Since 2015, Shaun King has been a prominent voice at the front of racial justice cases in the media and on social media platforms. While never actually part of a resistance, occupation, organization or a directly impacted community, he still somehow managed to become one of the loudest voices in our modern day movement. With nearly 3 million followers across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Shaun’s reach is substantial and powerful.
With great power comes great responsibility.
As community leaders ourselves, we recognize that all who try will fail. However, it has become apparent that Shaun’s failures have caused irreparable damage in our communities. Shaun has discounted numerous attempts to directly address the community’s concerns, often diminishing them as racist attacks, even though it’s often Black women being dismissed. For far too long Shaun has used his power to not only center himself but as both weapon and shield against the community he claims to protect. He’s taken advantage of our hunger for justice and established himself as the gatekeeper to community efforts, while shrugging off all responsibility. Instead of using his sizable platform to be a beacon of light, Shaun has become a bully in the pulpit, casting a long shadow on our collective justice efforts, using his one enormous microphone to drown out the voices of the many.
Just two weeks ago, Shaun once again used his oversized reach to attack the very people he claims to fight for. He spent the beginning of the year harassing several young Black people via email and phone, several of whom are queer. Via email, Shaun leveraged the threat of legal action in an attempt to force those raising valid questions to retract several social media posts, a few of which were already deleted. Several of Shaun’s peers, including people he presented as his lawyers, were looped in during these correspondences. At least one contacted a superior at a student’s university, an act that put their livelihood and future at risk.
Despite several requests to de-escalate, Shaun disregarded all attempts at conversation, carrying his harassment over to social media. Urging his millions of followers to defend his name, his actions forced several people to lock or delete their accounts. Others logged off for several days and handed over their passwords to friends who fielded the harassment, much of which was both racist and sexist. He also utilized his massive email lists to rally his supporters against people he saw as vulnerable to his intimidation. Shaun even used his position at the newly launched media venture named after Frederick Douglass’ “The North Star,” a publication that claims to be a voice for the oppressed, to continue his intimidation campaign.
While this past month has been particularly traumatizing for those Shaun has targeted in his latest campaign to win back the public’s good favor, it is unfortunately far from the first time his actions have cut a questionable shape within our movements. Many of us have experienced the effects of Shaun’s pattern of damaging behavior firsthand. Our stories have been told time and time again, surfacing every so often when the next round of people becomes aware of his history. We are telling some of them again, believing that today, in light of recent events, more will choose to listen.
Shaun is responsible for placing some of the most enraging instances of racial violence directly in our faces, stirring many to action. We don’t dispute the importance of having platforms that elevate our stories. We believe in the necessity of directly confronting reality, no matter how frightening. Many of us have experienced the pain that occurs when people turn away from the abuse we experience. Too many of us know the ache of being silenced. All of us wish that more people cared about what happened. We are committed to protecting Black people. That is why we are sharing that over and over, Shaun King has used his platform to exploit Black trauma, calling it activism. It is the foundation his empire is built on.
For the past several years, citizen journalists and activists have been diligently documenting movement efforts, largely without the support of mainstream media. Rather than supporting those voices, Shaun has instead established a history of lifting content and stories. Numerous Black women creators and writers have had their content lifted by Shaun, without credit, and to his monetary benefit. He consistently inserts himself as a justice middle man, preventing many from directly supporting those they wish to.
In the past 4 years, King has launched several efforts, all of which failed or faded away without explanation including HopeMob, Justice That’s All, Justice Together, Woke Folks, and a massive Nationwide Boycott Campaign: Injustice Boycott. Each of these efforts had substantial monetary investment from both community and donors with questions that remain unanswered to this day.
Shaun consistently creates organizations which credit him with the successes of local organizers, siphoning resources into his efforts instead of directing interested parties towards local work. Just last week, on Twitter, a recently hired team member of Real Justice PAC, a new organization that claims to “work to elect reform-minded prosecutors at the county and city level”, shared that Shaun’s role at the PAC is substantially different than what has been shared with the public. Although listed as a co-founder and current staff, it seems Shaun’s involvement in Real Justice PAC may in actuality be little more than a co-sign to gain investors and elevate his profile. With questions about the money donors already have entangled in Real Justice PAC already swirling, this latest revelation creates even more questions about Shaun King’s operations.
Most recently, Shaun King was solely responsible for a startling and poorly explained about-face in those suspected of murdering seven-year-old Jazmine Barnes.
Working directly with the police, Shaun inserted himself into the middle of a murder investigation which he “solved” from his couch in New York, never stepping foot into Houston, the city Jazmine was murdered in. Together, Shaun King and the Houston police have completely ignored questions about the investigations and arrests raised by both local community members and concerned people across the nation. In doing so, Shaun continues his history of using his platform, media access, and proximity to influential people to silence those who publicly challenge his questionable actions. We are well aware of his actions and undeterred as we stand together in support of Clarissa Brooks, Ernest Owens and all who have been negatively impacted by the actions and inaction of Shaun King.
We realize these revelations may be new to some and disheartening to others. Many of us have felt a deep disappointment and hurt that comes with investing in Shaun King as a justice leader.
It is with that in mind that we choose to transform that pain into a call to action.
It is in hopes of preventing other experiences with Shaun King that cause people to divest from the righteous work of justice that we send this open letter to the community. We ask that we collectively examine his actions, impact, and influence in our communities and come together to move towards justice that holds each of us to the standards we work to orient the world towards.
