Black Lives Matter Co-founder Patrisse Cullors Steps Down As Executive Director After Criticism Over Finances

Black Lives Matter Co-founder Patrisse Cullors Steps Down As Executive Director After Criticism Over Finances
Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, speaks in Los Angeles, Calif., in a file photograph. (Rich Fury/Getty Images for Teen Vogue)
Katabella Roberts

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors announced on May 27 that she is stepping down from her role as executive director of the movement’s foundation following criticism over the foundation’s finances and her personal wealth.

Cullors, 37, told the Associated Press that her departure, which is effective Friday, had been planned for a year and had nothing to do with the personal attacks she has faced from far-right groups or any disputes within the movement.

She said she is leaving to focus on other projects, including the upcoming release of her second book and a multi-year TV development deal with Warner Bros.

“I’ve created the infrastructure and the support, and the necessary bones and foundation, so that I can leave,” Cullors told The Associated Press. “It feels like the time is right.”

Cullors’ resignation comes just one month after The New York Post reported she had purchased “four high-end homes for $3.2 million” in the United States since 2016, all of which were in predominantly white neighborhoods.

She had also looked into purchasing a residence in the Bahamas at an ultra-exclusive resort where Justin Timberlake and Tiger Woods both have homes, according to the Post.

At the time of the report, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation issued a statement saying that they had not paid for Cullors’s house.
However, the report prompted Hawk Newsome, the head of Black Lives Matter Greater New York City, to call for an independent investigation into the foundation’s finances.

Cullors told AP on Thursday that the reports had no influence over her decision to resign from her role as executive director.

“Those were right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character, and I don’t operate off of what the right thinks about me,” she said.

The BLM Foundation told AP in February that it had raised $90 million amid last year’s racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The foundation said it ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60 million, after spending nearly a quarter of its assets on operating expenses, grants to black-led organizations, and other expenses.

In its April statement, the foundation said that Cullors had received $120,000 between 2013 and 2019 for duties such as serving as spokesperson and engaging in political education work.

“As a registered 501c3 non-profit organization, [the foundation] cannot and did not commit any organizational resources toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer,” the foundation said. “Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false.”

However, critics of the foundation contend more of that money should have gone to the families of black victims of police brutality who have been unable to access the resources needed to deal with their trauma and loss.

Following Cullors’s departure, BLM is bringing in two new interim senior executives; Makani Themba, Chief Strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies, and former executive director of The Praxis Project; and Monifa Bandele, Chief Operating Officer at Time’s Up Foundation. Both women have been supporters and advisors of Black Lives Matter since its inception.

“I think both of them come with not only a wealth of movement experience, but also a wealth of executive experience,” Cullors told AP.

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