Shaun King

Every once in a while as I traverse the circles of Hell (I mean, Twitter), I happen to see #shaunking trending and it makes me physically ill. This time, he’s fucking with Black Panther and that kind of got me hot and bothered — not the first time he’s done this and certainly not the last, unfortunately.

But, there’s a larger, more personal issue that I need to (finally) talk about.

You see, I’ve realized that I’ve been enmeshed in a psychological battle of self-loathing for nearly a decade and, to be quite frank, I’m over it.

After a conversation with my best friend, I’ve decided to share my story so I can be done with it once and for all… and for those that know me, I don’t really hide much of anything so I’m relieved to be able to sit and write this post.

But, what hurts the most is how much I’ve allowed this to affect me over the last decade; I’ve allowed his mistreatment of me to persist, in my emotions, memory, and even a dream (or two).

I won’t lie: I am mad as fuck that he lied to me. I’m even madder still that he’s apparently still doing it. But, I’m over that now since I’m going to share, in brief, my story of my time working with and for Shaun King.

TL;DR: Shaun King did not pay me for a web project that he asked me to do for him back in November of 2010.

But, the con started a lot earlier that year; using a few shared relationships within a small circle of Christian leaders, he just straight-up asked me to build a website for his friend, pro bono:

I like supporting non-profits and this was right after the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and Shaun was on a huge fundraising spree. A phone call later and I was convinced that donating my time and my team’s technology was the right thing to do:

I worked tirelessly on this large project, knowing that Haiti was desperate for funds and support after the devastation. I was proud to deliver a working product in just 10 days — I sent the credentials to the project via email:

2 weeks later, Shaun just gave me the “keys to the kingdom” and I knew that he was looking for similar, “pro bono” treatment:

Shaun had sufficiently wiped me physically and emotionally with an end-to-end website project in 10 days and I simply didn’t have the capacity to take on another project. Consequently, I gave him a free copy of my company’s technology and hoped he’d get the message:

He didn’t. But, I did start to notice a clear pattern in his communication; he’d press super-hard and the moment you actually needed something, he’d ghost.

If I didn’t return an email immediately, he’d follow it up the next day with another email or even text message. He even used a Twitter, calling me out “in excitement” but also as a way of letting me know that he was waiting on a response. Needless to say, I lost a lot of sleep over those.

Back and forth all summer and into the fall. He’d email with a lot of ideas and then disappear; I have too many emails as examples of this behavior.

Impossible to track down but impossible to deal with when he needed something. I knew better, but, I needed the money. I thought he’d never commit and he never gave up on trying to get me to do stuff for him for free:

Sometimes I gave him my help and sometimes I ignored his emails unless he actually sounded serious about moving forward with a paid project.

More and more of the same. Sad, lonely emails that would go unanswered.

Finally (?!), the proverbial dam broke and he sent me an email promising that we were going to get something done and that he’d pay me:

I was exhausted with his behavior but he was still, as I understood, a “big deal” and an opportunity to work with someone who clearly had a lot of press and attention. And, his spiritual angle and our shared circles in the religious Atlanta sub-culture was something that did tug on my heartstrings. Hell, I had even written something positive about him in one of my startup’s blogs — I was positive about it because, for all his personal misbehavior, the project, itself, sounded like a project worth backing.

I spent a week defining the project, approving a budget, and we were at the doorstep and… oh wait, nope. He lied, again. He wasn’t ready. Ghosted. I should have known.

Oh, but, one month later:

The promise of money and now it’s an “emergency” — go figure. I was tired and so I decided to ship him an invoice and let that be my final take (original here):

I didn’t think this was going to be a large project and this felt fair, especially considering all the work that I had done over the last year, pro bono. I didn’t feel like he owed me anything more than what this project was worth.

And against all odds… we landed on a deal:

Per usual, I began working immediately, just as I promised. Of course, a few hours later, something changed and he couldn’t pay digitally and reverted to a physical check:

The project didn’t take 3.5 weeks, as planned, because Shaun was either unavailable to help me or swamped me with requests and other “side projects” that he also wanted me involved in. Honestly, I’m not sure how I ever completed the project but I did and launched it on January 20, 2011:

This is when things really started to unravel as it was clear that he didn’t want to pay for the work. Instead, he found issue with elements that I had built, to his specification, that now he found incorrect. He used our personal friendship and relationship as leverage to justify not paying the contract. I was scared, embarrassed, and angry, all at the same time — I couldn’t believe that a local pastor, and friend, was causing me so my heartache. And suddenly, he disappeared.

I tried contacting him for months:

No response in February, March, and into April. I was getting even more anxious and upset because, as you can read, I was trying to finalize my taxes and I needed to account for this project. Honestly, I just wanted to move on.

He threatened me in a myriad of ways and finally we landed on a “settlement” that was a fraction of the original contract size:

I sent him a request, thinking that I was very close to having this nightmare (that originally started in February of 2010!) that had eaten up a year and a half of my life… resolved:

Maybe, he’d finally pay. Of course, he didn’t. And, when pressed, he faked a payment by copying and pasting some text into an email, just like he had done previously:

I resolved, that Easter morning, that regardless of whether or not he paid, I was done with him and I was going to just walk away. From my knowledge — and from a clinical search through my email archives — it doesn’t appear that I ever tried to email him again. I simply knew him for what he really was (and is) and I didn’t want to think about him ever again.

Sadly, I’ve had to go down memory lane one final time and I’ve promised myself that this is the last. I’m going to share my story and then let it go.

I really do hope that Shaun King finds what he’s looking for.