Non-profit

Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation

Common social media logo/profile/avatar for the formal Black Lives Matter organization (link)
Website:

www.blacklivesmatter.com

Location:

United States

Tax ID:

82-4862489

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Formation:

2013

Type:

Race and Criminal Justice Advocacy

Former Executive Director:

Patrisse Cullors (July 2020 – May 2021)

Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLM Global Network Foundation) is the primary organizational outgrowth of the more decentralized Black Lives Matter movement. According to an Associated Press report from February 2021, BLM Global Network Foundation was granted tax-exempt status by the IRS in December 2020.[1] Prior to that, it was a fiscally-sponsored project first of Thousand Currents, and later of the Tides Center, an affiliate of the Tides Foundation, a major left-of-center donor-advised fund.[2]  BLM Global Network Foundation is affiliated with the Black Lives Matter PAC and with Black Lives Matter Grassroots.

The organization has been criticized for its advocacy of radical-left policies like defunding the police. The lack of transparency in its finances and operations has also attracted substantial scrutiny. Since co-founder Patrisse Cullors stepped down from her position as the group’s executive director in May 2021, it has been unclear who leads BLM Global Network Foundation.

Mission and Activities

BLM Global Network Foundation was founded in 2013 by activists Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. [3] Cullors, Garza, and Tometi created and popularized the “#blacklivesmatter” hashtag on social media that was instrumental in the early growth of the Black Lives Matter movement. [4]

BLM Global Network Foundation was first under the fiscal sponsorship of Thousand Currents (formerly the International Development Exchange). [5] Thousand Currents officially transferred control of BLM Global Network Foundation to Tides Center in July 2020. [6] That same month, Cullors became the executive director of the Foundation. [7] The Associated Press reported in February 2021 that the BLM Global Network Foundation had been granted tax-exempt status by the IRS in December 2020.[8]

BLM Global Network Foundation claims that its mission, and the mission of the Black Lives Matter movement generally, “is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” Advocating against the use of excessive force by law enforcement against African-Americans is central to the BLM Global Network Foundation mission,[9] and the movement as a whole gained national prominence after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in which Black Lives Matters protestors played central roles in organizing demonstrations against police. [10] BLM Global Network Foundation co-founder Cullors wrote at the time that the Black Lives Matter movement was “rooted in grief and rage but pointed towards vision and dreams.” [11]

BLM Global Network Foundation organizes protests against allegedly unjustified killings of African-Americans by police. In 2017, it organized protests and petition drives to demand that Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey prosecute five Inglewood, California, police officers involved in the shooting of two African-Americans who were sleeping in the officers’ police car. [12] The officers were fired but not prosecuted, and eventually sued the city for discrimination and unlawful termination, settling out of court for $8.6 million. [13]

In 2019, BLM Global Network Foundation unveiled its #WhatMatters2020 campaign, an effort to increase African-American turnout in the 2020 presidential election and “build collective power and ensure candidates are held accountable for the issues that systematically and disproportionately impact Black and under-served communities across the nation.” The campaign features voter registration drives in minority communities and especially among younger black voters. [14]

In 2020, BLM Global Network Foundation began advocating for releasing inmates from prisons and local jails in response to the spread of COVID-19 in those institutions, as well as for limitations on arrests during the pandemic to prevent viral spread in jail populations. [15]

BLM Global Network Foundation also sponsors “Black Lives Matter Arts+Culture,” which seeks to “disrupt the status quo of the art world by uplifting emerging Black artists who speak audaciously, who are unafraid, and who stand in solidarity with the most marginalized among us.” [16] In 2017, BLM Global Network Foundation sponsored “The Provocateurs: A Master Series,” where “[a]rtists give 12-minute TED-style talks about their practice and journey as a provocative Black artist.” [17]

