MADISON — Darnisha Garbade’s Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism (BCDR) has spent the past year painting the small industrial city of Burlington as a racist community brimming with white privilege and discrimination. BCDR has spent a lot of time raising funding for its cause.
Now, it appears the “community organization” lacking charitable tax status is raising money for Garbade.
“The Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism is fundraising on behalf of our president, Darnisha Garbade, and her family,” declares BCDR on its Facebook page in a campaign titled “Keep the Garbade Family Safe.”
As of last week, the campaign had raised $1,225 of $2,500.
The group said that Garbade has been “fighting tirelessly” for students of color in Burlington’s schools. She and the Black Lives Matter movement have criticized the school district for what they see as systemic racism, an assertion that many community members dispute. While there have been incidents of racism in recent years, critics say Garbade and her supporters are painting with a broad — and dangerous — brush.
The school board this week approved an “antiracist” schools policy that Garbade and others have criticized as watered down. And the board did so without the further involvement of Garbade and her group after they and BLM members from out of town shouted down and forced the shut down of a recent school board meeting.
BCDR’s fundraising campaign alleges Garbade and her family have experienced an “increased level of hate and harassment that has now threatened their safety.” Just what threats they’ve experienced, the Facebook page doesn’t say, but Garbade and her family have been “forced to flee Burlington.”
“We are asking for donations to help them pay for the costs involved in storage and living while they are in the process of selling their home,” the campaign states.
Some community members have raised questions about the group’s latest appeal.
Its website clearly states BCDR fundraises for antiracist programming and events to promote racial justice and equality in our community. How does raising money so that the president of the group can move out of the community support that mission?
Community member Robert Jensen recently asked the organization that question. He noted BCDR has no active 501 nonprofit status with the IRS. True.
“Therefore they are a for profit organization raising money for the person who created it,” Jensen said. “This may not be illegal but at the minimum it’s a scam.”
Garbade took exception.
“I can truthfully disapprove what UR saying. I’m the president of the Coalition and even though we’re not a 501c3 we have a Fiscal Sponsor, who is, which is legal,” she wrote on the Facebook page. “Also, we never claimed to have our 501c3 status, although we will be filing for it when we’re ready & not because people like you who care more about our tax filing status than the racism that’s harming people of color, including my family.”
IRS laws on nonprofits are very precise and very punitive for those violating them, including organizations misrepresenting themselves as nonprofits.
Garbade did not answer Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment.
It’s safe to say she highly regards the organization she has created.
“Just like Jesus, we actively work to disrupt, unpack, and dismantle racism and racist systems,” BCDR’s website asserts. That’s why it has so heavily pushed donations for its “racial justice work.”
Now it’s pushing donations for its president and her family.