Black Lives Matter co-founder and former head of the charity arm Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Patrisse Cullors recently denied accusations that she or any of her colleagues misused organization funds.
Cullors told the Associated Press that building the organization involved a lot of trial and error and that it was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and sudden growth, especially when it came to the flood of donations around the 2020 summer racial justice riots after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
“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. 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.”
BLM was hit with intense backlash this year after it was uncovered that the BLMGNF funneled $6 million to a nonprofit founded by Khan-Cullors’s wife, Janaya Khan, to buy a 10,000-square-foot mansion in Toronto with six bedrooms and bathrooms, a swimming pools, and other expensive amenities. The compound was supposedly dedicated as a “transfeminist, queer affirming space politically aligned with supporting Black liberation work across Canada” for Black creators to produce new projects.
Cullors denied that the charity committed any wrongdoing with the purchase, telling AP, “We really wanted to make sure that the global network foundation had an asset that wasn’t just financial resources…and we understood that not many Black-led organizations have property. They don’t own their property.”
A self-proclaimed Marxist, Cullors also bought at least four houses for a total of around $3.2 million. She resigned as the group’s executive director shortly after the New York Post reported on the acquisitions in April 2021.
She dismissed the allegations that she stole from BLM or abused her position within the organization for personal financial gain.
“The idea that (the foundation) received millions of dollars and then I hid those dollars in my bank account is absolutely false,” she said. “That’s a false narrative. It’s impacted me personally and professionally, that people would accuse me of stealing from Black people.”
When the foundation announced it raised $90 million last year, many supporters suspected funny business and demanded transparency and accountability as to where the money would be directed in a reaction that took Cullors by surprise, she told AP.
“I thought practicing radical transparency with Black people would have been received well,” she said. “What was unhelpful about releasing it was not getting enough people allying with us about it. We weren’t the only organization to receive millions of dollars.”