Generally, it is not a good idea to take social justice movements and causes, like Black Lives Matter, and use them to promote a party or even a concert. Not only will such an action draw the ire of those within the movement, but it might cause your event to be shut down before the first bottle is popped.
That’s what James McClutcheon discovered two weeks ago when he and the other co-founders of Men on the Move-Men on the Frontline had their All Lives Matter Unity party in Dallas, Tex., shut down by activists possibly associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
In an interview with MadameNoire, McClutcheon said that more than a thousand pre-sale tickets had already been refunded for the concert, which was slated to be held on Friday, September 18 at the South Side Ballroom. The event, which was to include performances from artists like RL from Next, Pleasure P, Twista, and Keke Wyatt, had been inspired, in part, by the melee in McKinney, Tex. The occurrence in which a White cop was caught on video harassing and assaulting Black teenagers at a pool party.
According to McClutcheon, the concert was supposed to be the start of a movement to promote unity and peace between races in Texas. In addition to the party, the event was also going to include guest speakers giving positive messages, video of speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a moment of silence for victims of police violence.
However, on the day of the event, McClutcheon claimed that he and the other event organizers received several warnings. Notices from a local radio station and another from the office of the Department of Homeland Security. BLM-related protesters were allegedly threatening violence against the promoters and the venue if the concert went on as scheduled.
“And at that point we felt it wasn’t safe or in the best interest of the public to have this event,” McClutcheon said in a phone interview held one week after the canceled event. “I know Black Lives Matter feel like they won or that they made a stand. But what they did was just leave a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths.”
He also said that the protest highlights a growing division in the Black community. Specifically between those who declare Black lives matter and those who support Black Lives Matter, but feel the movement’s attention to the violence committed by police against Black people only is too narrow of a focus.
And although the #AllLivesMatter moniker is commonly used to derail issues brought up by Black Lives Matter protesters, McClutcheon said that he was hoping to appropriate the term and use it to promote peace between the races.
“I feel like all lives do matter, and that’s what I am going to stand by because that is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood by,” McClutcheon said. “I am for equality of all people, of all races and all walks of life. And whoever came up with it to silence Black Lives Matter, well that’s them. That’s not me. And folks should have taken the time to learn that first before they reacted the way they did.”
He admits that he didn’t involve any of the local activism groups, including Black Lives Matter, in the planning of the party. However, he said that he did meet with a Black Lives Matter leader. More specifically, Dominique Alexander of the Next Generation Action Network, who McClutcheon said identified himself as the local Black Lives Matter leader.
McClutcheon said that during their meeting, Alexander told him that he had been in contact with Michael Brown’s family in Ferguson, who had objected to the All Lives Matter promotional material. In particular, Michael Brown Sr. didn’t like Men on the Move-Men on the Frontline using Brown’s name (and other names of those killed by police or in police custody) for its flyer.
He also said that Alexander told him that protestors thought that the promoters were “White people,” which had added to their irritation. After a brief meeting in which McClutcheon said he explained his intentions with Alexander, he said that the two shook hands and Alexander had assured him that the concert would be allowed to go on as scheduled.
“Instead, they ended up protesting the venue,” McClutcheon said. “Honestly, I feel in my heart that because we did not reach out to them – because we did not include them as a sponsor or whatever – they decided that they were going to tarnish what we were trying to do.”
Several attempts were made to contact Alexander for comment, but our calls were not returned. But according to a comment left by Alexander on a Facebook video rant about the canceled concert, which was posted by event co-host Roy Lee, Alexander was active in the protest of the event. He also sent a warning:
“We are not the feds but brother I know how to hit your pocket I promise you after this week we will not be a promoter in a dallas club again I will be putting pressure on all clubs associated with you.
That was too disrespectful to all the families that lost love ones due to police brutality and I am one of them.”
Other concert protesters also left comments accusing All Lives Matter party organizers of profiting off of death. However, McClutcheon contends that thousands of dollars of their own money had been spent on the concert. Likewise, they had originally intended to donate proceeds from the show to a number of local charities. But since the $25 cost of tickets was so low, the group would have likely not made much money anyway.
“A lot of people said that we were trying to profit off of the names on the flyer, but that wasn’t true,” McClutcheon said. “We were trying to bring awareness to these people. And we were putting the money up personally. Money we earned and savings; not the organization.”
An Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, McClutcheon said that he is most disheartened by what he calls slander against members of Men on the Move-Men on the Frontline, particularly on social media. According to him, the organization is a “military-structured,” faith-based non-profit that focuses on self-defense, mentorship and brotherhood between all races.
In addition to concerts, he said that the group also feeds the homeless and mentors teens, recently released inmates and former veterans who need help adjusting in society. Membership into the group includes recommendations, 500 hours of community service and a physical test.
In preparation for the party, which was also supposed to be the organization’s official unveiling to the community, Men on the Move-Men on the Frontline released a promotional video. It features members exiting a helicopter while holding assault rifles. Although the group, which was founded by three Black men six months ago, has only six members that are also all Black, McClutcheon said that they recently inducted their first White member.
In retrospect, McClutcheon said that he doesn’t regret not reaching out to the local Black Lives Matter activists prior to the event because he feels like they should have reached out to him.
“One thing I do not like about my people is that there are a lot of selfish things going on,” McClutcheon said. “If somebody else is not in the limelight, or if somebody else is not getting a piece of the pie, or if it is not that organization doing it then they feel salty about it. And that is what I feel like what happened to Black Lives Matter protesters.”
When asked if Men on the Move-Men on the Frontline supports the message of the Black Lives Matter movement, McClutcheon said that they do, but they prefer to “stand up against all violence” committed against any race. And although they have their detractors, he said that they still have plenty of supporters, including many of the artists who were billed for the event and had reduced their booking fees just to support the event’s message.
Moreover, McClutcheon and other members of Men on the Move-Men on the Frontline not only plan on rescheduling the All Lives Matter Unity party (with added security), but similar All Lives Matter events are scheduled in Houston on November 6 as well as in San Antonio at the end of November.
“We have a lot of people supporting us and what we did,” McClutcheon said. “And we are African-Americans just like a lot of the people with the Black Lives Matter movement. But we feel like we are not going to just limit it to ourselves. Because when you limit it to just ourselves, you make it a ‘just us’ issue. And violence is not just about us.”