Color of Change
|Founder||James Rucker, Van Jones|
|Focus||Civil Rights, Politics, Mass media|
|Method||Lobbying, Public Education, Petitions|
|Key people||Rashad Robinson|
|Slogan||Changing the color of democracy|
Color of Change is an organization that aims to strengthen the political voice of black America. It was formed after the events of Hurricane Katrina, a powerful storm that devastated much of the north-central Gulf Coast. Color of Change is a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation that engages in lobbying and public education. Color Of Change PAC is a Political Action Committee registered with the Federal Elections Commission. Rashad Robinson serves as the Executive Director of Color of Change.
- 1 Background
- 2 History
- 2.1 American Legislative Exchange Council
- 2.2 Congressional Black Caucus
- 2.3 Glenn Beck
- 2.4 Hurricane Katrina
- 2.5 Jena Six
- 2.6 Nas and Fox News
- 2.7 Pat Buchanan
- 2.8 Trayvon Martin
- 2.9 Troy Davis
- 2.10 Wall Street
- 2.11 All My Babies' Mamas
- 2.12 "Shoot First" Laws
- 2.13 Private Prisons
- 2.14 Saturday Night Live
- 2.15 Net Neutrality
- 3 References
- 4 External links
Color of Change was co-founded in 2005 by James Rucker and Van Jones. Rucker had previously been Director of Grassroots Mobilization for MoveOn.org Political Action and MoveOn.org Civic Action (2003–2005). Van Jones is the founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and was executive director at the time. Van Jones left the organization several years later to move on to other pursuits, such as Green For All. Rashad Robinson is the Executive Director of Color of Change, having joined the organization in May 2011. Robinson previously held leadership roles at GLAAD, the Right to Vote Campaign, and FairVote.
Color of Change emerged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, creating campaigns to help the hurricane's survivors. Color of Change was a leading advocate of the Jena Six, helping that cause gain increased media, national, and international attention.
Color of Change utilizes the Internet, and specifically e-mail, as its main conduit for communicating with its members. Web 2.0 developments such as social networking sites also contributed to the organization's scope and public impact, particularly in the case of the Jena Six. Rucker attributes the viral-nature of e-communications with helping promote the case of the Jena Six, and sees the Internet as a powerful resource for activists looking to garner attention for causes. The Democratic Strategist also noted that major blogs and supposedly liberal media outlets were largely silent on the case of the Jena Six, while The Cornell Daily Sun wrote that web-savvy organizations like Color of Change have been able to adopt new Internet technologies for causes of civic protest, but indicated that these new technologies should not be thought of as a total replacement for concrete grassroots work. They also use aggressive boycotts to achieve their goals. They recently (April, 2012) forced several companies, e.g. Wendy's, CocaCola, Pepsi, to withdraw funding of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council, a political action group that supports voter ID laws), while other companies, e.g., Walmart, Johnson & Johnson refuse to bow to such tactics and continue their support of ALEC.
American Legislative Exchange Council
Color of Change began a campaign against American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on December 8, 2011, objecting to its Voter ID initiatives. The group is targeting ALEC's financial sponsors. After the campaign was expanded to protest of Stand Your Ground initiatives, following the Trayvon Martin shooting, a growing number of major companies began to pull their funding from ALEC. Color of Change has played a critical role in mobilizing its members to take online and offline action to convince corporations to quit ALEC. More than a dozen ALEC corporate members, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Intuit, and Kraft Foods, have left the group.
Congressional Black Caucus
The organization also heavily lobbied the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in 2007 to not host a Democratic presidential debate with the Fox network, which it argued "consistently marginalizes... Black leaders and the Black community.". Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama eventually decided to shun the Congressional Black Caucus/Fox debate. James Rucker, one of the founders of Color of Change, argued that Fox was using its partnership with the CBC as part of an image building campaign to make itself appear more "Black-friendly." 
In 2008, Color of Change began an e-mail campaign to urge members of the CBC (those who are superdelegates) to endorse candidates according to how their districts voted. In February, 2008, Representative John Lewis, a senior member in Congress and the CBC, declared that he would switch his allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama because his district overwhelmingly supported Obama in its primary.
In 2009 Color of Change launched a campaign urging advertisers on Glenn Beck's Fox News show to pull their ads, in response to comments by Beck in which he called President Obama "a racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture". Affected advertisers switched their ads to different Fox programs.
