Here’s the real takeaway from Black Lives Matter’s patchy finances

Following the exposure of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s IRS tax documents, it’s now safe to say that something questionable is happening at the social justice nonprofit.

According to the group’s Form 990, first reported by the Associated Press, BLM has a net worth of nearly $42 million — after more than $37 million of the previously $90 million trust for high-end real estate Advisors, ambitious grants and more were spent more.

One of the more troubling situations uncovered by the financial disclosures is the fact that co-founder Patrisse Cullors was the sole voting director of the foundation board and did not hold board meetings before stepping down last year. Under her leadership, Cullors approved a six-figure payout to the father of her child for various services, paid $1.8 million to businesses owned by her relatives, and ensured her brother Paul Cullors was one of BLM’s highest-paid employees.

This is another wave of bad news for Cullors, who has consistently denied financial impropriety as she previously tried to quell growing concerns about her decision-making. Not only did those tax documents prove that Cullors lied about misusing some of the funds (like hosting a birthday party for her son and hosting a private housewarming for Biden at the multimillion-dollar mansion earmarked for activists and creators was) but that she did so repeatedly.

“I’m a person who made mistakes, who wants to change, who wants to challenge those mistakes, and want to learn from those mistakes,” Cullors told Tramaine Lee of MSNBC’s Into America podcast on Monday. “And I think what was difficult is feeling like there’s no room and space for that.”

“If the general public wanted to fund multimillion-dollar mansions, trips by high-profile executives, and paid gigs for the founder’s relatives, it could easily have donated to the Trump Foundation.”

While all of this news is disappointing and alarming, there is one truth we should all grasp: all politics is local, including the grassroots activism it takes to organize.

Much of what Cullors now calls “white debt money” has for years been targeted at national organizations like BLM, which say their missions are focused on addressing racial injustice. Cullors once made headlines when she said she “triggers” the term “990s” — but that’s what nonprofit transparency looks like. If the general public wanted to fund multimillion-dollar mansions, trips by high-profile executives, and paid gigs for the founder’s relatives, it could easily have donated to the Trump Foundation.

Local Black Lives Matter chapters across the country have for years raised concerns about how the national arm has left them financially malnourished. And that this could happen if its co-founders reap lucrative book deals, speaking engagements, and career opportunities.

For donors of all identities, donating to the national organization seemed like an easy way to maximize impact. But I’d bet most donors are probably furious when they see their money being used for anything other than direct action on the ground.

It’s hard to imagine how best this money could have been spent if chapters and other activist groups working more directly on the ground had received a larger share of this money to do the actual work. To be fully aware now that a large portion of the $90 million raised for BLM during the 2020 race riots was not used to fuel the continuation of similar activities at the local level feels like a betrayal. Worse, it’s hard not to view such a fundraiser as anything other than just a grand scam.

For those who have donated money to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, now is the time to stop.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t give money to black activism efforts, but to reconsider who and where you give it. While it will take some extra work on your part to find local groups worthy of your financial support, such funds will have a more significant impact than anything that trickles down from a huge conglomerate – especially one that can afford mansions buy while many neighborhood orgs can barely leave the lights on.

To cite a personal example, I made a considered decision in 2016 to stop making donations to national LGBTQIA political organizations. The impetus was the Human Rights Coalition – a major national organization – which was reluctant to endorse former Republican Senator Mark Kirk. who had made racist comments at the time. As a black queer man, I was angry that the organization had decided to use various resources to support a Senate Republican whom they had not fully screened for problematic behavior.

Since then, I’ve been prouder to donate funds directly and donate volunteer hours to local nonprofits that do more intersectional work, like the William Way LGBT Community Center in my own Philadelphia backyard.

At a time when resources are scarce and there seem to be more problems than solutions, it is time for all of us to remember the importance of local grassroots efforts that have always empowered people and politics. If the power really is with the people, then so should the funding — and such funding should never go to $6 million mansions and VIP parties, it should go to the ground where the people are. Here’s the real takeaway from Black Lives Matter’s patchy finances


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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