BLM Global Network Foundation has been noted for its links to communist ideology. In 2020, video of an interview from 2015 resurfaced in which BLM Global Network Foundation co-founder Patrisse Cullors declared that she and fellow co-founder Alicia Garza were “trained Marxists.”[18] When Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died in 2016, the organization published an article on Medium that declared “we must push back against the rhetoric of the right and come to the defense of El Comandante,” and ended with “Fidel Vive!”[19] Susan Rosenberg, the vice-char of the board of directors of BLM Global Network Foundation’s former fiscal sponsor Thousand Currents, was a convicted member of the May 19th Communist Organization responsible for multiple bombings in the 1980s.[20]

Several Black Lives Matter chapters have made statements in opposition to capitalism on their official websites, including Black Lives Matter DC[21] and Black Lives Matter Chicago.[22]

BLM Global Network Foundation committed almost $2 million to get-out-the-vote efforts during the 2020 U.S. general election.[23] Its texting campaign had “nearly 6 million conversations with Black youth voters,” it held get-out-the-vote drive-in events in Michigan and Georgia, and it brought DJs to the polls on election day in North Carolina, Nevada, and Florida.[24]

In its 2020 Impact Report, BLM Global Network Foundation wrote that it “has decided to fully lean into its capacity as a fundraising body, grantmaking entity, amplifier, and action-oriented think tank of the movement.”[25]

Seven Demands

In early May 2021, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation released a list of seven demands on its website, blacklivesmatter.com, which called on Congress to enact radical left-wing policies punishing Republicans in Congress, former President Donald Trump, and police forces across the country. [26]

First among the demands was the immediate conviction of former President Donald Trump by the Senate and a permanent ban on his holding of any elected office in the future. [27] The demand did not specify what Trump ought to be convicted of, but did state that the organization was “joining” Democratic Representatives Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman in calling for a conviction. [28]

The second demand called for “Republican members of Congress who attempted to overturn the election and incited a white supremacist attack” to be expelled from Congress. [29] The demand referenced the efforts of Republican senators to oppose the certification of the contested 2020 election results, and the riots that occurred at the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. According to the organization, the demand would expel “more than half” of all Republican representatives, and “multiple” senators from Congress, as they are “dangerous and traitorous.” [30] The organization also said it supports Representative Cori Bush’s resolution to expel certain Republicans from Congress and supports efforts to prevent these representatives from seeking office in the future as well. [31]

Demand number three called for an investigation into supposed ties between white supremacy and the Capitol Police, law enforcement, and the military. [32] The demand did not list any particular white supremacist organizations whose supposed ties to the Capitol Police ought to be investigated, nor did it specify what would be done after the investigation or who would perform it. [33]

The fourth demand called for former President Donald Trump to be permanently banned from all social media platforms, on the grounds that he used social media platforms like Twitter to “incite violence and promote its continuation.” [34]

The fifth demand called for Congress to “Defund the Police.” [35] The demand was extremely vague as to what exactly defunding the police would entail; it merely said that “more funding is not the solution” and again cited the January 6 Capitol riots as evidence of corruption. [36]

As a sixth demand, the organization called for a freeze on further anti-terrorism laws like the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021, alleging that such laws are used by a racist police force to target minority communities and trample on civil rights instead of stopping terrorism. [37]

Finally, the last demand was for the passage of the BREATHE Act, a radical left-wing omnibus police reform bill created by the Black Lives Matter Electoral Justice Project, a 501(c)4 project of the Movement for Black Lives. [38]

Organizational Structure and Internal Disagreements

BLM Global Network Foundation is affiliated with the political action committee Black Lives Matter PAC, and with Black Lives Matter Grassroots. Black Lives Matter Grassroots functions as an “assembly of chapters” that are “focused on local, grassroots level work.” In July 2020 there were “almost twenty chapters” in BLM Global Network Foundation’s network.[39]

In December 2020, Politico reported that “[t]en local chapters are severing ties with the Black Lives Matter Global Network.”[40] These chapters wrote an open letter in which they alleged that Patrisse Cullors “became Executive Director [of BLM Global Network Foundation] against the will of most chapters and without their knowledge,” and that “BLM Grassroots, does not have the support of and was created without consultation with the vast majority of chapters.”[41]

