Why is Michael Baisden spreading lies about Color of Change?

Michael Baisden, host of a daily radio show in Alexandria, Louisiana, began rallying in support of the Jena 6 case during the late summer of 2007. He talked about the case daily, gathering more and more information to educate his audience. On the eve of September 20, when thousands were on buses coming to the small town of Jena, Baisden even appeared next to Reverend Al Sharpton as they were interviewed by CNN.

Color of Change is the largest black-led online advocacy organization in the country, founded by James Rucker and Van Jones after Hurricane Katrina and the federal flood. Rucker, who previously worked for two years with MoveOn.org as their Director of Grassroots Mobilization, is based in the New Orleans-area and began going to Jena and working with the families months before Baisden. He is the one who worked with the families on a statement that they could all agree on to appear as an online petition. That statement was only the second statement that all six families approved (the first being a facts and demands document made available through Friends of Justice). The petition, as word and emails spread regarding the injustice of the cases, garnered 45,000 signatures by the time Rucker and family members presented the pages to the LaSalle District Attorney’s office on July 31 (a description of this scene is in my previous post titled “Jena Bears Strange Fruit”).

Recently, despite likely knowing this information, Baisden has slandered Color of Change on his radio show, putting them in the same category as organizations that did fundraising for Hurricane Katrina victims, but then never distributed the funds. Yet, Color of Change has on its website the photos of cancelled checks and the family signed requests for funds that match those checks. $210,000 of $212,000 fundraised through Color of Change has been distributed so far.

In addition, Baisden and his guest Marcus Jones, Mychal Bell’s father, described Rucker as “shady.” While Baisden may have never met with Rucker, Jones certainly has (the petition being one instance and I witnessed a meeting in which everyone introduced themselves and their connection with the case–both Marcus and James were in the room and it was apparent James had relationships with family members as well as the ACLU organizers involved).

Color of Change responded by having their lawyer call Baisden’s producer to work it out, but Baisden didn’t back down from his comments. Now Color of Change has a petition on its website asking Baisden for an apology. With the documents they’ve put on their website proving that their money has been sent to lawyers representing the Jena 6, I signed on to the petition. Here is what I added:

“The grassroots movement that Color of Change and other organizations built prior to Michael Baisden’s involvement brought the case to a national stage. I have met James Rucker and the allegations that he is “shady” and that the families do not know him are false. I was present in Jena for planning meetings where James Rucker and Marcus Jones were in the same room and everyone introduced themselves. Rucker knows the families well, and the ACLU organizers on the case. Rucker was the person who presented the first stack of petition on July 31, 2007 to the Asst. DA of LaSalle Parish. The comments made by Marcus Jones are disappointing, as they falsely undercut an organization that has done so much work on their behalf; Michael Baisden’s comments are in some ways slanderous, spreading lies despite knowing the truth. I hope they recognize their errors and amend the divisions that they just created within the Jena 6 movement.
Thank you for your time.”

These disrespectful and malicious lies are one way to divide movements. From all I’ve ever seen or heard, Color of Change has been front line advocates and approached the families in a humble, accountable way. So it boggles my mind as to why Baisden would go to these lengths, stretching truth beyond the point where it bursts. Color of Change offers up its analysis, arguing that Baisden’s fundraiser day for Jena 6 is coming up and perhaps he wants other fundraising efforts to be distrusted, leaving his own fund more attractive for generous folks. If that has any truth, it is an unfortunate recurrence of ambition for personal power and status within a movement that has many unsuccessful historic precedents. It is what can deride movements precisely by falsely knocking out one of the movement’s pillars, one of its devoted and stable strengths like Color of Change has been for the Jena 6 families. Don’t let that happen. Demand that Baisden apologize and clear Color of Change’s name.

Published in: on November 9, 2007 at 10:00 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Good piece.

    What roll did you play in the planning? Are you still involved.

  2. M. Baisden has consistantly slandered people and organization. His efforts are noteworthy, but why does he feel he is the only voice crying in the wilderness? This Mr. Johnny come lately has convinced only a few thousand people that he is the new voice of change (what a shame). In order for him to claim this title, he tries his best to discredit those who have a history of fighting against injustice. Proving that he is a divider! I would love to see this man debate the very issues he try to promote…in his forum (on the radio) he has the last word—he claims that his station is the peoples radio, no it’s the blow my own horn baisden network. If he is not careful, he would fall in the steps of Jerry springer and radio clown.

    I’m sorry to be critical of M. Baisden, but he needs to come with a stronger apology and also apologies to his listeners, especially those he falsly misled.

    God bless the warrior of the struggle…for the color of change is on the front line. Thanks

  3. I helped organize logistics, support work, a fundraiser here in New Orleans and was part of a team that put together a chronological timeline and a pamphlet on Jena 6, which included letters of support, a summary of events and calls to action.

    I’m not currently involved in planning, but know people who are and keep in the loop. I attended the more recent November 7 Jena 6 Support Rally in New Orleans documented here: http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2007/11/11355.php

    Also, I’ve refocused some of my energy to local juvenile injustices.
    Thanks for asking Yobachi. Hope you can support young men getting in the school-to-prison pipeline where you are!

  4. I just would like too know why doesn’t Micheal Baisden get an implant in his mouth where the tooth is missing on the bottom at the right side. Since he has so much money now and, he does speak to the public for a living. That is the first thing a person see and, your teeth does shift if he doesn’t put a tooth there. OOh, yeah George also should replace his tooth thats missing at the bottom as well.

  5. I don’t know Baisden or Rucker nor do I want to know either of them. All I know is that James Rucker, using the Obama inauguration as a cover, solicited names and addresses from people promising free Obama stickers. That was the around the week of the inauguration. No one that I know of has yet gotten a free Obama sticker. And trying to contact Rucker is like trying to contact Obama himself. The only way I was able to get a response from the color of change was by replying to one of their no-reply solicitation emails. And it was a very lame excuse I received for not getting my Obama sticker, with promises of receiving it in another 3 to 4 weeks. To me Rucker seems like one the people they called poverty pimps in the 1970’s.

  6. Don’t know if this story about James Rucker is true, even verifiable, but I thought I shouldn’t censor it until I have more info.

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