One of the founders of the embattled Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation admitted in an interview that she had hosted two previously-undisclosed parties at a $6 million residence purchased with funds donated to the organization.
Patrisse Cullors, who is regarded as a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and was the BLMGNF executive director until resigning last year, made the comments during a wide-ranging interview with the Associated Press published on Monday. In the interview, Cullors discussed what she believed were the organization’s shortcomings as it quickly grew from a decentralized, social-media driven rallying cry to an international social justice nonprofit that brought in tens of millions of dollars from individuals and corporations.
Cullors likened the organization’s rapid growth to “building the plane while flying it,” a nod to the idea that she and her BLMGNF colleagues were unprepared for the transition from grassroots organizers to executives with responsibility for fiscal oversight over huge sums of money. In hindsight, she said, she wished that the organization could have “paused for one or two years, to just not do any work and just focus on infrastructure.” She said she has been repeatedly harassed over her activism, most recently this month by Black conservative troll Candace Owens, who showed up at her home with a camera crew claiming to be filming a documentary.
Yet Cullors denies any financial wrongdoing and said it was hurtful that anyone would accuse her of using the organization as a piggy bank.
Criticism of BLMGNF and its founders has long centered on whether it was being appropriately transparent for an organization that had begun raising millions of dollars.
But perhaps the biggest controversy surrounding the organization and Cullors’ time leading it–she resigned as executive director last May–is the 2020 purchase of a $6 million Los Angeles home. Cullors has previously stated that the property was never intended for personal use but instead as a respite for artists and organizers as they worked on movement-related work. But in Monday’s Associated Press interview, she revealed she had at least twice used it for personal purposes.
From the Associated Press
Cullors knows that she gave critics an opening when she issued a statement denying suggestions that she had lived at the Studio City property or taken advantage of it for personal gain. She later acknowledged to the AP that, during a four-day stay at the property, she had used the compound for purposes that were not strictly business.
She said in January 2021, while seeking refuge at the property amid threats on her life, she hosted a small party to celebrate the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The gathering included about 15 people, including BLM Los Angeles chapter members and other prominent movement supporters, she said.
And in March 2021, she held a private birthday party for her son at the property, for which Cullors said she intended to pay a rental fee to the foundation. The foundation confirmed it had billed her, and it said it was reviewing its policies to prevent such uses in the future.
Cullors said, in hindsight, she should not have used the property that way.
“I look back at that and think, that probably wasn’t the best idea,” she said.
BLMGNF disclosed in 2020 that it had raised some $90 million in donations, according to the Associated Press. But several states have said that the organization has yet to file required documentation of its finances as nonprofits are required to do by law.
By December 2020, 10 local BLM organizations wrote an open letter claiming that BLMGNF lacked transparency and accountability. Not all of those local chapters, though, were officially linked to the national organization. By February of this year, the organization had been removed from Amazon Inc.’s charity platform, Amazon Smile, which allows users to choose a charitable organization to receive a small portion of the sales from some purchases.