May 30, 2023 - 4:45pm

The last week hasn’t been an easy one for Black Lives Matter. In recent days, public filings have revealed that a major group within the movement is “bleeding cash”, while further allegations have surfaced concerning misuse of donation funds. Should we have seen this coming?

After learning in July of 2013 that George Zimmerman had been acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, the activist Patrisse Cullors began using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter — and a movement was born. Later that year, Cullors and two other activists founded the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, whose mission is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities”.

BLMGNF is often assumed to be the sole or official Black Lives Matter organisation, though this actually isn’t the case: the movement itself is decentralised with no formal hierarchy. Nonetheless, BLMGNF is certainly one of the largest and most well-funded (emphasis on the latter).

Following the death of George Floyd in May of 2020, Black Lives Matter’s popularity surged – and so did BLMGNF’s revenue. In that year, the foundation managed to raise $90 million with support from the likes of Google, Amazon and Coca Cola. Yet it may soon be facing bankruptcy. According to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, BLMGNF’s revenue fell 88% last year, and it ran a deficit of $8.5 million.

The foundation has been mired in financial scandal for much of the last two years. In May of 2021, Cullors stepped down as executive director after the New York Post revealed the self-described “Marxist” had blown $3.2 million on luxury homes (though BLMGNF maintains these were not purchased with donated funds). At the time, Cullors stated that she wanted to focus on other projects, including a TV deal with Warner Brothers.

Then in May of 2022, the foundation made its first public tax filing. This showed that BLMGNF had spent more than $12 million on luxury properties, had paid $840,000 to Cullors’s brother for “professional security services”, and had paid another $970,000 to a company owned by the father of her child. Cullors subsequently described “990” (the name of the relevant tax form) as “triggering” and claimed the filing system was being “weaponized against us”. 

The foundation’s most recent disclosures confirm that its spending habits haven’t changed. Last year, Cullors’s brother was again paid $1.6 million for “professional security services”, while a company owned by one of her friends was paid $1.7 million for “management and consulting services”. To date, BLMGNF has allotted only $30 million for charitable grants.

In the very latest development, the New York Post reports that Cullors’s TV deal with Warner Brothers (the one that supposedly contributed to her resigning as executive director) “did not result in any produced shows” and therefore “expired at the end of October 2022”. Cullors, it seems, is a more diligent fundraiser than she is a filmmaker. 

Whether BLMGNF will in fact go bankrupt remains to be seen. Since it is just one of several Black Lives Matter organisations, the movement as a whole can probably weather its demise. The more important question is how it managed to raise so much money in the first place. Evidently, donors don’t bother with due diligence when the foundation has a reassuringly woke-sounding name.

Noah Carl is an independent researcher and writer.