‘This doesn’t seem safe for us…this nonprofit system structure,’ group’s founder says
2022 wasn’t a very good year for Black Lives Matter.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation raised just $9.3 million in the fiscal year ending in June 2022—an 88 percent decrease from the year prior, according to records obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. It’s a staggering decline from Black Lives Matter’s heyday in the summer of 2020, when it parlayed the nationwide unrest that followed George Floyd’s death into an $80 million financial bonanza.
The Black Lives Matter charity used that windfall to accumulate property and spread wealth to leadership while it could. Its founder, Patrisse Cullors, went on a cross-country real estate buying spree, snagging four properties in California and Georgia for a cool $3.2 million. The charity secretly purchased a glitzy $6 million compound in Los Angeles in October 2020 with donor cash, which Cullors used to film videos of herself drinking wine and baking peach cobblers. Not content with its budding American property empire, Black Lives Matter branched out to Canada, granting $8 million to its Canadian affiliate to finance the purchase of a Toronto mansion in July 2021 for $6.3 million.
Cullors’s family and friends reaped benefits too. Financial disclosures released in May 2022 revealed Black Lives Matter paid her brother, Paul Cullors, $840,993 for “professional security services,” a sizable sum for the self-taught graffiti artist with no prior experience as a bodyguard. Paul Cullors went on to purchase his own Los Angeles home for $637,000 in December 2020. Black Lives Matter paid $969,459 to an art firm run by the father of Cullors’s only child, Damon Turner. A consulting firm owned by a Black Lives Matter board member Shalomyah Bowers, a close associate of Cullors, received $2,167,894 for providing management services for the charity.
Black Lives Matters’ troubles began when Cullors’s personal real estate purchases surfaced in April 2021. The two activists who were supposed to replace her never took the job. Black Lives Matter fell so far behind in disclosing its finances to the public that several liberal states barred it from raising funds in their jurisdictions in early 2022. The charity voluntarily shut down its ability to raise funds in February 2022 amid the crackdown.
The pressure of having to disclose the self-dealing that went on at Black Lives Matter on watch was almost too much to bear for Cullors. She said during an April 2022 event that she gets “triggered” whenever she hears the term “IRS Form 990,” a standard financial disclosure document charities are required to file every year to the public.
“This doesn’t seem safe for us, this 990 structure—this nonprofit system structure,” Cullors said. “This is, like, deeply unsafe. This is being literally weaponized against us, against the people we work with.”
Black Lives Matter’s Form 990 tax return covering its fiscal year starting July 2020 and ending July 2021 was ultimately weaponized, but not by the nefarious right-wing forces Cullors often claims to be persecuted by.
Black Lives Matter Grassroots, a former sister organization of Black Lives Matter, cited the charity’s tax return in a September 2022 lawsuit accusing Bowers, a close associate of Cullors, of using the charity as his “personal piggy bank.” The lawsuit alleged Bowers siphoned an additional $10 million in “fees” from Black Lives Matter to his consulting firm on top of the $2,167,894 disclosed in the charity’s Form 990.
Bowers “continued to betray the public trust by self-dealing and breaching his fiduciary duties,” BLM Grassroots said in its lawsuit. “His actions have led [Black Lives Matter] into multiple investigations by the Internal Revenue Service and various state attorney generals, blazing a path of irreparable harm to BLM in less than eighteen months.”
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