Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors has been pictured for the first time since her $3.2 million property portfolio sparked controversy.
Cullors, 37, was pictured in Los Angeles Tuesday carrying the book Self Evident Truths: 10,000 Portraits of Queer America – for which she wrote the foreword.
The activist recently announced her resignation from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, after news reports revealed she owned four residential properties in upscale California and Georgia neighborhoods with a total value of more than $3 million dollars.
Critics were concerned that the homes were purchased with money the prominent activist earned from the nonprofit foundation – though she has clarified that they were purchased with money she earned through public speaking and book deals.
Last month, Cullors – who described herself as a ‘trained Marxist’ – referenced stories about her four homes when resigning, saying reporting of the properties was a ‘tactic of terror’ and an example of ‘right-wing bullying.’
Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors has been seen out in Los Angeles publicly for the first time and was pictured carrying the book Self Evident Truths: 10,000 Portraits of Queer America – for which she wrote the foreword
The activist recently announced her resignation from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation
News reports had revealed she owned four residential properties with a total value of more than $3 million dollars
Cullors purchased her homes with cash she earned from public speaking and books she earned – but faced accusations of hypocrisy
Some publications falsely alleged she took a large annual salary from the foundation, affording her recent purchase of a southern California home
Cullors and BLM have clarified that the homes were purchased with money she personally earned through public speaking and book deals
Cullors, who has been at the helm of the foundation for nearly six years, said she is leaving to focus on other projects, including the upcoming release of her second book and a multi-year TV development deal with Warner Bros.
‘I’ve created the infrastructure and the support, and the necessary bones and foundation, so that I can leave. It feels like the time is right,’ she said.
Her departure follows a massive surge in support and political influence in the U.S. and around the world for the BLM movement, which was established nearly eight years ago in response to injustice against black Americans.
‘Those were right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character, and I don´t operate off of what the right thinks about me,’ Cullors said.
The foundation is bringing aboard two new interim senior executives to help steer it in the immediate future: Monifa Bandele, a longtime BLM organizer and founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in New York City, and Makani Themba, an early backer of the BLM movement and chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies in Jackson, Mississippi.
‘I think both of them come with not only a wealth of movement experience, but also a wealth of executive experience,’ Cullors said.
The BLM foundation revealed to the Associated Press in February that it took in just over $90 million last year, following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by white Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin.
The foundation said it ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60 million, after spending nearly a quarter of its assets on operating expenses, grants to black-led organizations and other charitable giving.
Critics of the foundation contend more of that money should have gone to the families of black victims of police brutality who have been unable to access the resources needed to deal with their trauma and loss.
‘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 national group of organizers that has publicly criticized the foundation over funding and transparency.
‘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.
Cullors and the foundation have said they do support families without making public announcements or disclosing dollar amounts.
In 2020, the BLM foundation spun off its network of chapters as a sister collective called BLM Grassroots, so that it could build out its capacity as a philanthropic organization. Although many groups use ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘BLM’ in their names, less than a dozen are considered affiliates of the chapter network.
It emerged earlier this year that Cullors had bought this $1.4 million home in a mainly-white area of LA
She has also bought three other homes including this one in Georgia – altogether totaling around $3 million
In 2018, Cullors released When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir which became a New York Times bestseller. She has also consulted on a number of racial justice projects outside of BLM, taking compensation for that work in her personal capacity.
She and the BLM movement have come a long way since its inception as a social media hashtag, following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Cullors, along with BLM co-founders Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, pledged then to build a decentralized movement governed by consensus of a members´ collective.
In 2015, a network of chapters was formed, while donations and support poured in. Garza and Tometi soon stepped away from day-to-day involvement in the network to focus on their own projects.
Cullors, who has arguably been the most publicly visible of the co-founders, became the foundation´s full-time executive director last year purely out of necessity, she said.
‘We needed her,’ said Melina Abdullah, who leads BLM Grassroots and co-founded, with Cullors, BLM´s first-ever official chapter in Los Angeles.
Cullors is set to release a new book later this year, and is also developing and producing original cable and streaming TV content that centers on Black stories, under a multi-year deal with Warner Bros.
The first of her TV projects will debut in July, she said.
Who are the co-founders of Black Lives Matter?
Opal Tometi accepts the Social Justice Advocacy Award on stage during the MoCADA 3rd Annual Masquerade Ball at Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2017
In July 2013, Alicia Garza wrote an emotional Facebook post noting how she continued to be surprised ‘at how little black lives matter,’ CNN reported.
Garza’s post was made the night before the verdict was expected to be announced in George Zimmerman’s trial for killing Trayvon Martin, a black teen.
Garza’s friend, Patrisse Cullors, was inspired to create the twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on July 15, which quickly went viral.
Garza and Cullors reached out to Opal Tometi to help establish accounts on Tumblr and Twitter using the hashtag and where users could share relevant personal stories and information.
That same year, the organization’s first chapter was formed in Los Angeles with the help of Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan African Studies, according to the BBC.
The death of Michael Brown in 2014 sparked massive protests against police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri.
Graza, Cullors, and Tometi organized ‘Freedom Rides’ to Ferguson, transporting hundreds of protesters who adopted the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ throughout the months-long protests.
In 2015, a network of chapters was formed, as support and donations poured in.
The group formally incorporated as the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. in 2017 and has seen been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The the network consists of 13 official chapters in the US, plus three more in Canada, according to the BLM website. Local chapters are semi-autonomous,
Cullors, who became the foundation´s full-time executive director last year, is the author of When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.
She is currently producing a YouTube Originals series called Resist, which premiered November 18, 2020, according to Essence.
Alicia Garza, pictured, is the principal at Black Futures Lab, an organization that develops public policy
Garza is the author of The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart, which was published in October 2020 by Penguin Random House.
She is the principal at Black Futures Lab, an organization that develops public policy and helps educate elected officials about legislation that improves the lives of Black people.
Opal Tometi, who created a black new media and advocacy hub called Diaspora Rising, is the former Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
Garza and Tometi are not involved with the foundation but continue to make appearances as movement co-founders.
Opal Tometi attends A Special Screening of Queen & Slim presented by Universal Pictures at Metrograph in 2019