Color of Change

Color of Change
Color of Change
Motto Changing the color of democracy
Formation 2005

Color of Change is a Web-based grassroots 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, and Color Of Change PAC is a Political Action Committee registered with the Federal Elections Commission.



Color of Change was co-founded in 2005 by James Rucker and Van Jones. Rucker had previously been Director of Grassroots Mobilization for Political Action and Civic Action (2003–2005). Van Jones is the founder and executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.[1] Van Jones left the organization several years later to move on to other pursuits, such as Green For All.[2] Color of Change emerged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and was a leading advocate of the Jena Six, helping that cause gain increased media, national, and international attention. Color of Change is still working on issues associated with the aftermath of Katrina, particularly the availability of housing to those whose homes were lost or damaged. One of COC's current campaigns is garnering support for Senate bill S.1668, which would repair and open thousands of minimally damaged public housing units.[3]

Organizing methodology

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.[4] Rucker attributes the viral-nature of e-communications with helping promote the case of the Jena Six, and sees the Internet a powerful resource for activists looking to garner attention for causes.[5] The Democratic Strategist also noted that major blogs and supposedly liberal media outlets were largely silent on the case of the Jena Six,[6] 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.[7]


Jena Six

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.[8] 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.[9] According to the Chicago Tribune, COC raised over $200,000 for the Jena Six defense.[10] 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.[11] 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 on Robert Bailey's former MySpace account, which show him with quantities of hundred dollar bills stuffed in his mouth, an episode reported by the Town Talk.[12]

In his November 10 report, the Chicago Tribune's Howard Witt noted that they were the only national civil rights group to be fully transparent with their use of the funds.[13] 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.[13]

Other campaigns

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.".[14] 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." [15]

In 2008, Color of Change began a e-mail campaign to urge members of the CBC (those who are superdelegates) to endorse candidates according to how their districts voted.[16] 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.[17]

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.'"[18] So far, affected advertisers have switched their ads to different Fox programs.[1].


  1. ^ Color of Change: "How it Started,"
  2. ^ Color of Change, What Is, accessed 18 August 2009
  3. ^ "Help Katrina Survivors Come Home," Color of Change <>
  4. ^ Witt, Howard (2007-09-18). "Blogs help drive Jena protest". Chicago Tribune.,1,4794853.story?ctrack=1&cset=true. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  5. ^ Anderson Cooper, 360 Degrees, 09-20-07 <>
  6. ^ Compton, Matt (2007-09-25). "Jena and the Internet". The Democratic Strategist. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  7. ^ The Cornell Daily Sun, 09-11-2007, "The New Age of Activism,"
  8. ^ Franklin, Craig (2007-10-24). "Media myths about the Jena 6". The Christian Science Monitor (Jena, Louisiana): pp. 1–3. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  9. ^ Garofoli, Joe (2007-09-22). "Louisiana's Jena Six beating case galvanizes S.F.'s 'black MoveOn'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  10. ^ "New Reports Claim Nearly Half A Million Dollars Donated to Jena Six is Missing". Fox News. 2007-11-15.,2933,311846,00.html. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  11. ^ Color of Change. "Justice for the Jena 6". Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  12. ^ "'Jena Six' notebook". 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  13. ^ a b Witt, Howard (2007-11-11). "Controversy over the Jena 6 funds". Chicago Tribune.,1,5899685.story. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  14. ^ Derkacz, Evan (2007-04-05). "Group calls on Dems to leave Fox debate out in cold". Alternet. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  15. ^ Hernandez, Raymond, and Jacques Steinberg (2007-05-27). "For Democrats, Debate on Fox Reveals Divide". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  16. ^ Ose, Erik, and Dana Lumsden (2008-03-11). "Superdelegates and the will of voters". News & Observer. Retrieved 2008-03-24. [dead link]
  17. ^ Zeleny, Jeff, and Patrick Healy (2008-02-15). "Black Leader, a Clinton Ally, Tilts to Obama". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  18. ^ New York Daily News, 18 August 2009, President Obama insult by Glenn Beck has advertisers boycotting show

External links

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