GoFundMe for City Draws Dollars, Criticism

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In two days, 1,918 people raised $61,300 on a GoFundMe page to help fund Memphis' bicentennial and while the page organizer is slated to meet city officials Friday, the effort has faced backlash on social media. 

Brittney Block launched the page Wednesday morning after state lawmakers stripped $250,000 from the city as punishment for removing Confederate statues.
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City officials have said they weren't expecting any money for the bicentennial from the state. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland praised the effort on Twitter, saying "we love your initiative."

Block said Friday she was scheduled to meet with the mayor to discuss how the money should be spent.

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That meeting raised the ire of Tami Sawyer, an activist and politician central to #takeemdown901. Sawyer said when she had ideas for Strickland she was met at the door of Memphis City Hall by police.



Sawyer also penned an opinion piece for CNN that said state lawmakers are still "acting it's still 1968."
"If spending a large chunk of time finding ways to spank Memphis weren't enough to earn the Tennessee House the "most racist legislature" award for 2018, they doubled down on their actions by twice refusing to denounce white nationalism and neo-Nazism," Sawyer wrote in the piece.



Block's effort was also criticized by Meagan Ybos, an outspoken advocate for rape survivors and for holding rapists accountable.
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Ybos said donors thinking they are "taking a brave stance on civil rights is laughable." In other tweets, Ybos stressed the move was "LOL laughable" and that for anyone who donates, "the joke is on you."

 

Journalist Wendi C. Thomas said Strickland should find someone else to pay for a bicentennial celebration.




Meanwhile, Block urged more people to donate.


But Block's effort isn't the only GoFundMe out there raising money for the city's bicentennial celebration. Three other pages are doing the same.

One of them was launched Thursday by Kyna Kyles Maynard, a woman from Lebanon, Tenn., a suburb east of Nashville. Maynard urged others to help her "stand up for what is good and what is right."

"As a resident of Tennessee, I am not here to complain or voice my displeasure with the legislative actions," Maynard wrote. "I am here to assist the city in recouping the funds needed to move forward with their celebration."
Another was launched on the same day as Block's by Mark Bird, of Eads. So far that one has raised $180. However, Bird is now asking anyone who finds his page to donate to Block's instead.

Yet another GoFundMe was established with a $250,000 goal for the bicentennial by David Humber, of Memphis. But money raised in that one is earmarked for Just City, a Memphis nonprofit for criminal justice reform.

"Although the campaign will not fund a celebration, your funds will be a lasting investment in the lives of persons in our city and in a non-profit that should be celebrated," Humber wrote.

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