BLM Global Network Foundation has asserted that it does not control the Black Lives Matter movement generally or even set the policy agenda for chapters within its network, claiming that it is a “leaderful,” not “leaderless” movement[42] that relies mostly on local leadership and activism as opposed to national leadership or policy advocacy. [43] The organization has been subject to internal disagreements between more moderate “reform” activists and more strident “abolition” activists who seek wholesale transformation of the criminal justice and political systems. [44] This dynamic has led some critics to argue that BLM Global Network Foundation and the Black Lives Matter movement generally disingenuously encourages radical and strident rhetoric, especially against police officers, and then disavows acts of violence against those officers committed by persons associated with or sympathetic to the movement. [45]

One example of the split between reformist and abolitionist camps is the conflict between BLM Global Network Foundation co-founders Garza and Tometi. Garza has been described as advocating “for staying outside of existing power structures” and as “not interested in playing ball with Democratic politicians for the sake of a few concessions here and there—or, worse, being used as a photo op prop by politicians.” By contrast, Tometi advocated working with the leadership of the Democratic party to enact legislative changes, especially in immigration policy. The relationship between the two founders deteriorated and Tometi has not been involved in the management of BLM Global Network Foundation since December 2015. [46]

The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has been confused with the Black Lives Matter Foundation, a separate independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Santa Clarita, California with which it has no affiliation.[47] Thousand Currents, the former fiscal sponsor of BLM Global Network Foundation, reported more than $90,000 in combined grants to the Santa Clarita-based Black Lives Matter Foundation in its 2017[48] and 2018[49] tax filings. Thousand Currents later explained that these tax filings were erroneous, that no money was actually provided to the Black Lives Matter Foundation, and that the money was sent to local Black Lives Matter chapters.[50]

Nonprofit Compliance Issues

In January 2022, a reporter from the Washington Examiner attempted to obtain a copy of BLM Global Network Foundation’s 2020 Form 990 tax return at the Los Angeles address listed on its previous IRS filings. A security guard told the reporter that there had never been a Black Lives Matter office at that location, and an unidentified spokesperson for BLM Global Network Foundation reportedly later told the Examiner that the group did not currently have a “permanent office.” The spokesperson offered to mail a copy of its Form 990 within two weeks.[51]

According to records obtained by the Washington Examiner, the state of Washington notified BLM Global Network Foundation in early January 2022 that its state charitable registration had been “closed” for failure to comply with applicable administrative requirements. The letter stated “all solicitations conducted on [BLM Global Network Foundation’s] behalf must immediately cease in Washington State until such time as it is properly re-registered” (emphasis in original). An official with the state’s Corporations and Charities Division told the Examiner that charities whose registrations had been closed could face fines for continuing to solicit online donations from state residents.  Despite the order, the Examiner confirmed that as of January 31 donations from Washington state residents were still being accepted on the organization’s website.[52]

A January 31, 2022 letter from the California Department of Justice similarly notified BLM Global Network Foundation that it was “delinquent with The Registry of Charitable Trusts for failing to submit required annual report(s),” and that it was not permitted to solicit or disburse charitable assets while it was delinquent. The letter warned that unless these reports were filed within 60 days, late fees would be imposed for which individuals “responsible for failure to timely file these reports” would be personally liable.[53]

Several nonprofit experts told the Washington Examiner that questions surrounding BLM Global Network Foundation’s finances and operations raised red flags. The Executive Director of the nonprofit watchdog group CharityWatch, Laurie Styron, described it as “like a giant ghost ship full of treasure drifting in the night with no captain, no discernable crew, and no clear direction.” Noting that “the amount of money involved here is not insignificant,” Styron also remarked that “hopefully, we can all agree that tax-subsidized public charities have an ethical responsibility to be transparent with the public about how they are operating and how the donations they receive are being used.”[54]

On February 2, 2022, it was reported that BLM Global Network Foundation had removed the online donation feature from its website. An unidentified spokesperson told the Washington Examiner that the group was taking state nonprofit compliance issues seriously and had engaged counsel to address the matter.[55] It was later reported on February 4 that webpages for donating to BLM Global Network Foundation via the online fundraising platform ActBlue Charities had been deactivated.[56]

