Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Patrisse Cullors has spoken against a report that reveals her organization’s purchase of a $5.8 million mansion in southern California, calling the story a “racist and sexist” attack on the movement.
According to the April 4 report by New York Magazine, the 6,500 square-foot California estate was bought in October 2020 using money that had been donated to Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which acts as a fundraising umbrella for BLM activism. It’s unclear who leads the foundation since Cullors stepped down from her position in May 2021 amid criticism over its lack of financial transparency.
The ownership of the house, which comes with “half a dozen bedrooms and bathrooms, several fireplaces, a soundstage, a pool and bungalow, and parking for more than 20 cars,” was transferred to an LLC in Delaware so that the new owner’s identity would not be disclosed, the magazine claimed.
In a statement sent to the magazine on April 1, BLM board member Shalomyah Bowers said that the Foundation had “always planned” to disclose the California house, which they had bought “with the intention for it to serve as housing and studio space for recipients of the Black Joy Creators Fellowship.”
The said fellowship, which “provides recording resources and dedicated space for Black creatives to launch content online and in real life focused on abolition, healing justice, urban agriculture and food justice, pop culture, activism, and politics,” was only announced on April 2, the following morning.
Amid a new round of scrutiny over how BLM spends its donation money, Cullors called the magazine’s mansion story a “despicable abuse of a platform that’s intended to provide information to the public.”
“The fact that a reputable publication would allow a reporter, with a proven and very public bias against me and other Black leaders, to write a piece filled with misinformation, innuendo and incendiary opinions, is disheartening and unacceptable,” she wrote in an Instagram post.
Cullors added that the reason the purchase wasn’t announced was that house required “repairs and renovations” before it could serve as a “safe space for Black people.” She further claimed that she “never misappropriated funds,” although the magazine didn’t accuse her of doing so.
The magazine did claim that the BLM leadership hoped to keep the existence of the house a secret. In a video posted to YouTube in June 2021, however, the property appeared to serve as the backdrop as three then-BLM leaders, namely Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Melina Abdullah, toasted to the 1st-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd.
“For me, the hardest moments have been the right-wing-media machine just leveraging literally all its weight against me, against our movement, against BLM the organization,” Cullors says in the now-deleted video, apparently referring to a New York Post report saying she bought four houses totaling over $3.2 million in predominantly white neighborhoods.
A non-profit and tax-exempt organization, BLM Global Network Foundation has recently found itself caught in a series of compliance issues. According to documents obtained by Washington Examiner, the state of Washington notified the foundation in January 2022 that its state charitable registration had been suspended for failing to provide required records of its financial activities, meaning that the foundation must cease all solicitations in Washington until it is “properly re-registered.”
A similar order was issued in California, where the foundation is based. In the Jan. 31 letter, California’s justice department told the foundation that it is banned from soliciting unless it submits financial records to the state within 60 days. The Department also warned that individuals “responsible for failure to timely file these reports” would be personally liable for all late fees.