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"The O.G." Experience

Source: Noam Galai / Getty

It all started with a Medium post.

On Thursday activist DeRay McKesson used the platform to write a piece where he repeated the chorus of critics who question Shaun King’s motives, fundraising efforts and work methods. In it McKesson says he used his essay “to address a lapse in integrity within the activism community so glaring that to be silent is to be complicit.”

Among one of McKesson’s biggest points was the ways in which he believes King uses Black women as pawns in his trajectory.

King then responded with a Medium post of his own, where he accused McKesson of similar offenses. He tweeted the link with the caption, “My response to a public feud I did not ask for and do not want. @Deray attention, fame, fundraising, integrity, deflection, projection and the desperate need for us to actually focus on doing the work in front of us. The last I’ll say about it.”

After both essay’s went viral, King’s wife Rai came to his aid and initially responded to all the fuss in a lengthy Facebook post.

But as the retweets of King’s and McKesson’s essays grew, Rai took over her husband’s account on Saturday and revealed some hard truths of her own as the wife of a public figure and sometimes lone caretaker of the couple’s five children. She made sure to address every critique her husband has ran across, from the doubts in regards to his race, to how he disseminates fundraising money.


However many said the effort played right into the accusation King was accused of, using Black women’s pain as a shield of sorts, while others felt Rai was merely standing up for her husband during a difficult public ordeal.

In response Rai tweeted a lengthy list of Black women who support her husband and have helped to revitalize him during his career from a student, to a young preacher, to a nationally recognized activist.

After the dust settled, many continued the conversation around Rai’s Twitter thread, in particular where she came forward about the stress of supporting her household due to King’s allegiance to the movement.

More specifically, many questioned Rai’s thread in regards to the wives of past freedom fighters, many who lost their husbands to the bullet of white supremacy.

Rai’s tweets and King’s subsequent response to Deray’s accusations caps a turbulent week for the King family, sprinkled within the midst of King’s honor at Rihanna’s Diamond Ball, where he was selected as a recipient of one of the evening’s highest honors. King also released a financial report at the end of August which detailed and addressed the multiple financial questions regarding the distribution of funds.

Whether or not the conversation will ever be tabled remains unknown, but it definitely highlights the many challenges of life as a freedom fighter in the digital age. Is the work about tweets and likes, or is it about the integrity of the individual marching forward in the movement? And it also raises a necessary critique over who gets to have a voice and who is discarded, especially when it comes to the multitude of Black women who have also claimed a stake in the rally for our freedom.

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