On February 8, 2022, the Washington Examiner further reported that New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas was also considering an investigation into the BLM Global Network Foundation. A spokeswoman for Balderas’ office reportedly would not confirm that an investigation had been opened but did state that Balderas’ office was working on “securing compliance” from the organization. [57]

As of early February 2022, the Washington Examiner reported that the BLM Global Network Foundation’s charitable registration was out of compliance in California, Washington, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland, Maine, and Virginia. As of late February, its registration had been reinstated in California, New Mexico, Connecticut, Colorado, and Maine.[58]

On February 16, 2022, it was reported that Amazon had removed the BLM Global Network Foundation from its AmazonSmile platform, which donates 0.5% from eligible purchases to approved nonprofits.[59] A representative from Amazon told the Washington Examiner that “organizations are required to be in good standing in their state of incorporation and in the states and territories where they are authorized to do business,” in order to participate in AmazonSmile. The Examiner noted that Amazon had publicly announced plans to donate to the BLM Global Network Foundation in 2020, though the spokesperson declined to state exactly how much Amazon had donated to the group.[60]

In March 2022, the BLM Global Network Foundation reportedly sent an email containing a “donate” button that, when clicked, directed users to a fundraising webpage for the affiliated Black Lives Matter PAC, a political action committee that works to help elect Democrats. Section 501(c)(3) nonprofits are prohibited from soliciting contributions for candidates or political organizations, and one expert told the Washington Examiner that the email “appears to be a clear violation” of those rules. The consulting firm Fireside Campaigns, which had sent the email on BLM Global Network Foundation’s behalf, told the Washington Examiner that the fundraising link was mistakenly added to a non-fundraising email.[61] Fireside Campaigns later stated that there had been “no authorization or prior knowledge from [BLM Global Network Foundation] to include the donation link at the bottom of the email,” and that all of the money raised from the email had been refunded.[62]

In April 2022, Indiana attorney general Todd Rokita filed a lawsuit against the BLM Global Network Foundation. Rokita’s office had opened an investigation into the group’s finances in February 2022, and the lawsuit stemmed from a demand related to that investigation. Rokita’s statement noted “concerning patterns of behavior from this organization, and we will do what it takes – including this lawsuit – to get to the bottom of it.”[63] Months earlier, Rokita had told the Washington Examiner that “it appears that the house of cards may be falling, and this happens eventually with nearly every scam, scheme, or illegal enterprise.”[64]

Delaying 2020 Disclosures

On February 16, 2022 the Washington Examiner reported that the BLM Global Network Foundation had used an unusual “accounting gimmick” to delay reporting what it had done with the $60 million fundraising haul the organization had collected during the summer of 2020. [65] According to the report, the BLM Global Network Foundation made the unusual decision to switch its 12-month internal accounting cycle from a normal calendar year to a July-June fiscal year. By switching accounting cycles, the BLM Global Network Foundation was able to delay reporting its activities in the later half of 2020, when it received most of its funding, and instead disclose sparse information on just the first half of the year. [66] Laurie Styron, executive director of CharityWatch, a nonprofit watchdog group, told reporters that “To not know who is in charge of $60+ million collected by the national charity arm of arguably the most prominent social justice movement in the country is the worst transparency issue I have seen in my 18 years as a charity watchdog.” [67]

The limited 2020 Form 990 revealed that during the BLM Global Foundation Network’s financial records were in the care of the Elias Law Group. [68] The Elias Law Group is a Democrat-aligned law firm created by Marc Elias, a former Perkins Coie partner and head counsel for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign who helped fund the discredited Christopher Steele dossier that spawned the debunked Trump-Russia collusion story in 2016. [69]

The filings also revealed that Minyon Moore, a longtime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton and former chief executive officer of the Democratic National Committee, had joined that BLM Global Foundation Network on the board of directors. [70] [71]

