s plan has not diminished our dedication to the movement.
Former Directors of Justice Together:
Denele D. Biggs
Julie Gordon McCartney
Crystal J. Miller
Marcus Shute, Jr.
CONTACT: JT30 — firstname.lastname@example.org