OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
It seems that BLM and its founder, Patrisse Cullers, have been caught in more lies and financial improprieties.
BLM, or Black Lives Matter, was founded during the wake of George Floyd’s May 2020 death by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Ay Tometi who pledged to ‘build a decentralized movement governed by consensus.’
As donations and support grew, local BLM chapters across the nation transformed into nonprofit organization.
Cullors became the foundation’s full-time executive director that year, charged with ensuring it had the organizational infrastructure to handle the massive influx of donations and would use the resources to further its mission, The Daily News reported.
The purchase of a 6,500 square-foot Studio City property was revealed last month, following an investigation by New York Magazine.
News of the previously under wraps transaction – made more than a year and a half ago – inspired a new wave of criticism concerning the financial practices of the foundation’s leaders.
At the time, Cullors – who attested the property was bought as a ‘safe space’ for black creatives, activists, and thought leaders, and that its purchase was never disclosed because it needed renovating – angrily hit back at her detractors, describing criticism she was facing since the purchase was made public as ‘racist and sexist,’ The Daily Mail reported.
Cullors defended the purchase. ‘We really wanted to make sure that the global network foundation had an asset that wasn´t just financial resources,’ she said, ‘and we understood that not many black-led organizations have property. They don´t own their property.
Cullors, 38, had previously issued a statement denying that she’d ever lived there or used the $6 million, seven-bed Studio City mansion for her personal gain.
Now she has admitted she lied in regard to usage of the property. She told the Associated Press Monday that she used the property – purchased in cash by BLM in October 2020 – for her own recreation twice.
The first instance saw her hold a party to toast Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s inauguration as president and vice president in January 2021.
Then, in March 2021, she held a private birthday party for her son at the property, for which Cullors told AP she intended to pay a rental fee to the foundation. Black Lives Matter confirmed it had billed her, but it’s unclear how much for, if she was charged the same rate as anyone else, and if she has since settled up the supposed debt.
BLM said it was reviewing its policies to prevent such uses in the future, The Daily Mail reported.
Cullors said of her earlier decision to lie: ‘I look back at that and think, that probably wasn’t the best idea.’
Cullors, who resigned from the foundation last May amid reports she spent millions on a slew of lavish homes with donated dollars, conceded she had made mistakes and acknowledged that BLM was ill-prepared to handle a tidal wave of contributions in 2020. She said the foundation was slow to build the necessary groundwork to address the flood of financial contributions, Daily Mail reported.
‘On paper, it looks crazy,’ she said. ‘We use this term in our movement a lot, which is we’re building the plane while flying it. I don’t believe in that anymore.’
She then declared: ‘The only regret I have with BLM is wishing that we could have paused for one to two years, to just not do any work and just focus on the infrastructure.’
Culler’s excuses seem feeble for a person overseeing a non-profit. Others connected to the foundation have made statements in criticism of the events.
‘Still, legitimate questions of accountability should not be dismissed, said Garza, the BLM co-founder who was not involved in the BLM organization after 2015.
‘I think it is important to be transparent about what is actually happening,’ Garza said.
‘And my assessment is that because there was a lack of response (to public questions), specifically from the global network foundation, it allowed for people to fill in the blanks.’
She added: ‘If there is impropriety (in the foundation), we should talk about it. I don´t think we should sweep that under the rug, but we haven´t established that.’
Foundation supporters such as Justin Hansford, the director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University also criticized the purchase of the property last month.
He said regarding the property purchase, ‘That’s the thing that you don’t want to get out of hand,’ after news of the property first surfaced last month.
In the year since her resignation, the BLM foundation hasn´t hired new leadership or publicly discussed plans for money still sitting in its coffers.
Earlier this month that the foundation announced a new board of directors, and only recently has caught up with its charitable disclosure paperwork in California.
Shalomyah Bowers, who is a BLM board member and the president at Bowers Consulting, a firm that has provided operational support to the BLM foundation for two years, said during a phone interview that the organization had been working since Cullors´ departure to sort out its infrastructure, The Daily Mail reported.
‘We are now a foundation that is deeply devoted to investing in organizations that are committed to doing the work of abolition (and) committed to building black power,’ he said.