The Washington Examiner reported that Elias and Moore’s sudden appearance in the organization’s public disclosures signaled that the BLM Global Foundation Network and its funds had been taken over by “Clintonworld” during 2020. Scott Walter, president of the Capital Research Center, which publishes InfluenceWatch, said “The latest filing’s addition of partisan lawyer Marc Elias confirms the group is more political than charitable, but it also suggests that finally some left-wing heavyweights have begun to deal with the embarrassing mess made by a major activist group the institutional Left has failed to, pardon the term, police.” [72]

Leadership

As of January 2022, it is unclear who leads the BLM Global Network Foundation.[73]

Patrisse Cullors “assumed the role of Executive Director” of the BLM Global Network Foundation in July 2020.[74] Less than a year later, in May 2021 Cullors announced that she was stepping down from the BLM Global Network Foundation. Cullors stated that she was turning her focus to personal projects, such as the release of her second book and a TV development deal she signed with Warner Bros. [75]

Cullors’ abrupt resignation came weeks after a report in the Daily Caller News Foundation alleged “that she had used her position as the charity’s leader to funnel business to an art company led by the father of her only child,” an arrangement that several nonprofit experts said raised “ethical and legal questions.” Previous reports had revealed that Cullors had purchased four homes for a total of $3.2 million since 2016. BLM Global Network Foundation later stated that Cullors had received a total of $120,000 from the organization since 2013, and that it “did not commit any organizational resources toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer.”[76]

In February 2022, after several states ordered the BLM Global Network Foundation to cease fundraising, Cullors lashed out at reporters investigating her tenure as the organization’s Executive Director. In an interview with Morehouse College, Cullors said the idea that she had acted with impropriety was “incredibly anti-black and sexist,” and claimed that she and other leaders at the organization had sustained “collective trauma” from the intense scrutiny by various journalists. [77]

Cullors also claimed that “right-wing media disinformation and misinformation” had been deployed within the black community to smear her and that black reporters questioning her were not actually black, saying “the black media — I put in quotes, not all black media is actually black — spread those rumors … I was naive to think black journalists and black media would be interested in talking to me first versus spreading misinformation and disinformation.” [78]

Cullors went on to claim that she was “being targeted because [she’s] part of a long legacy of civil rights workers and human rights leaders,” and that she had “never done anything illegal.” Later on, however, she acknowledged that BLM Global Network Foundation had not always been transparent about its finances and stipulated that the organization did not “go out and solicit the money,” rather that the money “came from white guilt, white corporation guilt, and they just poured money in.” [79]

BLM Global Network Foundation announced that Makani Themba and Monifa Bandele would be the organization’s senior executives upon the departure of Cullors. As of May 2021, Themba was serving as chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies and was the former executive director of The Praxis Project, while Bandele was chief operating officer at Time’s Up Foundation. According to the announcement, the two would “lead BLMGNF until the organization finds a new permanent team.”[80]

Despite the announcement, in September 2021 Themba and Bandele issued a joint statement revealing that neither had ever actually taken on the role of senior executive due to an inability “to come to an agreement with the acting Leadership Council about our scope of work and authority.” They later told the Washington Examiner that they were unsure who ultimately took over as BLM Global Network Foundation’s executive, and declined to identify members of the organization’s Leadership Council.[81]

Board of Directors

According to reporting by the Washington Examiner in January 2022, BLM Global Network Foundation’s board members include Shalomyah Bowers and Raymond Howard. Neither responded to request for comment as to who has been in charge of the organization since Cullors’ departure. Bowers is founder and president of the Bowers Consulting Firm,[82] and also served as treasurer of the Black Lives Matter PAC. Howard had reportedly been serving as finance and operations manager at the consulting firm New Impact Partners. The Examiner reported that New Impact Partners’ website formerly featured a quote from “Raymond” at BLM Global Network Foundation stating that “New Impact Partners helped my team narrow in on the root cause of our organizational challenge.”[83][84]

In February 2022, reports on newly released Form 990s showed that as of 2020, Minyon Moore, a longtime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton and former chief executive officer of the Democratic National Committee, had joined the BLM Global Foundation Network on the board of directors. [85] [86]

