National Post (Latest Edition)

BLM co-founder resigns amid real estate controvers­y

Marxist owns US$3 million in property

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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.

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