When Clarissa Brooks questioned Shaun King about recent fundraising, King publicly threatened Brooks with legal action. However, Brooks is far from the first person to publicly question Shaun King, and she’s not the first Black woman to be disrespected by him either.
In a 2015 Daily Beast article, Where Did All the Money Shaun King Raised for Black Lives Go? Goldie Taylor provided examined King’s participation in both fundraising and social justice. Taylor asked “How much money was definitely raised and how much of it was actually received by its stated and intended beneficiaries? Did King use his growing prominence as a fundraiser for social causes to enrich himself?”
In a 2013 Forbes article, Shaun King confirmed that HopeMob, a non-profit organization he co-founded, raised $1 million dollars for survivors of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. Taylor reports in her Daily Beast article that only $540,000 was raised and a grant of only $200,000 was given to a designated Haitian relief organization, much less than the $1 million dollars that was reported. Others who had crowdfunding campaigns through HopeMob would never receive the money they raised. After stepping down from a leadership role in the organization, King went on to raise $11,000 to fund gun control lobbying in honor of Sandy Hook victims. However, as Taylor writes, “King is not a registered lobbyist and I could find little or no evidence that he paid an individual or entity to formally lobby government entities.”
Former directors of Justice Together, an organization King created after stepping down from HopeMob, affirmed many rumors that swirled around King’s involvement with community organizing and fundraising. The open letter, signed by thirty former members who refer to themselves as JT30, called King out on his leadership skills, money mismanagement, lack of transparency, and referring to them as trolls when questioning discrepancies.
Last month, Meagan Flynn from the Washington Post published a piece detailing King’s conflict with other activists — specifically Black women. She also addressed the $100,000 offer to the witness who stepped forward in the murder of Jazmine Barnes. A local Texas publication also published a piece questioning if and when the tipster would be receiving the hefty reward.
“Although King mostly fended off character assassinations, he did admit to mismanaging Justice Together, faulting his busy schedule and the attacks against him in August. However, many other criticisms were left unanswered at the time of publication.” — Complex, 2015
Shaun King and Black women
“ For far too long, he’s used bloodied Black bodies for retweets and calls it ‘information,’ he’s targeted journalists and young Black women attempting to hold him accountable. This is a disgrace.” — Preston D. Mitchum
Despite accusations based on how Shaun King handles affairs regarding business, social justice, and fundraising, the bigger issue has become how he interacts with Black women. King’s latest bullying with Clarissa Brooks serves as evidence that for King, there’s a hierarchy in social justice activism, and to him, Black women are at the bottom. For every social media platform that King utilizes, there is a legion of Black women who have been blocked, banned, and disrespected by the social media figure.
In a detailed Twitter thread, community organizer Aurielle Marie explained that King once asked her to join his podcast team and offered free office space for her organization. Marie said that during this time she provided King with a host of ideas and material, up until he disappeared. King would soon re-emerge, and Marie learned that he never intended on providing office space. Worse, he went ahead with his podcast without Marie, using many of her ideas and passing off her intellectual property as his own.
Social justice activist Leslie Mac shares a similar testimony. A former organizer from Justice Together, Mac says that after trying to hold King accountable for errors and important decision making, he erased all of the work and research provided by volunteers. Mac says that King incorporated much of the deleted research into his own writings and social media posts, passing it off as original content. She goes as far as warning other advocates and activists to steer clear of any collaborations involving Shaun King.
“Behind most of #shaunking’s most noteworthy articles/works, is the genius and unpaid labor of a black woman. I put my life on that.” — Aurielle Marie
In His Defense…
In a January 18th Medium post, Rai King, Shaun’s wife, released a statement on King’s behalf — her second time doing so since last August. Rai reiterated each point King had previously explained on his Twitter page; the accusations were causing others to question King’s integrity, he was losing supporters and speaking engagements, etc. In the name of ‘listen to Black women’, Rai suggested that she was the Black woman people should be listening to. Her rationale behind why she encouraged King to take legal action against Brooks and not bigger media personalities and publications was wordy and unconvincing.
“And while that sounds nice, and while it is also my hope that Black women are no longer silenced and ignored when they bravely speak their truth, I would like to put forth that I am also a Black woman. Do you believe me?” Rai-Tonicia King, Medium
In his first of two written statements addressing his actions, King used his platform at Black America Web to address recent allegations. It was only in his second official statement, via his Medium page, that King directly apologized to Clarissa Brooks… technically. While admitting that the impact of his actions led to harm towards Brooks, King expresses, “ my only original intent was to address a single very damaging false tweet from Ms. Brooks, but in doing so, she felt bullied by me and threatened by others.” As Madame Noir pointed out, “ It was clear that King was still, in the midst of apologizing, attempting to rationalize his actions.”
Until the activist can find resolve with the Black women he has wronged, people will continue to question and challenge exactly who Shaun King is and what his motives are.
*Previously published in Patreon, January 29, 2019