In April 2022, the BLM Global Network Foundation announced that Cicley Gay and D’Zhane Parker had been appointed to the group’s board, to serve alongside Shalomyah Bowers. The announcement did not mention Minyon Moore or Raymond Howard, though it asked readers to “please be on the lookout for additional Board of Directors announcements.”[87]

The Washington Examiner noted that both Gay and Parker were closely tied to Patrisse Cullors, which suggested “that BLM is either unwilling or unable to find leadership outside Cullors’s circle of influence.” All three BLM Global Network Foundation board members mentioned in the April announcement had worked for the 2019 Reform LA Jails campaign that had been led by Cullors. Gay’s company received $53,000 from the campaign for consulting services, while Bowers’ company received about $280,000. Parker was paid $20,500 as the campaign’s lead organizer, according to the Examiner.[88]

Financials

In 2021, BLM Global Network Foundation released its 2020 Impact Report, which provided the first detailed look at the organization’s finances. In 2020 it raised approximately $90 million, incurred $8.4 million in operating expenses, and disbursed $21.7 million in grants.[89] Spending on get-out-the-vote campaigns during the 2020 U.S. general election totaled almost $2 million. The organization reported a balance of approximately $60 million after these expenses and grant disbursements.[90]

BLM Global Network Foundation’s Form 1023 Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code was filed in August 2020. As reported by the Washington Examiner, the organization “expected to incur precisely $12,706,366 in ‘Professional Fees’ expenditures during the same calendar year.” The Examiner noted that this was approximately $4.3 million more than what BLM Global Network Foundation later disclosed in its 2020 Impact Report.[91]

In October 2020, Thousand Currents transferred $66,490,000 to BLM Global Network Foundation pursuant to an asset transfer agreement dated September 23, 2020 and approved by the California Office of the Attorney General on October 6. 2020.[92]

In audits covering fiscal years 2018[93] and 2019,[94] Thousand Currents reported $2,622,017 and $3,354,654, respectively, in donor-restricted assets for BLM Global Network Foundation. These audits also showed that 83.3 percent of BLM Global Network Foundation expenditures were for personnel, consultant, and travel costs during the three year period from 2017-2019, while about 6 percent were for grants to outside organizations, including to local Black Lives Matter Chapters.[95]

Form 990 (2020-2021)

In May 2022, BLM Global Network Foundation released its IRS Form 990, covering the period from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. It reported that it had received $79,644,823 in total revenue, incurred $37,710,135 in total expenses, and had total net assets of $41,934,688. Its expenses included $25,997,945 worth of grants, of which $17,971,790 was paid to domestic organizations and $8,026,155 to foreign organizations.[96]

The form disclosed two officers: Patrisse Cullors, who served in an uncompensated capacity as executive director, and former managing director Kailee Scales, who was paid $139,625 in severance.[97] It also disclosed that Cullors had reimbursed BLM Global Network Foundation $73,523 for a charter flight she had taken for foundation-related travel in 2021, and $390 for her use of the nonprofit’s property for private events.[98] During the fiscal year, Cullors was BLM Global Network Foundation’s only voting director, and no board meetings were held.[99]

The form revealed that BLM Global Network Foundation had paid substantial sums of money to businesses run by individuals closely connected to the nonprofit and its leadership. It reported paying $2,167,894 to Bowers Consulting Firm, a for-profit business run by BLM Global Network Foundation board member Shalomyah Bowers, for a variety of operational and administrative services. It also reported paying $969,459 to Trap Heals LLC, a for-profit business founded by Damon Turner, who is the father of a child with Patrisse Cullors. It paid $840,993 for “professional security services” to Cullors Protection LLC, which is run by Paul Cullors, the brother of Patrisse Cullors.[100][101]

Commenting on the form, Ohio State University professor Brian Mittendorf noted that “it’s a best practice not to engage in business transactions with people who have influence inside the organization or with companies affiliated with people who have influence inside the organization.” He noted that BLM Global Network Foundation “comes across as an early startup nonprofit, without substantial governance structure in place, that got a huge windfall.” Though saying it was “another question” as to whether the form revealed improprieties, Mittendorf explained that the organization had “certainly” set itself up for criticism.[102]

