BLM founder Patrisse Cullors resigns

The woman who sits atop 60 million dollars worth of donated funds, after the unexplained departure of her ostensibly charitable organization's co-founders, failing to file legally required financial disclosures, and buying a multi-million-dollar real estate portfolio, surprised everyone yesterday by announcing her resignation.  Claiming that it has nothing to do with criticism of her multi-million-dollar real estate–buying spree and complaints of financially stiff-arming other BLM groups, Patrisse Cullors

announced Thursday that she is stepping down as executive director of the movement's foundation. She decried what she called a smear campaign from a far-right group, but said neither that nor recent criticism from other Black organizers influenced her departure.

Patrisse Cullors, who has been at the helm of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation for nearly six years, said she is leaving to focus on other projects, including the upcoming release of her second book and a multiyear TV development deal with Warner Bros Her last day with the foundation is Friday. (snip)

The 37-year-old activist said her resignation has been in the works for more than a year and has nothing to do with the personal attacks she has faced from far-right groups or any dissension within the movement.  (Al Jazeera)

That must be why her announcement came out of the blue.

Here is a five-minute video she released announcing her move:

While Cullors co-founded BLM with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi in the wake of George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin death, she was the only one who remained with the foundation that took in $90 million last year, in the wake of George Floyd's death while in police custody.  

The AP spoke with Cullors about her move:

"I've created the infrastructure and the support, and the necessary bones and foundation, so that I can leave," Cullors told The Associated Press. "It feels like the time is right." (snip)

"Those were right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character, and I don't operate off of what the right thinks about me," Cullors said.

As she departs, the foundation is bringing aboard two new interim senior executives to help steer it in the immediate future: Monifa Bandele, a longtime BLM organizer and founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in New York City, and Makani Themba, an early backer of the BLM movement and chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies in Jackson, Mississippi.

"I think both of them come with not only a wealth of movement experience, but also a wealth of executive experience," Cullors said.

The BLM foundation revealed to the AP in February that it took in just over $90 million last year, following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, a Black man whose last breaths under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer inspired protests globally. The foundation said it ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60 million, after spending nearly a quarter of its assets on operating expenses, grants to Black-led organizations and other charitable giving.  (snip)

In 2020, the BLM foundation spun off its network of chapters as a sister collective called BLM Grassroots, so that it could build out its capacity as a philanthropic organization. Although many groups use "Black Lives Matter" or "BLM" in their names, less than a dozen are considered affiliates of the chapter network.

There is considerable dissatisfaction over the disposition of the millions of dollars raised.  The U.K. Daily Mail reports:

The head of New York City's BLM chapter called for an independent investigation into the organization's finances after revelations about the property portfolio surfaced. 

'If you go around calling yourself a socialist, you have to ask how much of her own personal money is going to charitable causes,' BLM organizer Hawk Newsome told The New York Post. 

'It's really sad because it makes people doubt the validity of the movement and overlook the fact that it's the people that carry this movement.'  (snip)

Cullors' co-founders have left, and last summer Cullors assumed leadership of the Black Lives Matter Global Network - the national group that oversees the local chapters of the loosely-arranged movement. (snip)

BLM's Global Network filters its donations through a group called Thousand Currents, Insider reported in June - which made it even more complicated to trace the cash. 

Solome Lemma, executive director of Thousand Currents, told the site: 'Donations to BLM are restricted donations to support the activities of BLM.' 

The New York Post reports:

Critics of the foundation contend more of that money should have gone to the families of Black victims of police brutality who have been unable to access the resources needed to deal with their trauma and loss.

"That is the most tragic aspect," said the Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, president of an Oklahoma City BLM chapter and a representative of the #BLM10, a national group of organizers that has publicly criticized the foundation over funding and transparency.

"I know some of (the families) are feeling exploited, their pain exploited, and that's not something that I ever want to be affiliated with," Dickerson said.

Cullors and the foundation have said they do support families without making public announcements or disclosing dollar amounts.

Adding to the difficulty in tracing the financial flows of the millions of dollars donated to BLM is the organization's non-compliance with financial disclosure laws and its fleeing the jurisdiction of California, as Fox News reported a month ago:

A social justice nonprofit chaired by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors is moving to operate in other states as it avoids filing required financial documents in California, filings show.

Cullors' nonprofit, Dignity and Power Now, was warned by California's attorney general's office in March over its failure to file all the required financial documents for 2019. According to state records, Dignity and Power Now is currently delinquent in California, where it is incorporated.

"A delinquent organization may not engage in any activity for which registration is required, including solicitation or disbursing of charitable assets," reads an earlier warning sent to Cullors' nonprofit from California's Registry of Charitable Trusts, which was first reported by the Daily Signal. 

But as the nonprofit remains in a delinquent state, records show that the organization has been active as it continues sidestepping its required financial forms. Just weeks after receiving its latest warning, Dignity and Power Now submitted an Application for Certificate of Authority on April 1 with North Carolina's secretary of state's office to conduct business in the state. Cullors is listed as an officer in the documents. (snip)

Dignity and Power Now, which formed in 2012, has failed to file an audited financial statement to accompany the group's 2019 tax forms, which did not include the required signature of an officer.

Then there is the question of her co-founders and the other groups sporting the BLM name.  In December 2020, Politico headlined, "Black Lives Matter power grab sets off internal revolt."

The Black Lives Matter movement is buckling under the strain of its own success, with tensions rising between local chapters and national leaders over the group's goals, direction — and money. (snip)

After a summer of protests that made Black Lives Matter a household name, those atop the movement are making a series of moves to alter its power structure: organizing a political action committee, forming corporate partnerships, adding a third organizing arm and demanding an audience with President-elect Joe Biden. (snip)

Two of its three co-founders are no longer affiliated with the movement — even as they continue to represent Black Lives Matter on TV. Local Black Lives Matter activists say national leaders cut them off from funding and decision-making, leaving them broke and taking the movement in a direction with which they fundamentally disagree. And as the Black Lives Matter movement grows in influence, with millions in donations and celebrity endorsements, local organizers argue they're the ones in the streets pushing for change — and they're not getting their due.

The moves have triggered mutiny in the ranks.  Ten local chapters are severing ties with the Black Lives Matter Global Network, as the national leadership is known.  They are furious that Patrisse Cullors, its remaining co-founder, assumed the role of executive director of the group and made these decisions without their input.  That's a move that, to some, signaled a rebuke of its "leaderful" structure, which gave every member an equal say and kept anyone — including a founder — from overreaching.

The operations of Black Lives Matter have always been opaque, with thousands of members and dozens of affiliates.  Two of its three co-founders are no longer affiliated with the movement — even as they continue to represent Black Lives Matter on TV.

"There's been intentional erasure," of local activists, said Sheri Dickerson, lead organizer with Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City. "People assume that that money is distributed to local chapters. That is not the case. People also assume that when actions are made, that national [leadership] has the support and agreement from this collective that what they're saying is representative of us. And that's certainly not the case."

There are a lot of people who want a closer look at the money that has flowed to BLM and the rise of Patrisse Cullors's net worth.  She has a multi-year deal to produce content for Warner Brothers, one bestseller book and another book on the way, and a consulting firm and has worked as a public speaker.  It may well be that she has earned every penny that she invested in real estate.  But the failures to meet regulatory requirements for financial disclosure are a red flag that justifies close examination of the books.  Maybe Cullors wants a certain distance from what may follow.

Photo credit: YouTube screen grab.

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