Do Not Be Fooled By The Smear

Campaign Against Carlito Rovira



Relevant Terms:

Restorative Justice - A system which sees crime as an act against the victim and shifts the focus to repairing the harm that has been committed against the victim and community. Restorative Justice holds that the offender also needs assistance and seeks to identify what needs to change to prevent future violations.
Due Process - Fair treatment, a citizen’s right.
Abuse - to treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly. Smear Campaign - a plan to discredit a public figure by making false or dubious accusations!!
Defamation - the action of damaging the good reputation of someone. Slander - the act of harming a person’s reputation by telling one or more people something that is untrue and damaging about the person.
Libel - a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation, a written defamation. 
On Monday, September 13, 2021, the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home (CBMH) founded and led by Dr. Johanna Fernandez, PhD and  associate professor at Baruch College -CUNY, released a public statement to their listserv which leveled a targeted smear at Carlito Rovira to defame his character and banish him from the NYC Left. This statement depicted Carlito as a sexual predator and even insinuated that he had engaged in sexual contact with a minor by repeating “our youngestmost vulnerable member” repeatedly. Shortly thereafter, an entire website devoted to this defamatory campaign was posted entitled “”  In her statement on this site, the unnamed accuser says that she was in her twenties during her affair with Carlito. The age of consent in New York State is seventeen years old, so this propagandistic insinuation of Carlito’s having contact with a minor is false, deliberately misleading, and manipulative.

The Truth is that Carlito and the Unnamed Adult Woman Had a Consensual Affair & She is Now Falsely Accusing Carlito in Order to Take Him Down

I will call the unnamed person making these claims against Carlito, Participant A. Sometime toward the end of the summer of 2016, Participant A whom I considered a friend and fellow comrade, told me that she was attracted to Carlito and was thinking about becoming intimate with him. Participant A expressed that Carlito had “offered to give her some sexual experience,” that this was tempting to her and that she was having sexual fantasies about Carlito. She said to me that wanted to have sex with him. Participant A expressed hesitation around the fact that she and Carlito were not actually dating, but in fact friends who were talking about having sex. I advised her in no uncertain terms not to do it. Also, I advised her that sex is very intimate for women, especially if she was exploring her sexuality. I told her that ‘just getting some experience’ was not a realistic plan and that she would develop deeper feelings for Carlito that would end in heartbreak and disaster. Surely, personal disaster that would hurt her and destroy her relationship with Carlito but damage the entire Campaign. The age difference was the least of my worries, but it did play into my advice. Don’t do it, I said.  It is tempting, I know, but the consequences will be very hurtful.
Several weeks later, we spoke again, and she said that while she was very much enjoying the attention from Carlito, she had decided not to engage with him sexually. She stated that she wanted them to stop interacting in a way that was flirtatious and sexually suggestive. I asked if she had asked him to stop and she said she had not. At no point did she say that she felt threatened or coerced. I said that Carlito is a respectful person and adheres to boundaries and suggested that she should tell him that she wanted to end the sexual talk. I believe that they were going to the movies, or dinner or something around 96th street in Manhattan.  According to Participant A, she followed my advice, told him she wanted to talk, and told him she no longer wanted to engage in sexual conversations. She told me afterwards that I had been correct in my prediction of how such a request would go: he agreed that they would end the sexual talk and that they would continue to be friends. This issue was done – as far as I knew.
About a year later, in the summer of 2017, Participant A mentioned casually to me that once again she and Carlito were having sexually suggestive conversations that she was enjoying, but she was not sure it was a good idea or if she should engage intimately with him.  She mentioned it as if all our previous conversations about their relationship had never happened. At this time, Carlito was engaged to be married to Ana Betancourt, whom I knew and cared for. I was incredulous that Participant A was being so casual about continuing her relationship with Carlito. She was clearly still enjoying the attention. I found the resurfacing of this past conversation to be exasperating – as if I were trapped in the film Groundhog Day. One thing I discovered about Participant A over years of our friendship, was that she will listen to your advice for hours and shine you on, and then completely ignore any counsel you have given and even act surprised that you have any opinion on the matter. It appears she refuses to grow or challenge herself at all.  (This was corroborated by at least one current and one former member of CBMH with whom I was close).
As a result, this time when the conversation about Carlito reemerged, I advised against it again, especially considering his current relationship, but I also said that I did not have energy to talk to her about it anymore. After that, Participant A stopped confiding in me regarding this affair, perhaps because she knew I did not approve, and she had not taken my advice. She had obviously decided that she wanted to continue to engage him, as evidenced by the text-message screenshots that are posted on the website. That’s the last I heard about it until now. The accusation leveled on the CBMH’s defamatory website that I ‘enabled the abuse’ and then told Participant A to ‘stay silent’ and that ‘no one would believe her’ is not only a slanderous lie it is an inversion of the truth.
Furthermore, according to the afore-mentioned text-message screenshot ‘evidence’ on their own website, Carlito was very explicit with Participant A about their mutual sexual attraction. Is it crude, offensive? -perhaps. However, this was a private exchange with a 27–28-year-old adult woman. If he had been ‘grooming’ her, he would not have been so direct about wanting sex. In my experience, abusers pretend they are up to something else, they are not direct and explicit with sexual requests, as Carlito was in the published text-exchange. At no point does she say, “don’t talk to me like that” or “no, I do not want to have sex.”  Participant A may have been hurt because she wanted an actual relationship, (which the texts suggest and was my concern when advising her not to do it). While I certainly have compassion for her pain, this is not a sexual violation nor abuse.

Participant A Is Being Duplicitous and Manipulative 

Participant A has refused to come forward, even amidst a flurry of support. She has posted online claiming to ‘defend the victim,’ even though she herself IS the victim - she is playing two roles. This is hard to wrap your mind around. This is not only a truly disturbing level of dissociation, but it also suggests that the goal here is not to give the accuser her chance to speak publicly against the accused.  The CBMH members who know who she is and are going along with her playing victim and savior are also duplicitous. Maybe they are not seeing that it’s duplicitous to play both roles.  It is not ethical nor honest to be both the victim and the savior writing statements on behalf of the anonymous victim. She was not interested in the self-help resources dealing with abuse that I gave to her to support her around conversations we had about her abusive relationship with her father. This deliberately misleading behavior is manipulativeThis is in fact abuse. I am aware that sometimes individuals reporting sexual assault or sexual harassment need to remain anonymous for safety reasons. However, given that no sexual violation occurred here, and this individual is being deceitful, she cannot legitimately claim the need for the cloak of secrecy. I therefore reveal that Sophia Williams is making these false claims also known as “Participant A”

Johanna Fernandez’s Secret Affair with Her Younger Former Student at Baruch College & How She Manipulated Us in a Smear Campaign Against Him

I will call him Participant B.  Both Sophia Williams and Participant B were students of Johanna’s at Baruch and were recruited by her into the CBMH. Johanna disclosed to me that she felt sexual tension with Participant B when he was her student. After recruiting him into the CBMH, Johanna put him in the position of Co-Chair of the group (talk about grooming) and at some point, they began to have a relationship that Johanna insisted be kept secret from the group. At a certain point, frequent and visible hostility between the two of them forced the relationship into the open. He turned to me for help, and confided in me about the relationship, asking for my help to mediate between them. Johanna was outraged that he had disclosed their affair to me, despite she and I having a very close friendship at the time.  She and I had discussed the tension between her and Participant B on numerous occasions, at great length. She had never breathed a word that they were secretly dating.
After I was brought in on this secret sexual relationship, Johanna related to me a tale of him covertly abusing her. The accusation was vague, but I believed it because I trusted her unconditionally. Johanna pressured me to send him a long letter detailing all her complaints about him, with which I thought I agreed at the time, but did not feel right sending to him and refused. She only relented on pressuring me to send it when I told her that my mother, a psychiatrist, had advised me that my sending such a letter would be inappropriate, unhelpful, and not mediation – which I am not qualified to do anyway. Johanna subsequently told a few other CBMH members who were close to her (including Carlito) that it had been an abusive relationship and she needed our help to confront Participant B. Again, she gave no specifics, and none were asked for. We loved her, we felt protective of her, and we wanted to defend her. So, we went along with it and tied him to the (metaphorical) whipping post - twice. 
During the first confrontation, involving Carlito, Johanna, Sophia Williams, myself, and Participant B, we berated him for hours in Carlito's (and Ana’s) house. All the way home in the car, Johanna was upset with me and Sophia for not being willing to continue to castigate Participant B on the way out the door. She ranted about how awful he was and how we were not defending her sufficiently. Several months after this, we ambushed him in a full CBMH meeting to discuss his alleged ‘abuse.’  During this meeting, Johanna accused us of not “protecting” her from this abuse, which in the public meeting some members pushed back on (including one of the signers of the letter against Carlito) - how could we protect you when the relationship was kept secret from us? We did not get a clear answer, just insinuations that we had let her down. That we had ‘enabled abuse.’   I pushed it into the back of my mind at the time, but the accusation had been leveled:  we had not had her back, our loyalty could not be trusted. She manipulated the situation to appear as if she was a victim who had been abandoned by her allies, and implied that we were responsible for her being allegedly abused. This, despite our not knowing about the relationship.
