One of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement announced on Thursday that she is resigning as the executive director of the foundation, amid controversy surrounding her allegedly lavish lifestyle.
Patrisse Cullors, 37, maintained that neither right-wing attempts to discredit her nor criticism from other Black activists had anything to do with her decision to step down. Her last day with the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which she helmed for nearly six years, is on Friday.
Ms Cullors said that she is going to focus on the upcoming release of her second book and a multi-year TV development deal, highlighting Black stories with Warner Bros.
She said: “I’ve created the infrastructure and the support, and the necessary bones and foundation so that I can leave. It feels like the time is right.” She said that she had been planning her exit for almost a year.
Ms Cullors had faced criticism from several quarters targeting her lifestyle after it came to light that she bought four “high-end” homes worth $3.2m in the US. Reports called it a “buying binge” at the time.
At the time of these reports, some fellow activists had expressed shock. The NY Post quoted Hawk Newsome, the head of Black Lives Matter Greater New York City, which is not affiliated with Ms Cullors’ Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, saying that there should be “an independent investigation” to find out how the global network spends its money.
#BLM co-founder & communist activist steps down following investigative report by @nypost which revealed she had spent millions on multiple homes across the US. Patrisse Cullors said that reporting was white terrorism. https://t.co/0p8jI4V6dS
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) May 28, 2021
He added: “If you go around calling yourself a socialist, you have to ask how much of her own personal money is going to a charitable cause. It’s really sad because it makes people doubt the validity of the movement and overlook the fact that it’s the people that carry this movement.”
Ms Cullors has called these accusations “categorically untrue and incredibly dangerous”.
She said: “Those were right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character, and I don’t operate off of what the right thinks about me.”
JUST IN - #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Patrisse Cullors is stepping down as executive director of the organization amid controversy over her $3 million property portfolio.
— Disclose.tv 🚨 (@disclosetv) May 27, 2021
The Black Lives Matter Foundation revealed in February that it had raised $90m (£63m) amid last year’s BLM protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The foundation had said that it ended 2020 with more than $60m (£582,000) after spending almost a quarter of its assets on grants to several black-led organisations, operating expenses among others.
Critics have claimed that the money should have gone to the families of black victims that were killed at the hands of police.
Rev T Sheri Dickerson, president of an Oklahoma City BLM chapter and a representative of the #BLM10, a national group of organisers, told the media: “That is the most tragic aspect. I know some of (the families) are feeling exploited, their pain exploited, and that’s not something that I ever want to be affiliated with.”
In a statement, the Black Lives Matter Foundation said: “As a registered 501c3 non-profit organisation, [the foundation] cannot and did not commit any organisational resources toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer. Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false.”
— TheLeoTerrell (@TheLeoTerrell) May 27, 2021
Senior executives Monifa Bandele and Makani Themba, both early BLM supporters, have been brought in to help with the transition.
On her Instagram page, Ms Cullors posted a video explaining why she was “transitioning out of my role as executive director of the BLM.” In the caption, she said: “This decision comes after a truly fulfilling and challenging journey that has been one of my life’s greatest honours.” She claims that by the end of 2019 she had “actually stepped back” and that “I really wanted to see the next generation of leadership lead.” When the uprising happened last year, she continues, “folks at Black Lives Matter asked me to come back” and “I came back.” She says it was always supposed to be an interim return.