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BLM Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors Steps Down Amid Controversy Over Handling of Donations, Claims Exit Was Already In the Works

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation announced Thursday, May 27, that co-founder and current executive director, 37-year-old Patrisse Cullors would be stepping down from her role.

Cullors’ resignation comes amid continued controversy surrounding the management of funding the organization has received.

“With smart, experienced and committed people supporting the organization during this transition, I know that BLMGNF is in good hands,” said Cullors. “The foundation’s agenda remains the same — eradicate white supremacy and build life-affirming institutions. 

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation announced Thursday that co-founder and current executive director, 37-year-old Patrisse Cullors, would be stepping down from her role. (Credit: Cullors Youtube)

Cullors has headed the organization for six years, and said she is leaving in order to focus on the release of her second book and a TV development deal with Warner Bros.

She said her decision to step away has been in the works for a year and was not influenced by criticism she’s received in recent months.

The New York Post reported in April that Cullors had gone on a real estate “buying binge” starting in 2016, stirring controversy, purchasing four homes for $3.2 million.

Hawk Newsome, the head of Black Lives Matter Greater New York City, not affiliated with Cullors’ organization, called for an “independent investigation” into how the organization spends money. Two of the properties were bought prior to 2020. One is located in Atlanta while the other three are in Los Angeles.

News of the purchases broke after the Associated Press reported in February that BLM raised $90 million in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

Cullors has denied allegations that she purchased the homes with money raised by the organization.

“To be abundantly clear, as a registered 501c3, BLMGNF cannot and did not commit any organizational resources toward the purchase of my personal property,” she said in a statement. “Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false.”

The foundation said in a statemnet that, prior to 2019, Cullors had “received a total of $120,000 since the organization’s inception in 2013, for duties such as serving as spokesperson and engaging in political education work.”

A fact check by USA Today found no evidence to support the claim that Cullors used donations provided to the organization to purchase the properties.

After BLM revealed that it took in $90 million last year, the father of Michael Brown and Ferguson activists came forward in March, demanding a portion of the funds.

“We’re coming for what we deserve,” said IBFA representative Tory Russell. He demanded BLM provide $20 million to fund local Ferguson organizations.

BLM and Brown’s family met later in the month to hash out the differences between the two groups. Michael Brown Chosen for Change Foundation (CFC) confirmed after the meting that there was no “financial relationship or agreement established between the two foundations.”

In a public letter signed in December by local chapters including Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C. among others there was a call for transparency and accountability. The chapters pointed to Cullors’ appointment as executive director of BLMGN which went “against the will” of most chapters. There was also the formation of the Black Lives Matter Political Action Committee and BLM Grassroots which the chapters believed was done “without their consent and interrupted the active process of accountability that was being established by those chapters.”

Funding, according to the letter was also limited since the foundation’s inception. However, with the massive flow of funds in 2020, there was some access to funds but not in the manner the chapters sought.

“It was only in the last few months that selected chapters appear to have been invited to apply for a $500,000 grant created with resources generated because of the organizing labor of chapters. This is not the equity and financial accountability we deserve.”

BLM ended the year 2020 with about $60 million after spending nearly a quarter of its assets on the grant funds and other charitable giving.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Cullors expressed confidence about the organization’s ability to move forward without her. “I’ve created the infrastructure and the support, and the necessary bones and foundation, so that I can leave,” she said, “It feels like the time is right.”

Cullors has named Makani Themba, chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies, and Monifa Bandele, chief operating officer at Time’s Up Foundation, to step up and support the organization.

Her last day is Friday, May 28.

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