Purchase of Former Communist Party of Canada Headquarters

In July 2021 the nonprofit M4BJ purchased a 10,000 square foot mansion in downtown Toronto that formerly served as the headquarters of the Communist Party of Canada. According to reporting in the Washington Examiner, the bulk of the $8.1 million (approximately $6.3 million in U.S. dollars)[103] purchase price came via a “restricted capital grant” provided by the BLM Global Network Foundation.[104] Black Lives Matter Canada is a project of M4BJ.[105] The building, named the Wildseed Centre for Art & Activism, houses Black Lives Matter Canada and “is a transfeminist, queer affirming space politically aligned with supporting Black liberation work across Canada.”[106]

The purchase attracted considerable controversy, as it occurred weeks after the resignation of former BLM Global Network Foundation executive director Patrisse Cullors amid public scrutiny over her personal real estate transactions. Janaya Khan, a Canadian activist who co-founded Black Lives Matter Canada,[107] is married to Cullors. In January 2022, two former members of Black Lives Matter Toronto’s steering committee released a statement explaining that they had resigned from the group over BLM Canada’s purchase of the Wildseed Centre, which they called “unethical.” The two activists said the purchase was made “without consulting the community,” and claimed that BLM Canada refused to answer questions about the transaction.[108]

Purchase of $6 Million California Property

In April 2022, New York magazine reported that the BLM Global Network Foundation had used almost $6 million in donated funds to purchase a 6,500 square foot property in California. A man named Dyane Pascall reportedly purchased the house in late 2020, and ownership was soon after transferred to an LLC established by the law firm Perkins Coie.[109]

Pascall serves as financial manager for a consulting company run by Patrisse Cullors and her spouse Janaya Khan, and as chief financial officer for Trap Heals, a company founded by the father of Cullors’s child. Cullors’s brother was reportedly responsible for “physical security” at the property, her mother was “approved for a cleaning job” there, and her sister signed an employee nondisclosure agreement, though it is unclear whether she worked there. Cullors herself used the property to film a cooking video for her personal YouTube channel.[110]

The property was reportedly used for producing audiovisual content and for temporary overnight accommodations, though New York magazine noted that “relatively little content has been produced there over the course of 17 months.” Shalomyah Bowers, who serves on the board of directors of BLM Global Network Foundation, stated that the property was intended “to serve as housing and studio space for recipients of the Black Joy Creators Fellowship.” The fellowship program was publicly announced soon after journalist Sean Campbell of New York magazine asked about the property.[111]

Campbell asked BLM Global Network Foundation about the property on March 30, 2022. He reported that afterwards the group’s leadership “circulated an internal strategy memo with possible responses.” These included “Can we kill the story?” and “Our angle – needs to be to deflate ownership of the property.” According to Campbell, the memo also addressed “Accounting/990 modifications,” and referenced the need “to first make sure it’s legally okay to use as we plan to use it.” Bowers told Campbell via email that the group had “always planned” to report the property in its May 2022 legal filings.[112]

According to Campbell, documents and communications he had seen “suggest that [the house’s purchase and operation] has been handled in ways that blur, or cross, boundaries between the charity and private companies owned by some of its leaders,” and that it “creates the impression that money donated to the cause of racial justice has been spent in ways that benefit the leaders of Black Lives Matter personally.”[113]

A professor who specializes in nonprofits, Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, told New York magazine that the details of how the house was managed deserved closer scrutiny, and noted that intermingling assets among BLM Global Network Foundation, Cullors, and other entities could potentially put the group’s tax-exempt status at risk. Former GuideStar chief executive officer and Candid co-founder Jacob Harold remarked that even if the circumstances surrounding the house were not illegal or unethical, it was nevertheless a “very legitimate critique” to question why the group had purchased the property instead of spending the money on addressing “the core issues around Black Lives Matter.”[114] Paul Kamenar, an attorney for the conservative National Legal and Policy Center, told the Washington Examiner that “it appears that BLMGNF’s purchase and use of the house by Cullors and other insiders violate the IRS rule prohibiting the use of nonprofit assets for private benefit as well as self-dealing.”[115]

