National Post (Latest Edition)
BLM co-founder resigns amid real estate controversy
Marxist owns US$3 million in property
A Black Lives Matter cofounder has resigned from her role as executive director amid controversy over her US$3 million property portfolio.
Patrisse Cullors, who founded the racial justice movement in 2013, is a self-described Marxist but faced criticism after it was reported last month that she owns four properties, including a US$1.4 million house in Malibu and a ranch in Georgia.
The 37-year-old says she was the victim of “right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character,” and that her resignation had long been planned because she has a new book and television deal.
“I don’t operate off of what the right thinks about me,” she added as she denied that finances had any relation to her resignation.
BLM said she had “received a total of US$120,000 since the organization’s inception” following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighbourhood watch volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Claims that she had misused donations to purchase property were strongly denied and last month she told the Black News Channel that suggestions of financial impropriety against her were “categorically untrue.”
But she faced criticism from BLM organizers over the way she has spent her money. “If you go around calling yourself a socialist, you have to ask how much of her own personal money is going to charitable causes,” Hawk Newsome, a Black Lives Matter organizer, told the New York Post.
“It’s really sad because it makes people doubt the validity of the movement.”
BLM collected US$90 million in donations last year, as the movement hit the global spotlight following the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis.
The foundation spent a third of that sum in 2020 on operating expenses, grants to black-led organizations and other charitable giving. But concerns have been raised as to how much funding was spent on justice programs.
Activists called for more transparency and said more should be given to the black communities directly impacted by police brutality.
“I know some of (the families) are feeling exploited, their pain exploited,” said Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, a representative of the BLM10, a national group of organizers that has publicly criticized the foundation over funding and transparency.
In 2018, Cullors’ book When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir became a New York Times bestseller. She will release An Abolitionist’s Handbook in October and has a multi-year deal with Warner Bros. to produce original content centred on black stories. The first of her TV projects will debut in July, she said.