A Crisis at the Minnesota Freedom Fund


In the weeks following the killing of George Floyd, tens of tens of millions of have flowed into small nonprofit organizations in Minnesota. Now many donors wish to understand how these funds shall be distributed.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund, a bail fund that earlier this month solely had one full-time worker, has raised greater than $30 million alone since Mr. Floyd’s loss of life on May 25. Its identify turned ubiquitous on social media as activists and celebrities posted screenshots of their donations to the fund and implored their followers to match them. (Bail funds increase cash to launch those that have been jailed, in order that they will await trial freely.)

On Monday, the fund introduced that it had contributed “well over” $200,000 to bail funds in the weeks since the protests started. That revelation adopted an open letter addressed to 2 different organizations that had seen a surge in donations, Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block, asking that the nonprofits be extra clear about fund-raising and the allocation of funds.

After the Minnesota Freedom Fund shared the $200,000 determine, a number of commenters on Twitter expressed disappointment that such a small portion of the donations had been distributed. Some additionally famous that the fund’s board, because it had been depicted on its web site, gave the impression to be composed totally of white folks. (The internet web page that lists the group’s employees has been eliminated at least twice this month as the board’s membership has shifted.)

Any group as small as the Minnesota Freedom Fund — which is run by fewer than 10 folks, together with its board — might need struggled below the weight of such a sudden inflow of funding. “Not sure how any small organization would spend $35 million in a matter of 2 weeks when they’ve never dealt with such a large amount of money in their lives,” tweeted Noname, a rapper who helped signal-boost the fund in late May.

But the organization was in a particularly difficult position when it found itself in the spotlight. It had already been grappling with questions about the leadership of its only full-time employee, Tonja Honsey.

In April, a page called “Tonja Honsey – Native Rachel Dolezal” appeared on Facebook. Its administrators alleged that Ms. Honsey, the fund’s executive director, was lying about her identity as an Indigenous woman, comparing her to Ms. Dolezal, the former Spokane, Wash., N.A.A.C.P. president who posed as a black woman for years.

The page’s administrators called for Ms. Honsey to step down from all her organizing roles. The administrators said they would not identify themselves to The New York Times because of concerns about their own safety, but said they were two native women local to Minneapolis.

Ms. Honsey said in an email that she was “not able to talk to media at this point,” but that the Facebook page was “untrue.” She pointed to posts on the page made by her mother, who wrote that her daughter was Indigenous “on her grandfather’s side.”

The Facebook page also carried a message that Ms. Honsey had been ousted from the organization for issues related to those raised by the page.

Ms. Honsey said she could neither confirm nor deny whether she was still involved with the fund.

“Because we are in active arbitration, I am unable to comment about that,” said the Minnesota Freedom Fund’s current board president, Octavia Smith.

Ms. Smith and her predecessor, Greg Lewin, who was the board’s president until early June, said that turmoil within the organization had detracted from its overall mission.

“Our capacity is taxed for sure,” Ms. Smith said. ”Our capacity is definitely taxed.” She added that before the nationwide protests, “our staff was only a staff of one.”

Mr. Lewin said that the internal issues — which he said he was unable to comment on in detail — did not inhibit the organization’s ability to get people out of jail, but that it did “hamper our ability to move and collaborate in the community.”

Mr. Lewin said that the organization typically identifies those in need of bail money with the help of local public defenders, and that its process depended on lawyers’ involvement. That prevented the disruption related to Ms. Honsey from directly affecting the organization’s work, he said, but it also made for a more limited process than many online might have expected.



Source link Nytimes.com

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