We believe in justice, transparency, accountability, and collectivity. We believe, that given the truth, people will decide to protect the wellbeing of the community.
We believe that no one person is more valuable than his responsibility to the collective. We believe, now more than ever before in our lives, it is important to make sure principle aligns with action. We know it is imperative to create unity where there has been division. Rooted in these beliefs and with a commitment of protecting Black women and those most vulnerable among us, we stand united in these truths.
Justice is not a business model. Liberation is not a corporate tagline.
They are ways of being that demand we act in accordance, especially when it’s hardest to do so. We know that we can move forward without continuing the deep imprint of destruction and confusion Shaun King has cut across our communities.
Action Steps Towards Justice:
1. We ask that all reporting media and concerned community revisit all information put out on the murder of seven-year-old Jazmine Barnes, with particular attention paid to all information shared by Shaun King.
2. Shaun needs to resign from the North Star and a community accountability board should be appointed to oversee this new media venture.
3. A transparent accounting of all crowdfunded and donated dollars raised by Shaun King since 2010, including funds raised for Justice That’s All, Justice Together, Woke Folks, Family members of police violence he’s raised funds for, and The North Star.
4. A cease of all fundraising controlled by Shaun King or other affiliated parties.
5. Shaun King needs to invest in support for front line grassroots organizers and the ways that we can all work towards an abolitionist ethic. (list of spaces to donate and support to will be shared at a later date.)
To stand with the community and sign this letter, please fill out this form.
Clarissa Brooks — Community Organizer, Journalist, Scholar
Anoa J Changa — Attorney, The Way With Anoa Podcast
Ernest Owens — Journalist
Ashley Yates — Community Organizer from Ferguson
Crystal Michelle Cravens — Co-Chairman: About Face: Veterans Against The Wars
Jasamine Pettie — Former Director Justice Together
Kim Wilson — Beyond Prisons Podcast
Jared Ware — Millennials Are Killing Capitalism
Joshua Briond — Millennials Are Killing Capitalism
Preston Mitchum — Collective Action for Safe Spaces
The Black and Brown Workers Cooperative
Leslie Mac — Ferguson Response Network
Da’Shaun Harrison — ATLisReady
Dr Roni Dean-Burren — Activist
Keka Araujo — Journalist
Jessica A. Krug — activist, writer, and historian
Aurielle Marie Lucier — Community Organizer, Poet, and Scholar
Mondale Robinson — The C Institute of Public Policy
Ashton P. Woods — Black Lives Matter Houston
Kandice Webber — Black Lives Matter Houston, Houston Rising
(with support from the undersigned community)
Amy Jones, Community Organizer
Oscar Holmes IV
Deanna Adams, Black Lives Matter Houston
Muluba Habanyama, Activist
Katie Graham Anderson
Maria De La Cruz-Morgan
Gretchen Kappel Dozier
John Ellison, Veterans of Foreign Wars
M’lisa Martínez Glyndŵr
Fred Moore Jr.
Shannon Johnson, ForWARD
Cheyenne Jones, Women of Color in Solidarity
Karleh Wilson, Fair Housing Rights Center in Southeastern Pennsylvania
Arielle Iniko Newton
Rev. Catherine H Knowles
Chanelle Helm, Black Lives Matter Louisville
Mallory Chambliss, Restorative Justice Facilitator
Sharde Nabors, Community organizer, facilitator and consultant
MarTáze Gaines, Organizer / Black Lives Matter — Nashvillle
Brian Sonenstein, Shadowproof / Beyond Prisons
Demetria Nelson-McNaulty, Demimc Organized
Angela Vera Webster
David Galarza, Justice Committee NYC
Shay Stewart-Bouley, Black Girl in Maine Media
Erica C Colmenares
Catherine Bailey, Writer
Rhone Fraser, Independent Scholar
Hollie Oakes-Miller, Former Director Justice Together
Jordan Valerie Allen, Student, Journalist, and Filmmaker
Jenn Allen Meredith
Tyler Bauer, Frostburg State College Democrats
Louise Prince Thomassin
Angela D McPike
Monica S., Los Brown Berets de Austin
Talcott Broadhead, Founder, Danger Dot Publishing
Larisha Stone, The 9 Minds Radio Show
Katy McNamara, Student
Gail J Tarantino
Isaac Etter, Organizer
Foxy Jazzabelle, Blogger for FxJB: Foxy Jazzabelle
Denise Barreto, Relationships Matter Now, LLC
Rebecca Berry, Esq.
Shere Dore, Houston Activist & Homeless Advocate
Katie Méndez Pedraza
Melissa Denizard, Activist, Documentarian, Scholar
Alexander Andersen, Louisiana Trans Advocates
Sam Norton, Community Organizer
Kaitlin Emmanuel. Student
Abby Van Vleet
Jenn Laskin, Attorney & Activist , Education for Autonomy
Zach Medeiros, Socialist Party USA
Kellcie Coffey, The Conscious Path
Rev. Nabhira Mascorro
Amanda Michelle Jones
Sol de la Ciudad
A’Driane Nieves, Founder & Executive Director, Tessera Arts Collective
Tina Marshall, Black Nonbelievers of Charlotte
Andres A. Reyes
Taylor Crumpton, Freelance Journalist
Ashdon Martin, Human Resources Lead, US ARMY
Eduj-Erual Sined, Activist & Equity Consultant
Satchuel Cole, Founder, The IMPD Transparency Project
We’ve attached several documented instances of Shaun King’s history with further information: