Mom: Fort Greene Festival promoter has shady past

Mom: Fort Greene Festival promoter has shady past
Photo by Todd Gaulding

The promoter of this Saturday’s Fort Greene Festival cheated a retired schoolteacher out of thousands of dollars in proceeds from last year’s festival that was supposed to be set aside in honor of her dead son, the woman claims.

Mattie Turner says that Peter Tulloch, the festival’s creator, promised to collect cash at last year’s event for a scholarship honoring her son Ajile Turner — cousin of do-gooder rapper Common — but after a year, she hasn’t seen a dime.

In fact, she’s out $1,000 herself because Tulloch reneged on his promise, she said. At last year’s concert, Turner took the stage to hand local college student Devon Fuentes-Jett a giant $1,000 check to pay for his books and expenses — a stipend that was supposed to be funded by the festival’s profits. Instead it came from Turner’s bank account.

But that didn’t stop Tulloch from touting his contributions to the Ajile Turner Foundation in this year’s promotional material — though some references to the foundation were removed from Tulloch’s website after Turner sent a “cease-and-desist” letter in April.

“I’m not trying to harm him, but Ajile meant the world to me and I won’t have this foundation destroyed,” said Turner, who lives in Cincinnati.

Turner created the Ajile L. Turner Foundation after her only child, a Fort Greene resident, died in a motorcycle crash in 2009 at age 38. She said that Ajile, a music promoter, was involved with local schools and she wanted to continue his tradition of giving back.

She joined forces with Tulloch after they reacquainted at Ajile’s funeral, thinking that Fort Greene Fest would be her first big fundraising event for the foundation.

They had no written agreement, but she didn’t think she needed one — Tulloch was her son’s good friend.

Gregory Thomson, Tulloch’s attorney, did not deny the mom’s charges, but said that the festival has made sure not to use the foundation’s name anywhere.

“It’s possible that there was some reference to it in sales material from last year,” Thomson said. “But the festival has no intention of using the name.”

Indeed, in a 2011 promotional guide, the Ajile Turner Foundation is mentioned once. All videos and photos of Turner and members of the foundation been removed from Tulloch’s website since May.

Thomson also said that there was never a written agreement between Turner and his client with regard to the scholarship fund.

Mattie Turner, left, says the creator of Fort Greene Fest promised to collect money for a scholarship in memory of her dead son, but instead took the cash for himself. At last year’s concert, Turner handed a $1,000 check to a local college student.
Photo by Todd Gaulding

“We’re moving forward and trying to get that clarified,” Thomson said. “We’re still in the process of talking with Ms. Turner and her representative.”

Tulloch’s free festival, now in its third year, kicks off on Saturday in Fort Greene Park, with Mos Def taking a star turn.

Common, Turner’s nephew, headlined last year’s festival, a free “urban Woodstock” that attracted thousands of people. Actors Malik Yoba and Rosie Perez hosted the event.

“I had asked Common to participate in that for me, to help make it as large as it was,” Turner said.

The festival had corporate sponsors including Con Edison, Coca Cola, and Bank of America, and charged local restaurants and organizations to set up tents.

Tulloch also set up donation boxes for the foundation at various locations, including a booth showcasing a Vespa on raffle and another selling Ajile Turner Foundation T-shirts.

Months after the concert, Turner hadn’t heard anything from Tulloch, so she contacted him to ask about the cash.

He told her the festival didn’t make any money. But when she asked about the donation boxes, he said that they were used to pay the festival’s bills.

Shea Peters, a Fort Greene resident and friend of the foundation, said she put dollars into the donation boxes last year and saw many others do the same.

She doesn’t understand what Tulloch did with that money.

“At the end of the day, he took money from the scholarship fund and he stole from our dead friend,” Peters said. “I can’t say his intentions were bad from the get-go, but the money is gone.”

Fort Greene Festival at Fort Greene Park (DeKalb and Myrtle avenues in Fort Greene), June 25, noon to 10 pm. Free. For info, visit www.fortgreenefest.com.

On its website, the Fort Greene Festival still claims that it supported the Ajile Turner Scholarship Fund.