The drama continues inside the nonprofit organization that became synonymous with a nationwide protest movement against police violence. This time, an argument over millions of dollars might play out in open court.
A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles accuses Shalomyah Bowers, a consultant brought in to help run the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation of pilfering $10 million in funds away from the organization’s grassroots wing. The suit names Bowers, a consulting firm he runs and BLMGNF as defendants and accuses Bowers specifically of “siphoning” money contributed by donors from the on-the-ground activists it was intended to help.
The suit calls Bowers “a rogue administrator” who over 18 months did “irreparable harm” to the organization.
“...Mr. Bowers decided he could not let go of his personal piggy bank, when more than 300 movement leaders, as well as BLM Founders, insisted he resign from GNF. Instead he continued to betray the public trust by self-dealing and breaching his fiduciary duties,” the lawsuit reads.
In a statement on its website, Bowers and the foundation denied the allegations and characterized the lawsuit as a distraction from more important issues.
“We should be focused on the work — the work of liberation and Black joy. Instead, we face, yet again, another round of struggle for ‘control’ of one organization,” the statement read.
The latest allegations, which Bowers and the foundation deny, follow a pattern of mismanagement and accusations of financial impropriety inside the foundation, which many still view as inseparable from broader social justices movements.
BLMGNF is currently led by a triumvirate of Cicley Gay, D’Zhane Parker and Bowers, who was brought on in 2020 by co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Cullors left he organization in May 2021 . In May of this year, Gay, Parker and Bowers held a press conference to address several controversies surrounding the organization’s finances. Those included Cullors’ use of BLM funds to buy a $5.8 million Southern California mansion that she lived in for a time and which hadn’t been disclosed until a New York Magazine article in April. They also included the fact that the foundation hadn’t filed the IRS Form 990 tax return required of nonprofit organizations in several years.
When the form was filed in May for the group’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, it showed BLMGNF had $42 million in assets after having taken in $90 million in contributions.