Color of Change was involved with helping resolve issues associated with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They advocated for the availability of housing to those whose homes were lost or damaged. One of COC's past campaigns involved garnering support for Senate bill S.1668, which would have repaired and opened thousands of minimally damaged public housing units. This bill was not enacted.
Other related campaigns included the support of satellite voting for disenfranchised voters, advocating justice for Algiers Point shooting victims, and advocating against the construction of a 5,800-bed prison in New Orleans.
The Jena Six are a group of six black teenagers who were charged with the beating of Justin Barker, a white teenager at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana, United States, on December 4, 2006. The beating followed a number of incidents in the town; the earliest reported was that of three white students hanging painted nooses from a tree at Jena High School in August, after a black student asked permission from a school administrator to sit under it. The Jena Six case sparked protests by those viewing the arrests and subsequent charges as excessive and racially discriminatory.
Before advocacy and grassroots groups began circulating information about the Jena Six case, it received little press of any kind. Advocacy groups such as Color of Change heard about the case from dedicated bloggers and activists who were following it closely.
The Jena campaign was such a galvanizing force that it tripled Color of Change's membership. According to the Chicago Tribune, COC raised over $200,000 for the Jena Six defense. A petition created by Color Of Change called for District Attorney Walters to drop all charges and for Governor Kathleen Blanco to investigate his conduct. The Color of Change petition had received 318,420 signatures as of March 25, 2008.
In the months following the Jena Six rally, controversy arose about accounting and dispersal of the legal defense funds. Questions about the money were first sparked by photos posted to the former MySpace account of Robert Bailey (one of the Jena Six), which showed him with quantities of hundred dollar bills stuffed in his mouth, an episode reported by the Town Talk.
In his November 10 report, the Chicago Tribune's Howard Witt noted that Color of Change were the only national civil rights group to be fully transparent with their use of the funds. Witt also raised broader questions about the funds, which totaled more than half a million dollars, reporting that attorneys for Bell claimed that they have yet to receive any money from him, and that the families had refused to publicly account for the donations.
Nas and Fox News
A campaign against Fox News was developed in protest of recurring remarks that some believed to be racist, including negative comments directed at President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. This campaign was led by hip hop artist Nas, Color of Change, Moveon.org, and Brave New Films. The campaign collected 620,000 petition signatures, which were delivered to Fox News headquarters in July 2008.
MSNBC suspended Pat Buchanan's show for four months before cancelling it in February, 2012.
In September, 2008, Color of Change began a campaign in support of Troy Davis. Over 666,000 petitions urging clemency for Mr. Davis were delivered to the Georgia pardons board. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency to Troy Davis. Color of Change released a formal statement after Troy Davis' death.
All My Babies' Mamas
In January 2013, ColorOfChange launched a campaign demanding the Oxygen network and its parent company NBCUniversal cease production on the reality TV show All My Babies’ Mamas, starring rapper Shawty Lo and the ten mothers of his eleven children. Within days the campaign garnered 45,000 signatures, prompting Oxygen to announce the cancellation of the show.
"Shoot First" Laws
ColorOfChange continues to campaign for the abolishment of so-called “Stand Your Ground,” or “Shoot First” laws nationwide in the wake of the tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Renisha McBride. A petition launched in response to the murder of 19-year old McBride explained that Shoot First laws “undermine public safety, senselessly put people at risk, and enable the kind of tragedy we've witnessed in the cases of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis.”
In 2013, ColorOfChange launched a campaign targeting the private prison industry, demanding “investors and board members of for-profit prison companies to get out of this exploitative business.” To date, various corporations have since divested nearly $60 million from the private prison industry.
Saturday Night Live
In October 2013, an open letter penned by ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson and published in the Hollywood Reporter took Saturday Night Live Executive Producer Lorne Michaels to task for the lack of diversity on SNL, pointing out that only three Black women had joined the show’s repertory cast in its then-39-year history. In January 2014, amid rising public sentiment on the issue, Saturday Night Live announced the hiring of one Black woman actress and two Black women writers; Sasheer Zamata, Lakendra Tookes, and Leslie Jones.
In July 2014, ColorOfChange launched a campaign calling out 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus for opposing efforts to protect net neutrality, demanding they no longer do the “dirty work” of telecommunications companies like AT&T and Time Warner.
