The Russians also contacted a New York City-based activist, Omowale Adewale, who offers training in self-defense for black communities, about his courses and students. They even paid him. At first, classes were sparsely attended, if at all. But over time, classes filled up and Adewale’s mysterious contact began paying for promotion and advertising, particularly on Facebook. It was then that they started to ask him to take photos and videos of the classes.
Adewale, in an interview with BuzzFeed News between personal training clients, said that he was first contacted by the man he knew as "Taylor" via his Instagram in January 2017, to teach four self-defense classes a month. Though he was initially wary, his concerns dropped once the first of the payments came through — $320 per month. Adewale, like White, described the man with whom he spoke over the phone but never met, as having "an accent from the African continent."
"I'm thinking there is a sense he wanted to do something for the community, get this aptitude for self-defense, and I'm thinking someone else is handling education somewhere else, other community issues as well," he said. "We never talked about that." [...]
Adewale said he was instructed by Taylor to take pictures and video of the sessions. He never spoke with any of the other four trainers listed on the site, he says, but became suspicious again when the people paying him began having trouble with Google Wallet, insisting that he switch to using PayPal.
That, combined with the fact that the group never discussed the politics that had drawn him in, caused Adewale to be leery.
Perhaps it’s telling that the Russians chose black people, in particular, to troll and exploit. After all, a good friend to the Russians, Donald Trump, often does this same thing when he wants to do a bait-and-switch with the American public. It is our long history of white supremacy, racism, and poor race relations that make this a pressure point that is so delicate and ripe for taking advantage of. It also says so much about how black people in America are so hungry for work that supports our freedom from oppression.
It’s also deeply disturbing because it shows the lengths that the Russians are willing to go to in order to wreak havoc in our country. And mainly, it’s infuriating because it shows how black people are once again victimized—even by countries we don’t necessarily live in. As Conrad James said, its “angering,” adding, “they were using black culture here in America as a springboard for a divisive tactic and strategy.”