Later reporting revealed that Cullors had used the property for personal purposes. According to Cullors, she stayed at the house for a four-day period and hosted a party for about 15 people in January 2021 to celebrate the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Later, in March 2021, she hosted a second private party at the property to celebrate her son’s birthday. The Associated Press reported that Cullors “intended to pay a rental fee to the foundation” for the birthday party and that the BLM Global Network Foundation stated that it had billed her, though it was not clear when it did so. The BLM Global Network Foundation said it was working to prevent such private use of the property in the future, and Cullors admitted that looking back, it “probably wasn’t the best idea” to use the property that way.[116]

Donors

Organizations that donated to the BLM Global Network Foundation through its former fiscal sponsor Thousand Currents between 2015 and 2019 include the NoVo Foundation ($1,525,000), the W.K. Kellogg Foundation ($900,000) and Borealis Philanthropy ($343,000).[117] In 2016, the Washington Times reported that the Ford Foundation had partnered with Borealis Philanthropy to create the Black-Led Movement Fund, with a goal of raising $100 million.[118] The Black-Led Movement Fund in turn provided funding to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation several times since 2016.[119]

In 2015, Politico reported that members of the Democracy Alliance, a network of left-leaning high-dollar donors and grant makers organized by billionaire financier George Soros and Taco Bell heir Rob McKay, were encouraged to consider making large-dollar grants to the Black Lives Matter movement. Left-leaning mega-donors Tom Steyer and Paul Egerman were also listed by Politico as invited participants. However, it is unclear how much money eventually went to BLM Global Network Foundation from this gathering. It has also been reported by the Washington Times that Soros has given groups associated with the Black Lives Matter movement more than $33 million from his Open Society Foundations (OSF), though it is again unclear if BLM Global Network Foundation directly received funding from OSF. [120] [121]

On June 11, 2020, BLM Global Network Foundation acknowledged the “generosity and support of donors” when announcing a $6.5 million fund to support grassroots organizing work at any of its affiliated chapters.[122]

Grant Recipients

In 2020, the BLM Global Network Foundation provided six-figure grants to 30 local organizations, 23 of which “are led by Black LGBTQIA folks and/or directly serve these communities in places like Chicago, New York, New Jersey, DC, and Alabama.” It also committed funding to 11 local Black Lives Matter chapters. The combined total committed to all of these organizations in 2020 was approximately $21.7 million.[123]

Organizations identified as receiving six-figure grants from the BLM Global Network Foundation in 2020 include:

In its Form 990 covering July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, the BLM Global Network Foundation reported paying out $25,997,945 in grants, of which $17,971,790 was paid to domestic organizations and $8,026,155 to foreign organizations. The largest individual grantees were the Living Through Giving Foundation ($2,300,000), Team Blackbird LLC ($1,500,000), and the Michael O.D. Brown We Love Our Sons & Daughters Foundation ($1,410,697).[124]

It also reported paying $500,000 to a number of local Black Lives Matter chapters, including Black Lives Matter 5280, Black Lives Matter Boston, Black Lives Matter DC, Black Lives Matter Detroit, Black Lives Matter Lansing/Black Lives Matter Michigan, Black Lives Matter Long Beach, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter Memphis, and Black Lives Matter Philadelphia. It paid $505,000 to Black Lives Matter South Bend and $68,000 to Black Lives Matter NWI Gary.[125]

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  124. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990). Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. 2021. Available at: https://blacklivesmatter.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/blmgnf-tc-form-990-2020-2021-01.pdf ^
  125. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990). Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. 2021. Available at: https://blacklivesmatter.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/blmgnf-tc-form-990-2020-2021-01.pdf ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Opal Tometi
    Co-Founder
  2. Patrisse Cullors
    Co-Founder, Former Executive Director
  3. Alicia Garza
    Co-Founder
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: December 1, 2020

  • Available Filings

    No filings available.