- Color of Change: "How it Started," http://colorofchange.org/about.html
- Color of Change, What Is ColorOfChange.org?, accessed 18 August 2009
- Goode, Morgan. "GLAAD’S Senior Director of Media Programs Appearing Tonight on the Derek and Romaine Show". GLAAD. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- Robinson, Rashad. "Nebraska Ends its Permanent Voting Ban for People with Felony Convictions; Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto to Change the States' Felony Disfranchisement Law". Common Dreams. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- "Rashad Robinson". Fair Vote. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- Witt, Howard (2007-09-18). "Blogs help drive Jena protest". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- Anderson Cooper, 360 Degrees, 09-20-07 <http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0709/20/acd.01.html>
- Compton, Matt. "Jena and the Internet". Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- The Cornell Daily Sun, 09-11-2007, "The New Age of Activism,"
- "Tell corporations: stop funding ALEC". Color of Change. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- Rusch, Timothy. "Major Companies Leave ALEC as ColorOfChange Organizing Effort Continues". FitzGibbon Media. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- Hoffman, John. "ColorofChange.org and Advocacy: The ALEC Campaign". Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
- Derkacz, Evan (2007-04-05). "Group calls on Dems to leave Fox debate out in cold". Alternet. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- Hernandez, Raymond, and Jacques Steinberg (2007-05-27). "For Democrats, Debate on Fox Reveals Divide". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- "Tell CBC superdelegates to uphold the will of the voters". Color of Change. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- Zeleny, Jeff, and Patrick Healy (2008-02-15). "Black Leader, a Clinton Ally, Tilts to Obama". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- New York Daily News, 18 August 2009, President Obama insult by Glenn Beck has advertisers boycotting show
- Bloomberg Businessweek October 13, 2010 "Why Businesses Don't Trust the Tea Party"
- "Glenn Beck to End Daily Fox News Program". Fox News.
- "Celebrating the departure of Glenn Beck from television". Color of Change.
- "Help Katrina Survivors Come Home," Color of Change <http://colorofchange.org/s1668/>
- "S. 1668 (110th): Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007". Govtrack.us. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- "Help Run Ad Calling out Governor Blanco". Color of Change. Retrieved 5-12-2006.
- "Demand justice in post-Katrina shootings". Color of Change. Retrieved 12-01-2008.
- "Lift up, don't lock up New Orleans". Color of Change. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Franklin, Craig (2007-10-24). "Media myths about the Jena 6". The Christian Science Monitor (Jena, Louisiana). pp. 1–3. Retrieved 2008-02-02.
- Garofoli, Joe (2007-09-22). "Louisiana's Jena Six beating case galvanizes S.F.'s 'black MoveOn'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- "New Reports Claim Nearly Half A Million Dollars Donated to Jena Six is Missing". Fox News. 2007-11-15. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- Color of Change. "Justice for the Jena 6". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
- "'Jena Six' notebook". 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-11-10.
- Witt, Howard (2007-11-11). "Controversy over the Jena 6 funds". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-02-02.
- "An overview: Fox News and its problem with African-Americans". Color of Change. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
- "Fox News Jokes About Killing Obama". Youtube. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
- Slate: The "Terrorist Fist Jab" and Me. July 14, 2008.
- Malcolm, Andrew (2008-06-12). "Fox News in trouble again over Obama smear: 'baby mama'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
- Tuned In, Time: In Which I Admit That Bill O'Reilly Is Right. March 31, 2008.
- "Demand Fox stop race baiting and fear mongering". Color of Change. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
- "Pat Buchanan/MSNBC". Color of Change. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- Huffington Post: Pat Buchanan's MIA From MSNBC While Promoting Controversial Book. November 8, 2011.
- Bauder, David (2012-02-16). "Pat Buchanan, MSNBC Part Ways: Network Drops Conservative Commentator 4 Months After Suspending Him". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- "Justice for Trayvon Martin". Color of Change. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- Sullivan, Lena. "Groups deliver petitions for Troy Davis". Georgia Daily News. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
- Barr, Bob. "Ruling to execute Troy Davis violates core principles". CNN. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
- Robinson, Rashad (2011-09-22). "Troy Davis Is Dead; the Movement Continues". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
- "Hold Wall Street banks accountable". Color of Change. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
- "Oxygen Media officially cancels "All My Babies’ Mamas"". Color of Change. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- "Demand justice for Renisha McBride". Color of Change.
- "Tell the private prison industry: Black bodies are not for sale". Color of Change.
- "A Win For Civil Society As Corporations Divest From Private Prison Industry". Mint Press News. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
- "Civil Rights Group to Lorne Michaels: Why Doesn't 'SNL' Cast Black Women? (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- "'SNL' adds LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones to writing staff". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
- "Fight over net neutrality gets racial". Seattle pi. Retrieved 3 July 2014.