Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors to step down as foundation’s executive director

A co-founder of Black Lives Matter is to step down from its foundation but insisted her decision is not linked to what she branded “right-wing attacks” seeking to discredit her.

Patrisse Cullors said Friday would be her last day after nearly six years at the helm of the movement, set up to tackle racial injustice.

The 37-year-old activist said her resignation has been planned for more than a year and she is leaving to focus on a book and TV deal.

She said: “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.”

However, her resignation comes amid controversy over the group’s finances and her own personal wealth.

Last month it was reported that the self-declared Marxist had built up an expanding property portfolio, including a luxury home near Malibu and a ranch in Georgia.

But Ms Cullors said: “Those were right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character, and I don’t operate off of what the right thinks about me.”

The BLM foundation revealed in February that it took in just over $90m (£63m) last year, following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, whose killing under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer sparked protests around the world.

The foundation said it ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60m (£42m), after spending nearly a quarter of its assets on operating expenses, grants to organisations and other charitable giving.

Critics of the foundation argue more 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 organisers that has publicly criticised the foundation over funding and transparency.

She added: “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.”

Ms Cullors and the foundation have said they do support families without making public announcements or disclosing actual amounts.

In April, the foundation stated Ms Cullors was a volunteer executive director who, prior to 2019, had “received a total of $120,000 since the organisation’s inception in 2013, for duties such as serving as spokesperson and engaging in political education work”.

As a registered non-profit organisation, the foundation said it did not put any funding “toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer,” and added: “Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false.”

In 2018, Ms Cullors released her first book 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 payment for that work in a personal capacity.

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The BLM movement started as a social media hashtag, following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighbourhood watch volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Ms Cullors said: “I think I will probably be less visible, because I won’t be at the helm of one of the largest, most controversial organisations right now in the history of our movement.

“I’m aware that I’m a leader, and I don’t shy away from that. But no movement is one leader.”

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