Johanna continued to assert that she had been abused, despite her not going into specifics. Since Participant B did not actively refute the accusations, none of us openly questioned the narrative. Participant B left the organization, of his own volition not long after that. However, I cannot say I blame him for feeling exiled and acting on that feeling. I would have done the same (in fact I did leave when I felt that such manipulative attacks on me were imminent). He left, but no one asked Johanna for a shred of accountability, although the leader and founder of our organization had engaged in a secret, toxic relationship with a former student, causing our organization to become sidetracked in our purpose. Indeed, this chapter risked the very existence of our collective. We were all deceived by Johanna; yet we were blamed by her as well.
Moreover, since the CBMH’s statement repeatedly highlights the age difference between Carlito and Sophia. Johanna’s former student /co-Chair / secret boyfriend (Participant B) is nearly twenty years younger than she - and I do not remember anyone ever bringing this up. Which situation has more of an unequal power dynamic: an older unofficial mentor or your older college professor? In any case, the hysteria over the age difference is blatant hypocrisy. One last point of import here is that Johanna turned to Carlito for help when she decided to confront Participant B publicly. She relied on Carlito’s tough demeanor and history as a fighter in the YLP to intimidate Participant B. It is ironic, contradictory, and hypocritical that it is those very same qualities of Carlito’s that she is targeting now through another smear campaign.

Johanna Has a Vendetta Against Carlito

During the winter of 2018 - 2019, Johanna was working on finishing her book on the Young Lords Party, for which she had interviewed Carlito countless times since 2008.  Carlito’s fiancé had just died tragically the previous spring. Seemingly out of nowhere, he and Johanna started butting heads over the history of the YLP.  This seemed strange, as they had been close friends for years, together they were the political backbone of our organization, they had worked closely on Johanna’s research together for over a decade. Additionally, she and I, and a several other CBMH people had been giving Carlito a lot of support as he grieved the loss of Ana. Since I was close with both Johanna and Carlito at the time, they both called me frequently to vent about the constant arguments. As I recall, they were clashing on the history of the Young Lords, an organization Johanna was researching and authoring a book on, of which Carlito was a vital member. He relayed one anecdote to me that from this period that I feel is very revealing: During a meeting that the two of them were having, Carlito disagreed with her about how something or other had happened, and she told him, “Carlito, I wrote the book,”  - as a way to communicate that she knew better than he, even though she hadn’t been born at that time and he was there
Johanna’s perspective in our many conversations about conflict with Carlito was never clear to me. She kept saying he was “crazy” and asking, “what’s wrong with him?!”  When I suggested at one point that he might be wrestling with grief at the loss of his fiancé, she dismissed this possibility. During my conversations with Carlito about arguments with Johanna, he was calm, albeit frustrated, when telling me what happened. In contrast, Johanna was highly agitated when relating her disagreements with him. One day while speaking on the phone with Johanna about Carlito, I remember becoming frustrated because she was saying the same thing over and over again and working herself into a frenzy.  I remember saying something like “I need you to stop and focus on something else and we can come back to this,” to which she responded, “okay fine but…” and launched right back into the anti-Carlito diatribe. This conversation went on and on and I finally just excused myself. 
Shortly before I left the organization, we were in her car on our way to an event and I spoke with Johanna about how she and Carlito seemed locked in a conflict out of which there was no clear exit. I remember comparing what I was seeing with a metaphor of two sharks locked in conflict: Both of their teeth face backward, so constantly tugging just leads to further enmeshment. In order to resolve or reset, one of them must let go.   I said that it was difficult for me and other CBMH people to have them constantly arguing and that this was disruptive to our collective. She immediately zeroed in on my distress and proceeded to tell me that this was hard for me because of my own childhood trauma. I was aghast at this blatant deflection and pop psychology judgement on something that was irrelevant and untrue.

