A Primer On the Dallas Justice Now Controversy

(Editor’s note: This story was updated after we received an email on Aug. 16, 2021 from a Dallas Justice Now representative replying to questions asked via email on July 27, 2021.

A letter mailed to homes in the Park Cities from a group claiming to be a social justice organization asked parents to pledge not to send their children to Ivy League schools.

The letter from Dallas Justice Now raised suspicions for University Park resident Casie Tomlin.

The organization’s website has since been linked to a political consulting firm with Republican clients across the U.S.

The letter from Dallas Justice Now reads in part:

“We are writing to you because we understand you are white and live within the Highland Park Independent School district and thus benefit from enormous privileges taken at the expense of communities of color. You live in the whitest and wealthiest neighborhood in Dallas. Whether you know it or not, you earned or inherited your money through oppressing people of color. However, it is also our understanding that you are a Democrat and supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement which makes you one of our white allies and puts you in a position to help correct these cruel injustices. We need you to step up and back up your words with action to truly make our segregated city more just. 

We are asking you to pledge that your children will not apply or attend any Ivy League School or US News & World Report Top 50 School. If you do not have children under 18 then we ask you to pledge to hold your white privileged friends, family, and neighbors with children to this standard.”

“I knew it was fake and designed to cause a rise the first time I saw this nonsense,” Tomlin tweeted about the letter.

She donated to the group in hopes of finding out more information and tried to contact whoever was behind it. 

Tomlin filed a police report with the University Park Police Department July 20, citing posts on the group’s website and Facebook page about her.

In messages obtained by People Newspapers, the group accused Tomlin of making “racist claims” against them and claimed they’re a 501c4 nonprofit. We checked for listings for Dallas Justice, Dallas Justice Now, and DJN and found no record on the Internal Revenue Service database, but Jamila Nall said the group is applying for 501c4 status, according to an Aug. 16 email. Nall still didn’t provide proof of their applying for 501c4 status, sharing a ‘certificate of incorporation’ from Delaware instead.

Nall, whose contact information appeared on the organization’s letter to Park Cities residents, is listed as a “director of the company” in the document she provided.

The document, which shows the company as incorporated in Delaware, was sent in response to a July 27 email from People Newspapers asking for a 990 tax form nonprofits must file with the IRS.

The website for Delaware’s Department of State shows Dallas Justice Now’s incorporation date as July 22, 2021.

The letter quickly caused a stir beyond the Park Cities. The story about the letter was first published by outlets like Dallas City Wire website.

Dallas City Wire is part of the Metric Media News network, which is owned by Brian Timpone, a former TV reporter. Timpone has in recent years created a network of local online sites

We previously reported that the Dallas City Wire website posted a story back in April claiming eighth-graders in Highland Park ISD were asked to complete a survey asking about their ‘gender identity’ that Highland Park Middle School principal Christopher Miller said was “factually incorrect.”

(Read: HPMS Principal Says Article About Gender Survey ‘Factually Incorrect’)

News of the letter has since reached the British tabloid the Daily Mail, Newsweek, and Fox News.

Both a press release about the Dallas Justice Now published on PR Newswire, and the Dallas City Wire article quote Michele Washington as a spokesperson or founder of Dallas Justice Now.

The writer of the Dallas City Wire article about Dallas Justice Now, Juliette Fairley, declined to answer questions about her reporting.

When reached via an email provided on a Dallas Justice Now press release, Washington didn’t answer specific questions about the nature of the group, but did provide a statement defending the college pledge letter.

“A college education at an Ivy League or Top 50 school has been proven to be a tool of social mobility for our kids. Imagine the progress we could make ending the multi-trillion dollar wealth gap if those hundred thousand spots at top colleges went to Black and LatinX students,” Washington’s statement read in part. “We understand that this is a minor sacrifice for privileged families but we think it is the least they can do if they truly are allies of our community.”

Combing through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine by a group called Dallas Antifascists linked Dallas Justice Now’s website to political consulting firm Arena, which has done work for a host of GOP clients including the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Michigan Republican Party, according to their website.

When asked about whether Arena had worked with Dallas Justice Now, Arena COO Clint Brown provided People Newspapers with a statement saying that the firm ended a project with a client “when we learned what their objective was,” but didn’t confirm who the client was or specify reasons for ending the project. 

“Arena did not and would never support an activity of this type. We were working with a client and when we learned what their objective was, the project was terminated,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, it appears someone from the group copied the original code containing a link to the abandoned ‘under construction’ website, which linked to our server.”

Dallas Justice Now, though, took issue with being linked to Arena. 

“The suggestion that we are being run by a white, right-wing political operative is also patently false, offensive, racist, and defamatory,” a statement from the group read. “This failed attempt to attack DJN and other people of color is the most insidious form of racism.”

We’ll update this story when we get more information.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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