Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors announced Thursday that she will be leaving the group behind as questions about her spending refuse to fade away.
Cullors, whose multimillion-dollar mansion purchases led to controversy over the group’s finances, said she is moving on to focus on a TV deal with Warner Bros. and the release of her second book, according to The Associated Press.
The 37-year-old spent nearly six years leading the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.
Friday is her last day on the job.
“I’ve created the infrastructure and the support, and the necessary bones and foundation, so that I can leave,” she said, according to the AP. “It feels like the time is right.”
Cullors claimed the raging controversy over her mansion-buying spree had nothing to do with her exit, which she said was planned well in advance.
“Those were right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character, and I don’t operate off of what the right thinks about me,” she said.
The foundation said that it took in $90 million last year, spurred by donations that poured in after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. It ended the year with about $60 million, saying the rest was spent on operating expenses, grants to black-led groups and other donations.
Some say the money should have gone elsewhere.
“That is the most tragic aspect,” said the Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, president of an Oklahoma City BLM chapter and a representative of the #BLM10, a group of organizers that has been at odds with the foundation.
“I know some of [the families] are feeling exploited, their pain exploited, and that’s not something that I ever want to be affiliated with,” Dickerson said, according to the AP.
This fall, St. Martin’s Press will release Cullors’ “An Abolitionists Handbook,” which she says is a guide for activists.
Her TV projects, she said, will focus on black stories and will debut in July.
“I think I will probably be less visible, because I won’t be at the helm of one of the largest, most controversial organizations right now in the history of our movement,” Cullors said.
In April, the New York Post reported that Cullors had bought four homes in the United States for $3.2 million and was looking at purchasing a multimillion-dollar property in the Bahamas.
That followed a report in the real estate blog Dirt about her purchase of a $1.4 million home in the exclusive, mostly white Los Angeles enclave of Topanga Canyon.
Hawk Newsome, the head of Black Lives Matter Greater New York City, a separate group from the national foundation, called for an “independent investigation” into the national foundation’s finances.
Cullors said she never took money from the foundation, not even as a salary, and that her income came from her book deal and a YouTube deal.
In April, the foundation said Cullors was paid $120,000 from 2013 to 2019. It insisted none of its money was used to buy the homes purchased by Cullors, who began Black Lives Matter by calling herself a trained Marxist.
“As a registered 501c3 non-profit organization, (the foundation) cannot and did not commit any organizational resources toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer,” the foundation said in a statement.
“Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false.”
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