During meetings when Carlito was not present, Johanna began turning CBMH calls into complain-about-Carlito sessions and was consistently leveling the accusation that he was acting in a way that was chauvinistic and macho, an assessment for which I saw no grounds and said so at the time. Johanna did not level this critique to Carlito in public or to me when we spoke one-on-one. At one point when Carlito was on the call, he volunteered to make a flyer for an upcoming event, and Johanna accepted. When he subsequently emailed us a draft of the flyer, she began texting me on a thread with Sophia and Gwen. Her texts were coming in quick and angry succession: She appeared to be having a total meltdown about how much she hated the flyer and how awful and misogynistic Carlito was for producing it. It was a picture of Mumia and a slogan in solidarity with Venezuela, and I did not see her point at all, but I was the only one who pushed back. When she texted us that he was “swinging his dick around,” I had had enough – I took myself off this text chain. Shortly thereafter, Carlito and I both chose to leave the CBMH. The truth, regardless of whether Johanna or anyone else wants to face it, is that she pushed us out, just as she pushed out the former co-chair with whom she had had the secret toxic relationship.


Johanna Knew About this Consensual Affair Between Two Adults WHILE it was happening in 2017 & She is Currently Running a Smear Campaign Against Carlito

The unfortunate cascade of emails many on the Left have been receiving recently represent the final phase of a pattern that Johanna has repeated and again: she recruits people, she becomes very close with them, she builds them up and encourages them to take responsibility within projects she’s working on, only to subsequently devalue them.  As soon as her control over them starts to slip she begins to discard them. She did it to Participant B, she did it to me, and she is now attempting to discard Carlito from the entire Left and even from the entire world. In Johanna’s mass email of 10/4/21 she claimed to not be the author of the CBMH’s smear of Carlito, as the twelve signers of a previous email also attested. I was there for many times of drafting of a document with these very people, and I distinctly recognize Johanna’s hand of influence when I see it. I also recognize in the flurry of emails coming out over the last few weeks in favor of this defamation plot, the recruiting of allies by a manipulator to attempt to gain control over a target.
Johanna is using an “old ruling class trick” (her words) known as lying. She has taken things she knows to be true and has distorted them, all to take down a target. For example, Johanna knew at least as far back as 2017 about the exchanges between Carlito and Sophia, as she and I discussed their consensual relationship and agreed that while it was ill advised it was their personal business. Johanna knew as far back as 2014 about the information from forty years ago written salaciously within the CBMH’s libelous website. Thus, the claim made repeatedly in the CBMH’s statements, that they began ‘investigating’ these incidents ‘as soon as they found out, one year ago’ is false. Johanna has known the truth about these parts of Carlito’s past for years, as she worked closely with him throughout, on research for her book.
Johanna’s aim is clearly to take down Carlito, and from the wanted poster, even for his death because of this extreme character assassination. The Campaign to Bring Mumia Home is running an event on 10/16/21 under the guise of survivors of abuse testifying, but there are no actual survivors scheduled to give testimony. Additionally, two prominent, longtime MOVE supporters who have left MOVE expressed concerns under a flyer for the event that Sophia posted on her Facebook page. The former MOVE supporters said while they were certainly in solidarity with survivors of abuse, that two of the panelists at the CBMH’s 10/16 event are implicated in the abuse of MOVE survivors. In response to their questioning the event’s lineup, no one from CBMH addressed their concerns, one member saying only that the event was not all about MOVE survivors. Johanna commented publicly, going after both former MOVE supporters with vicious, vague, and hyperbolic attacks on their character.
At the bottom of the flyer for the 10/16 “speak-out” it says ‘for more information’ click here, on their “exposing Carlito” website. What?!  This does not add up. So, we are speaking about survivors of abuse but not hearing from them, but for more information, please ingest our smear of one person. Wait, are we hearing from survivors or taking down Carlito with no hint of due process and very vague manipulative accusations of serious crimes? I think the purpose is clear.  This has nothing to do with survivors. There is no attending to their healing, their needs, or any semblance of restorative justice. Johanna is lying and manipulating the truth to take down someone whom she perceives to have challenged her power. To accomplish this, she is utilizing a covert smear campaign, to which she has recruited a handful of allies who admire her so much that they trust her word unconditionally. I know, I used to be one of themThis, in fact, is narcissistic abuse.

