Several charity auditors have expressed concern over how Black Lives Matter’s $60 million in donations was managed after it emerged that some people announced as the organization’s leaders never actually took on the position, and no one seemed to know who handled the finances.
Tax documents for the BLM charity, from 2019, mention an address in Los Angeles that does not exist, and the remaining two directors were unable to provide information – with one even removing BLM associations from his social media accounts after being approached by the Washington Examiner.
BLM has yet to submit its 2020 tax return, Form 990, as required by the IRS – and could be fined.
According to CharityWatch’s executive director, Laurie Styron, the findings are deeply troubling, and they ought to have filed their 2020 form by now.
‘Like a giant ghost ship full of treasure drifting in the night with no captain, no discernible crew, and no clear direction,’ Styron said.
According to Paul Kamenar, from the National Legal & Policy Center, a full audit is needed, describing the situation as ‘grossly irregular.’
Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, stepped down from the position of director of Black Lives Matter Global Network in May 2021, causing the problem to snowball.
In July 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Coullors co-founded BLM.
Oakland activist Alicia Garza wrote what she called a love letter to black people on Facebook, writing that “Our lives matter.”
A friend of Garza, Cullors, replied using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
Opal Tometi, an activist in New York, used the phrase as a resource when navigating a digital network of community organizers and antiracists.
Cullors was the network’s figurehead and leader throughout the George Floyd protests, which saw huge donations pour in. Garza and Tometi are no longer affiliated with the network.
Traditionally, the organization’s finances were handled by a group called Thousand Currents, which states that its mission is to support grassroots movements fighting for a more equitable and just world.
The organization applied for nonprofit status with the IRS in the summer of 2020, which was granted in December 2020 – allowing it to take direct tax-deductible donations.
A foundation receiving this designation is required to file public 990 forms that include information on organizational structure, employee compensation, programming, and expenses.
The transfer of $66.5 million between Thousand Currents and BLM was finalized by Cullors in September 2020.
Black Lives Matter reported that it had raised $90 million throughout 2020, distributed the money to its partner organizations, and had $60 million left over.
A snapshot of the report was shared with AP, and it showed that individual donations made through the BLM foundation’s main fundraising platform averaged $30.76 each.
There were recurring donations in excess of 10 percent.
Leaders declined to name prominent donors, and the report fails to mention who gave money in 2020.
The organization spent approximately $8.4 million on staffing, operating and administrative costs, as well as activities like citizen engagement, rapid response, and crisis intervention.
BLM admitted that they had previously been opaque about their structure and finances at the time – and was sharing the data to be more transparent.
The National Legal and Policy Center reported in April 2021 that Cullors was now the owner of a property empire worth 3.2 million dollars.
Researchers discovered that Cullors owned four properties, three in southern California and one outside Atlanta.
Cullors’s loyalty to BLM was questioned by many, as they wondered where she had gathered the cash. In addition to writing two books, Cullors has a deal with YouTube and has signed a production deal with Warner Bros. in 2020 to develop television programming geared toward children and families.
In the midst of the furor, however, she stepped down and announced that two new executive directors had been named — Makani Themba and Monifa Bandele.
However, Themba and Bandele both said in September that they had never taken up the roles because they disagreed with the leadership.
‘Although a media advisory was released indicating that we were tapped to play the role of senior co-executives at BLMGN, we were not able to come to an agreement with the acting Leadership Council about our scope of work and authority,’ a statement put out by the duo reads in part.
‘As a result, we did not have the opportunity to serve in this capacity.’
As their discussions never concluded, Themba and Bandele are unclear about who is now running BLM.
Documents obtained by The Washington Examiner indicate that Shalomyah Bowers and Raymond Howard continued to serve on the board after Cullors left.
As The Washington Examiner reported, Bowers served as treasurer for a number of activist organizations controlled by Cullors, including BLM PAC and a prison reform group based in Los Angeles who paid Cullors $20,000 a month and spent nearly $26,000 on ‘meetings’ in a luxury Malibu Beach resort during 2019.
There is no word from Bowers about the status of the $60 million in the BLM coffers.
The paper also asked Howard for comments, and he has since updated his LinkedIn profile to remove references to his involvement with ‘an international social justice organization’.