HOUSTON - The Black Lives Matter organization is responding after questions were raised by charity monitoring groups and media outlets about how tens of millions of dollars in donations have been spent and the purchase of a $6 million California home.
Some charity monitoring groups and media outlets have reported that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF) a 501c3, has not revealed who is currently leading the organization or submitted required financial documents.
CharityWatch.org adds that some local BLM affiliates have complained that they haven't received the financial support they were hoping for.
"It didn’t actually have any financial activity until 2020 when it received over $60 million from its current fiscal sponsor," said Laurie Styron, Executive Director of CharityWatch.org. "That was in October 2020 and the public is still waiting for any kind of accountability of that money in an official document like a tax filing or an audit."
We reached out to BLMGNF, which sent us the following statement from board member Shalomyah Bowers regarding the California property:
"Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation purchased the property referenced in your inquiry with the intention for it to serve as housing and studio space for recipients of the Black Joy Creators Fellowship. The organization remains dedicated to radical Black philanthropy and support of artists who contribute their talents to raising awareness for the movement. The acquisition of the property is in furtherance of BLM’s mission and any ancillary usages that the organization determines is needed.
The organization always planned to disclose the property on the upcoming 990 due May 15th as part of BLMGNF’s ongoing transparency efforts. BLMGNF has and continues to utilize the space for programming and leadership off-sites. The property does not serve as a personal residence. Perkins Coie and Dyane Pascall were engaged to assist with the closing of the acquisition. BLMGNF formed an LLC to take ownership of the property, which is customary in real estate transactions to avoid exposing BLM’s assets to any litigation or liability.
The fellowship 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. Providing housing is an established practice for creators and artists. We ask that the exact physical address remain private as we continue to address security concerns facing the organization and its leadership (past and present). The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has faced numerous safety threats, both online and in person. As a common practice, the organization refrains from discussing its security operations."
BLMGNF says it will have more updates in the coming weeks, and referred us to statements posted on the Black Lives Matter Twitter account, reading in part, "BLMGNF is working diligently to increase operations transparency, including an internal audit, tightening compliance operations, and creating a new board to help steer the organization to its next evolution."
The tweets say more than $25 million have been given to Black-led frontline organizations, and to support families impacted by COVID and police violence.
We reached out to Patrisse Cullors, who stepped down as BLMGNF Executive Director last year. She did not respond, but has the following statement posted on her Instagram page:
"Yesterday’s article in New York Magazine is a despicable abuse of a platform that’s intended to provide truthful information to the public. Journalism is supposed to mitigate harm and inform our communities. That 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. To clarify again, the property the reporter addressed was purchased in 2020 as a space where those within the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF) and broader movement community could work, create content, host meetings and foster creativity. Although I cannot speak to how BLMGNF uses the property currently as I left the organization last year in May, it was purchased to be a safe space for Black people in the community. The reason it wasn’t announced prior is not nefarious as the headline infers, the property needed repairs and renovation. I do not own the property, have never lived there and made that clear to the reporter. I want to be clear: While I will always see myself as a part of the BLM community, I am no longer in leadership, and I am not a part of any decision-making processes within the foundation. I have never misappropriated funds, and it pains me that so many people have accepted that narrative without the presence of tangible truth or facts. Nevertheless, this will soon be made clear upon the release of the BLM 990s. To those within our movement and others who have looked to me for leadership, I’m sorry you have consistently had to engage with this kind of hateful and erroneous content. I admittedly have not always responded and I know my silence has contributed to doubt. I apologize if it has caused you harm of any kind. But I’m asking you all to understand the enormous pressure and fear that comes with living under the constant threat of white supremacist terror and real threats on my life and those of people I love. But I’m no longer letting fear hold me back from calling out these attacks."
We also reached out to Black Lives Matter Houston about whether it has received support from BLMGNF, but have not heard back.
How to check out a charity
Before donating to any charity, donors can check charity monitoring sites for information on how an organization spends donations.