A social media lynching took place this week when the web lit up with headlines, trending topics and hashtags vilifying Black Lives Matter activist Charles Wade.
Wade, a social justice fighter who is also known as Solange Knowles’ former stylist, was arrested April 25th and charged with human trafficking and prostitution in College Park, Maryland, The Washington Times reports.
Conservative right wing media celebrated the apprehension of the ‘Black Lives Matter thug‘ with 140-character tweets that served as champagne to their BLM blood thirsty palates. The internet suddenly became judge and jury–sipping the koolaid of accusation to drive the narrative that BLM is destructive, hateful, and violent.
In a sting operation, undercover officers responded to an ad Wade allegedly placed on a sex trafficking site for a 20-year-old woman. The woman referred to Mr. Wade as her “manager,” and said he was aware that she was actually 17. She also indicated Wade as her pimp, revealing she allegedly provided the activist with all the money she earned.
The loaded accusations and subsequent arrest of Charles launched a full scale character assassination on Wade and the entire Black Lives Matter Movement.
After being released on bail shortly after his arrest, Wade issued a statement on Twitter, defending himself against the fires that engulfed his DMs and mentions. Wade’s statement weaves a different tale–one of naivety and misplaced trust.
“Since my involvement in what is now popularly deemed the “Black Lives Matter” movement, I’ve faced many obstacles as an admittedly new and “green” community and direct service organizer. Most of these obstacles have involved “trolls” and naysayers dedicated on thwarting consistent and proven good work. I’ve mostly dealt with that by doubling-down on the work I’ve now been doing over a year and a half, neglecting myself and often ignoring the pleas from my friends and family to take care of myself, be careful, and even “move on” because he sacrifices and risks financially, physically, mentally and spiritually were too much,” he began.
The 33-year-old explains he used crowd funding to raise money to support a temporary housing project initative. Wade co-founded Operation Help Or Hush in 2014 to help people who needed safe haven during transition. He used the resources from the foundation to provide shelter for those in need–including a “20-year-old” woman who he claims reached out to him in April. The woman said she was waiting for her replacement ID card along with her monthly death benefit from her father. Believing her story, Wade booked a hotel for her using hotel rewards points and his ID. Wade left her at the hotel, and while he was away, the woman was arrested for solicitation and prostitution.
Shortly after being released on bail, Wade took the social media stand to give his testimony, but the damage had already been done.
Wade represented not only himself, but the face of the movement he has poured his heart and soul into for the past year and a half. As a minority, this misstep represented for many, a misstep for us all. The onus of “upstanding negro” weighs so heavy on people of color from the classroom to the workplace and activists are not exempt.
It’s a weight our white counterparts have the privilege of not knowing. Timothy McVeigh‘s terrorism didn’t make all White people bombers. Charles Manson’s twisted killings didn’t condemn White people as callous killers. The mass shootings committed by Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Dylann Roof, and James Holmes didn’t make White men all mass murderers.
And yet, an accusation, not even a conviction, of one BLM member, discredits the whole movement.
As the case develops, Wade will have to ruthlessly defend himself and the organization as he continues to carry the burden of representing and misrepresenting the cause.
But what his detractors need to understand is that the spirit of revolution does not reside in one man, it is a community. The work of “Black Lives Matter” does not rest on the backs of a Deray or a Netta or a Wade, the work is in the idea that we too can be treated as equals.
And an idea can be arrested, shot down, discredited and accused—but never killed.