Thursday, November 29, 2007

So-called Jena 6 Scandal More A Matter Of Bad Communication Tha Artivist Reports...

Marcus Jones (left), father of Jena 6 defendant Mychal Bell, Rev. Al Sharpton and Melissa Bell, Mychal Bell’s mother. (AP Photo)

Controversy has swirled around the $200,000-plus donations that Color of Change – a popular grassroots/‘netroots’ organization – has generated for the Jena 6 cause.

Well-known radio talk show host Michael Baisden has accused the organization of nearly 390,000 of not giving all monies raised through their efforts to the Jena 6 defense effort. He’s had the support of Marcus Jones, the father of Jena 6 defendant Mychal Bell.

Color of Change, co-founded by activists James Rucker and Van Jones, responded with a paper trail that included canceled checks. All documents were made available to the public on their Web site

The two men at the center of this controversy, Marcus Jones and Rucker, give varying accounts of what “Jena 6 Gate” – as it has been called – is really about.

Marcus Jones


“With the money situation, you see everybody online that’s collecting money for the Jena 6 (that) we don’t know anything about,” said Jones.

The Color of Change, said Jones, was the only organization that came in contact with the Jena 6 families “about raising money for the kids. We didn’t give them the authority to do so.”

A portion of the money Color of Change raised did go to the families, he said, noting his concern that the group wanted to control the Jena 6 through their financial contributions.

Jones said he first met Rucker at his mother’s home on Sept. 4, 2007 when Rucker arrived at the house unannounced around 8 a.m. Jones’ mom opened the door and encountered Rucker who said that he wanted to see her son.

After learning that Jones was asleep, Rucker told Jones’s mom that he would be back. Later, Jones’s mother told him about the strange man. Jones said he looked across the street and saw a man parked in a car in front of the church. He called the police.

Officers arrived on the scene and told Jones that the man was James Rucker and that he wanted to see him. Jones spoke with Rucker at his home. He was miffed that Rucker hadn’t called first. And he wasn’t crazy about one of Rucker’s ideas – new “white” lawyers to replace the African American lawyers representing the families of the Jena 6.

Jones ordered Rucker to leave the premises.

Later that day, Rucker passed a note to Mychal Bell through another Jena 6 member at the courthouse. Mychal showed his father the note, which stated that Mychal should call Rucker.

Jones confronted Rucker outside the courthouse and told Rucker to stay away from his son. Soon thereafter, Jones went public through the Michael Baisden Show and other outlets, telling Color of Change to stop raising monies on behalf of the Jena 6.

Weary of opportunists trying to exploit and capitalize off of the Jena 6, Jones said that the best way to contribute and get the money directly to the Jena 6 Defense Committee would be to mail it to the following address: The Jena 6 Defense Committee, P.O. Box 2798, Jena, La 71342

“A lot of people are trying to capitalize off these kids,” said Jones, adding that his focus was to get his son out of jail.

People should get the permission of the Jena 6 Defense Committee before they initiate any organizational fundraising for the Jena 6 group and its families, he said.

James Rucker


It’s hard when people – especially people of color – start to question your integrity, said Rucker.

According to Rucker, the first time he met Marcus Jones was actually in July 2007 at a church with supporters in Jena, La. He does recall going unannounced to the home of Jones’ mother, a move for which he said he later apologized.

Rucker said he simply had concerns about the Jena 6 case and wanted to address them directly with Marcus Jones. Rucker said he told Jones that he was in touch with a lot of nationally prominent black lawyers and law professors who had a lot of concerns about the way the case was being handled in Jena, La. Two prominent African American attorneys in particular were interested helping Mychal Bell’s case, he said.

Rucker said he spoke highly of Mychal Bell’s attorney, Lewis Scott, whom he called a very good man. And while he knew the concerns he raised about the handling of the case might cause a backlash, Rucker said it was not his intent to “sow doubt about Lewis Scott.” He wanted to make sure that Mychal Bell had the best representation possible.

Marcus Jones is in an extremely difficult situation, said Rucker.

“(He) goes from a place where the black voice is totally ignored and all of a sudden he is bombarded by these media and celebrity types coming at him and Marcus doesn’t know who to trust,” said Rucker.

“At the same time you have a kid who is in very serious trouble, trouble you can’t single-handedly get him out of…So you need to find help.”

While it is true that a few African-American attorneys involved in the case were replaced with white lawyers, Rucker said it was not entirely correct to say that it was a racially motivated move. The lawyers – both black and white – involved in the case are dedicated to “liberty and justice for these kids,” he said.

Still, the nature of the case dictates that race will play a big part in the perception of it, he said.

Rucker said to make sure the Jena 6 families received the correct donation amount from his organization, Color of Change paid the processing fees for online donations on its own.

Lamenting the position that talk-show host Baisden has taken on Color of Change’s involvement, Rucker said, “There are moments where you have black folks coming together doing something positive and you end up having black folks, sometimes unknowingly, being the foot soldiers for the demise of that unity.”

Part of doing the work of Color of Change is insisting on accountability and transparency from those who serve the public, including those who do so through Color of Change, said Rucker.

(To listen to the interviews of Marcus Jones and James Rucker in their entirety, please visit and click on the 11/18/2007 show for Marcus Jones and the 11/25/2007 show for James Rucker.)

(Ron Herd II, also known as R2C2H2 Tha Artivist, hosts the Internet radio show “Tha Artivist Presents...W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio” at His Web site is

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