On Thursday, the three leaders of Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation addressed the controversy that has surrounded the organization over the last month. When it was revealed in April by New York Magazine that BLM founder Patrisse Cullors secretly purchased a $5.8 million mansion in Southern California, outraged quickly ensued. In an effort of transparency, the 990s were posted on the Black Lives Matter foundation website.
Cicley Gay, D’Zhane Parker and Shalomyah Bowers held a media roundtable discussion to address the organizational finances. Bowers, whose consulting firm received $2 million, according to the tax documents, explained how that’s typical in businesses: “Less than 10% [of the $79 million raised] were dedicated to overhead and operational expenses, which is in stark contracts to the 30% in overhead costs from organizations that get A ratings from nonprofit watchdog organizations like GuideStar.”
He went onto explain more of how BLM funds have been distributed. “Over $25 million has been reinvested into the Black community; that broken down represents over $10 million in grants to Black led frontline organizations, truly doing the work of abolition on the ground. Over $13 million in grants [has gone] to Black Lives Matter chapters. Nearly $3 million have gone out in grants to impacted family foundations. $3 million has gone out directly for relief to Black people who were struggling during COVID when the administration was providing stimulus checks.”
The house purchased by Cullors was also addressed, though Gay clarified that her and Parker joined BLM after it was purchased. Bowers explained how the mansion serves as a house for the “Black Joy Creators Fellowship.” “The creator’s house was purchased as a space of our own with the intention of providing housing and studio space for recipients of the Black Joy Creators Fellowship in service to Black culture. The intention is that Black creatives will have an opportunity to launch online content,” Gay added.
When asked if the house was currently occupied by anyone, the board members confirmed that it wasn’t. As far as Cullors’ connection to Black Lives Matter goes: “Patrice is always honored as a movement founder and one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement and hashtag, she stepped down last year. She has no legal connection to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. We as the three board members are leading the foundation,” Gay explained.
The filings also revealed that nearly $1 million went to media production company Trap Heals LLC, a company founded by Damon Turner who has a child with Cullors. Nearly $840,000 went to Cullors’ brother Paul for security, something BLM will continue to pay for. “He still does currently serve as the organization’s head of security. The concept of having people you know and trust and have done work with in the past as employees or vendors and consultants within an organization or just on your team is not new,” Bowers shared.
Cullors isn’t officially attached to BLM anymore, though Parker saying they’re using her legacy with the organization as a turning point. “We are continuing to look over all of those...those learned lessons and figuring out how we could do it better in the future. We are planning to handle things differently moving forward.”