Restorative Justice and Due Process

The call for actual restorative justice “shifts the focus to repairing the harm that has been committed against the victim and community” as well as seeking to support the perpetrator in repairing the damage, in a way that feels safe for survivors, as well as to come together as a community to prevent further harm, and to plan for a healthier, safer environment for all in the future (Zehr, 1990).  That is not what we were doing with Participant B, and that is not what the CBMH and supporters are seeking to do with Carlito. This character assassination campaign against Carlito claims to be advancing the cause of “justice,” yet nowhere was there any hint of due process or restorative action of any kind. What is the purpose of these letters and the entire ‘Exposing Carlito’ website? What is the end goal? A public crucifixion? Carlito beat up or even killed? The poster with Carlito’s photo looks like a wanted poster and the “Carlito Rovira Exposed” website looks like you have uncovered a mass murderer, not dug up painful anecdotes to fit a vendetta.
What is the goal of a targeted smear like this without any attempt at anything resembling due process or restorative justice? If we are to exist within a democratic framework, even those whom we despise are entitled to a fair hearing to determine innocence or guilt. If you genuinely believe in due process, then you defend it even for your enemies – you do not pick and choose based on what you think about the accused.  You either believe in due process or you do not. I am reminded of Martin Niemöller’s famous post-war piece “First They Came,” which cautions us that if you stand by passively while someone else’s rights are being curtailed, it is only a matter of time until your own liberty is at risk. I would hope that we are all in agreement with wanting to rebuild society in a just and humane manner. Allies of Carlito have been asking politely and diplomatically for a meeting to openly discuss these allegations. These requests have been flatly refused and demonized as chauvinistic, when what they represent is transparency, due process, and the potential for restorative justice.

Survivors Must Have Agency

We must inject responsibility and agency into this conversation about survivors. I reject this infantilizing of women, where they have no agency. At some point you have to say, “these are my standards - I don’t date unavailable men or I want my first sexual experience to be with you or I don’t.”   CBMH  did not have any clear standards. No rules. No boundaries. No structures and routines for negotiating conflict, recognizing harm, or facilitating reconciliation and healing. The CBMH was an anything-goes, chaotic cult of personality where whether what you were doing was up ‘to snuff’ was up to our leader and could change on a whim.  As a result of this disorder, messy relationships of all kinds will happen. As we know, they happen even when guidelines and structures are in place! This is not to say we should not hold people accountable. On the contrary, there should be structures in place to prevent exploitation of power to prevent abuse in the first place, especially for leadership. We should have processes for protecting survivors and we need to hold abusive men (and women) responsible for their behavior. We must expect men to be responsible for themselves, but we also must expect women to have agency and control over their own choices. If someone manipulates and coerces you, physically or emotionally, that is an abuse of power. If you are unable to leave a cult and forced into child-marriages, as is alleged by the MOVE survivors, that is abuse. However, being in a relationship with someone who has a different standard than yours may cause you pain or an unpleasant experience, but you have the agency to say that is not my standard and I will not engage with you like that. That is not abuse.

