A social media effort has propelled a GoFundMe campaign toward an ambitious goal to rebuild three historically black churches in Louisiana that suffered devastating fires that investigators have since concluded were hate crimes.
On April 10, the Seventh District Baptist Association set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise $1.8 million for St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church after they were set on fire allegedly by suspect Holden Matthews.
Inspired by the grand fundraising that took place for the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after the world watched the iconic house of worship burn, journalist Yashar Ali put a spotlight on the Seventh District Baptist Association’s crowdsourcing effort and urged his followers to donate and match his $1,000 pledge.
Throughout the day, Ali kept updating his followers as thousands of donations poured in to the GoFundMe page. Ali noted that when he first urged his followers to donate, the association had raised roughly $159,000. Since then, they’ve raised over $1.5 million. Ali later updated that over $1.3 million was raised in a 31-hour period.
The campaign caught the attention of big-name donors, including conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, CNN anchor Jake Tapper, “Late Night” host Seth Meyers, former Obama official Valerie Jarrett, and actresses Patricia Arquette, Susan Sarandon, Mandy Moore and Busy Philipps. Former NFL player and Louisiana native Benjamin Watson previously had put a spotlight on the GoFundMe campaign and has renewed his efforts amid the massive social media push.
Matthews, 21, has been charged with arson and hate crimes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.