Ahmaud Arbery's Mother Says Labor Day Event Using Her Son's Name Does Not Have Her Blessings

The mother of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was fatally shot in Georgia while jogging earlier this year, said she hasn't given her endorsement to the 2:23 Foundation, who are organizing an "I Run With Maud" Labor Day fundraiser run.

Wanda Cooper-Jones told WSB-TV that she wasn't told about the organization and felt that it was disrespectful to her son's memory.

"This foundation did not have my blessings," Cooper-Jones said, as well as thanking everyone who has supported her thus far.

Arbery, 25, was shot to death this past February as he was jogging through a neighborhood in Glynn County. Three men—Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan— were charged with nine counts including felony murder and aggravated assault, according to a grand jury indictment in June.

The 2:23 Foundation founders told WSB-TV that they had approached Cooper-Jones with their intentions, and "she said it was fine."

In a lengthy public Facebook post, Cooper-Jones criticized people using Arbery's name for various non-profits and registering trademarks using his name, saying that she felt people were exploiting it. She addressed social media pages and and a GoFundMe set up to help Arbery's family following his death, which sparked national attention and protests calling for justice.

"The ideas for the foundation likely started after national attention began to spread due to our advocacy efforts," she wrote. "Within seven days of the foundation's launch, its organizers had already planned a large fundraiser.

"The I RUN FOR MAUD committee (all five members who I do not know well)," she continued, "have known for months I did not want my child's death to be exploited or used for monetary gain for anyone. I was disrespected and ignored."

When asked for comment by Newsweek, the foundation's head of PR and communications deferred to a Facebook post outlining the 2:23 Foundation's relationship with Arbery's mother, and reiterating its goals.

"We have attempted countless times to reach out to [Cooper-Jones] and counsel to discuss this privately," the post said. "Our intention from the beginning was simple: Pursue justice for Ahmaud. Our team has not benefited financially from any of the work we have done to do just that. In fact, we have spent our own money to help pursue justice. And we have gotten the support from Maud's family in the process."

The 2:23 Foundation also noted that it was no longer using Arbery's name or likeness for the organization, but it said it was still seeking justice for him.

"I learned about the foundation the same day, the same time the world found out about it, and that was on social media," Cooper-Jones told WSB-TV. Although she said that she thinks they likely don't have ill-intentions, she said that she would like more information about it.

In the Facebook post, Cooper-Jones laid out why she was opposed to the organization. "What is important to me is to gain justice for my son and find peace. I am so disappointed that I must address this issue. The truth is I buried my son and there is nothing about a trademark, a social media page, money, or control that will fix that. I now must protect my son's name," she said.

In an Instagram post Sunday, the organization announced that it would be renaming itself to the 2:23 Foundation, detailing other goals for it, including scholarships for young people who want to fight injustice; training and education for high school students to fight injustice; and sports advocacy programming to help athletes who wish to champion social justice in their communities.

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New name...same mission. Tonight, we officially announced the official formation of our non-profit organization the 2:23 Foundation. We have finished our state registration in Georgia and our federal 501(c)3 application is being processed. The Foundation will have several key components: 1. Scholarships for young men and women who want to pursue and enter social justice-related fields. 2. Training and education programs for high school students (and college-aged students) to equip them with tools to fight injustice in their local context. 3. Sports advocacy programming geared towards helping high school (and college) athletes advocate for social justice on their campuses and in their communities. Why the 2:23 Foundation? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so we'll let this picture explain our new logo. We are excited about this endeavor. Our first big fundraising effort is participation in a global run on September 5-6. The run is sponsored by The Speed Project DIY. They have partnered with us to provide our community with a challenge to run our usual 2.23 miles (or more) between September 5th and 6th. The run will track everyone's progress in the Strava running app and allow us to see our global team's progress over the two day period. Link in bio. Please join us as we continue to Run WIth Maud in this new, exciting endeavor. #IRunWithMaud #223fdn #GlobalRun #MarkYourCalendars

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In a statement, the organization's founders spoke about the need for further action.

"When I first uttered the words, 'I Run With Maud,' I sincerely wanted to make sure that people didn't gloss over a gross mishandling of a criminal investigation," 2:23 co-founder Jason Vaughn said in a statement received by Newsweek. "What we didn't know about was the layers of injustice that encompassed more than just our hometown, but extended to the state legislature. What began as a local movement has now become something that can impact the lives of many young men and women of color across our state. And that's exciting to me."

Newsweek reached out to Cooper-Jones for further comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Ahmaud Arbery
Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, right, walks from the Glynn County Courthouse with attorney Lee Merritt on July 17, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William 'Roddie' Bryan appeared before a judge for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Sean Rayford/Getty