Actress and writer Issa Rae was profoundly impacted by Alton Sterling’s murder by police on July 5. It led her to set up a campaign to raise college funds for the five children the Baton Rouge, Louisiana native left behind. The #AltonSterlingFamily Scholarship was created Wednesday, and $325,000 was raised in just 21 hours.
Rae has no formal relationship with the family, writing on the GoFundMe campaign page she is “just sympathetic and empathetic” to the situation. The Huffington Post reports the Insecure star initially set out to raise $40,000 for the Sterling children. She revealed plans for the scholarship Wednesday afternoon, sharing the link several minutes later.
— Issa Rae (@IssaRae) July 6, 2016
“Thank you for helping us raise the goal!” she wrote Wednesday evening. “I just got off the phone with the Sterling family attorney who is aware of the GoFundMe and has asked me to call back tomorrow, as the family is (naturally) overwhelmed at this time. Will keep you all posted. In the meantime, keep spreading the word!”
She later shared an update about increasing the goal to $200,000.
“Wow! $100k in 6 hours. This is so powerful,” she wrote. “Can we get to $200k? I’m doubling my pledge. That would be $40k for each of his 5 kids to go to college. Thank you all for uniting through the pain.”
The campaign has since passed its $200,000 goal by over $125,000 in less than 24 hours from 11,000 donors. It has been shared 31,000 times on Facebook and Twitter.
Many have voiced their support for the fundraiser.
“Damn. Thank you so much, Issa for using your platform and doin’ this,” wrote Hope Freeman on the GoFundMe page. “Bless you, sis.”
Shyne Coldchain also praised the campaign on Twitter.
issa rae started that gofundme today for the college fund and got 20 stacks already. that's love.
— Shyne Coldchain Jr. (@Smooth_Orator) July 6, 2016
MTD called it the “coolest thing” he’s seen all day.
coolest thing I've seen all day is this gofundme scholarship fund that @IssaRae started for Alston Sterling's kids
— MTD (@roufio49) July 7, 2016
But it was also met with some skepticism. Several commenters have questioned the validity of the campaign. They wondered if all the funds raised would go toward the children’s higher education and if remaining amounts would be donated for funeral costs.
“I love seeing how the community is pulling together to assist the Sterling family,” wrote Nesta Howell. “I was wondering since the donations exceeded the goal amount, will the remainder go to funeral expenses or will all of it go towards the children’s college fund?”
“I was wondering the same thing,” Fiona Davis responded. “And I hope she is free to use this money however she needs to. I’ve been looking for a way to donate that goes to her directly so she can just focus on taking care of her family.”
A financial adviser from Texas encouraged Rae to set up a tax-advantaged college savings plan to help the family retain as much of the funds as possible.
“I’m sure you’ve considered a number of options for the funds that you raise and, I’m not sure what your plans are for the funds once you’ve reached your goal,” wrote Fred Reynolds. “However, I would encourage you to look into opening a 529 College Savings plan. I hope this money truly helps this family.”