My Time in the Campaign

I joined the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home in January 2013 after attending a screening of a film about Mumia’s case and meeting and connecting with Johanna. I met Carlito not long after joining the Campaign, sometime in the Spring of 2013. I worked closely with both Johanna and Carlito, as well as many other CBMH people on many projects about which I felt and feel great pride. We hosted screenings, concerts, and book talks, made our own mini movies, put on a play for which we wrote lines and music, we interviewed long-time activists and created a film series around their invaluable work for our collective freedom. I maintain that we did good work together: we helped to raise awareness around the importance and details of Mumia’s case, and we worked to advance both the cause of freedom for political prisoners and the wider struggle for revolutionary justice. Were we bringing Mumia closer to freedom? We were trying with all our hearts. Though victories were few and far between, there have been a handful, and I pray that one of these victories will unlock the door forever and bring Mumia home to his family, to live out his days in health, peace and safety, as the brilliant teacher that he is, advancing the causes of radical education, justice, and prison abolition into the future.
I cut my political teeth in this organization. I learned so much from Johanna and from Carlito. My favorite time, ironically, used to be when they disagreed politically because it was extremely illuminating to listen to their argument and reflect on each of their points. They were my political mentors, and the Campaign was my political home, its members were my family. There was a long time where I felt more comfortable and accepted within the Campaign than anywhere else, I had ever been. I came of age politically in this organization and owe a great debt of gratitude to both afore-mentioned mentors, among others, who, over countless hours, endless conference calls, car trips, conferences, protests and demonstrations, book talks, late-night (hilarious) meetings and work sessions, helped me shape and hone my political identity.

My Own Escape from Abuse, Recovery, Healing and Growth

During my time in CBMH, I escaped from an abusive relationship (with someone outside of the group). A vital part of my recovery journey has been to sharpen my boundaries around what type of behavior I will and will not tolerate, instead of giving everyone many chances to be better than the last time they treated me in a way that was manipulative or otherwise unacceptable to me - my standard. Over years in CBMH, I began to see increasingly clearly that the group had problems with boundaries, that our leader was chaotic and enforced chaos while blocking other people’s attempts at implementing structure or boundaries.  There was a huge amount of time spent on interpersonal drama, with nothing to show for it on a personal level or for the wider movement. A prime example is the time we spent being dragged into the drama of Johanna’s relationship with her former student, with nothing positive accomplished in the end.
An essential tool of my healing from abuse was going into psychotherapy (which ironically, Johanna strongly supported). I went into private counseling and mentoring around surviving abuse, as well as healing and thriving afterwards. As the years went on and I was learning how to draw healthier boundaries, I started to recognize what was unhealthy about both the Campaign and Johanna’s dysfunctional behavior. Out of the growth of recovery, it slowly dawned on me that I was enmeshed in a cult-like atmosphere in the CBMH at the very least that I was being manipulated. When Johanna heightened the frequency and vitriol of her attacks on Carlito and began to insinuate that I was also to blame for the flaws she perceived in Carlito, I finally realized it was time to go. It is with no joy that I dig all of this up. To those of you who are still in solidarity with Johanna and who mean well, I am sorry if you are hurt by this. As a former member of this collective and close friend of many of the signers, the accuser as well as the accused, I am in a unique position now to shed light on the veracity of the claims against Carlito and the motivation for this character assassination campaign.

What Does This Have to Do with Freeing Mumia and

Building a Better World?

Mumia needs this like the plague. The enemies of Mumia- there are many - would love nothing more than to catch wind that his name has been pegged to this imagined scandal that bears no relation to him. Furthermore, what is the history of Mumia’s case? He’s a man who was falsely accused.  He is a man who was not allowed to speak for himself, who was denied due process. Mumia’s name was slandered publicly, and he was denied a fair hearing. He was convicted in the court of public opinion without the public getting to hear his side of the story. For obvious reasons, an entirely baseless smear campaign has no place in the CBMH.
Most enraging about this situation is that the silencing of women of color, the silencing of Black women, the silencing of Indigenous women, the silencing of all women, does happen. Sexual and emotional abuse and exploitation happens. These and other awful things happen. When false allegations are made publicly and salaciously like this with no legitimate goal and no due process, to satisfy someone is twisted egotistical political and personal envy, it makes it more difficult for victims to come forward and be heard and taken seriously. Shame on you Johanna, and shame on everyone uncritically going along with this public crucifixion. Of course, we support survivors, but we cannot uncritically demand someone’s head. No good will come of this. 
There should be enough revolutionary love and celebration for all of us and it is heartbreaking to see people unwilling to make the room that so many of us so desperately wanted to accommodate for both of the CBMH’s political leaders to be amazing, and yes – flawed human beings.  Fellow revolutionaries, there is so much work to be done. Conflict happens. Let us proceed with caution, compassion, and honesty. May we all live to see a world without prisons, police, and the horrors of capitalist exploitation. A world where Mumia and all our beloved political prisoners, and indeed every one of us, will be free.
Rebekah McAlister
October 2021
Former member of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, NYC