The seemingly good news that Rihanna planned to honor Shaun King at an upcoming awards ceremony was quickly flipped upside down after its announcement on Wednesday when social media users reacted by pulling out what they claimed were some damning receipts about the controversial social justice activist.
Rihanna’s annual Diamond Ball was set to present King as well as Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley with the event’s highest honor next month with the Diamond Ball Award which, according to Variety, “will benefit the Clara Lionel Foundation, an organization created by the singer to fund education and emergency response programs throughout the globe.”
But when social media users caught wind of the announcement, there seemed to be a collective scratching of the head surrounding the selection of King to be honored for his work in the civil rights arena. The announcement powered King’s name to be the top trending topic on Twitter overnight, but not in a good way (depending on who you ask).
Tweets were replete with claims that King was a “scam artist” for his alleged involvement in several fundraisers that were accused of never distributing the money to the intended beneficiaries.
Even former porn star Jenna Jameson inexplicably rejoiced in King being “spectacularly dragged” and said he was “a complete fraud.”
Still confused why people would react as such to the news about King (who was also honored last year with BET’s Humanitarian Award and the Social Change Agent Award during the inaugural Urban One Honors)? David Dennis Jr. summed up the controversy quite well following an ugly back-and-forth on social media with Clarissa Brooks, a Black organizer and college student in Atlanta. Brooks posted a tweet asking about King’s alleged misuse of funds raised to help Cyntoia Brown, whose life sentence in prison was commuted in January. “Are folks going to hold Shaun King accountable to money he ‘raised’ for Cyntoia?” Brook’s tweet asked. “Or is that going to disappear as well?” Brown was released from prison this month.
While there have been other accusations and allegations of fraud levied at King, nothing has ever been proven — aside from his clear dedication to bringing attention to racial injustices suffered by Black and brown people at the hands of law enforcement. Even that aspect of King’s resume was greeted with scrutiny.
That clearly didn’t stop detractors from logging on to Twitter and flooding timelines with slander about King in an attempt to publicly shame him — and Riri — to keep him from being recognized during the Diamond Ball, which was set for Sept. 12 in Barbados.
On Wednesday, Twitter resurfaced a tweet from earlier this month about the apparent time that King “once ran a thing called “Life Goals University” where he charged $49.99 to teach people how to strategically plan their lives.”
The subsequent Twitter thread highlighted instances where “the return on investment was not great.”
Other users brought attention to another “grift” from King called “7 Mountains, 7 Continents, 1 Broken Man” that allegedly saw him raise money for him to climb Mt. Ranier to raise funds to “purchase a solar powered water purification system for Haiti.” It was unclear how that effort, but at least one tweet claimed King climbed “0” mountains while collecting money for it.
Perhaps most damning was how it appeared that no social media activists of repute were coming to King’s defense as his name was being tarnished in the wake of Rihanna’s announcement. Scroll down to see some of the unfavorable Twitter treatment King was receiving because of it.