Non-profit

Black Lives Matter Grassroots

Website:

blmgrassroots.org/

Type:

Organizing

Founded:

2012

Co-director:

Melina Abdullah

Black Lives Matter Grassroots is a Black Lives Matter movement organization affiliated with the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. It is led by activist Melina Abdullah, which functions as an assembly of some official Black Lives Matter chapters.

Background

Black Lives Matter Grassroots was founded in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in affiliation with the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit formed by activists involved in the movement and originally fiscally sponsored by Thousand Currents and later the Tides Center. [1] Functionally, BLM Grassroots serves as an assembly of official Black Lives Matter chapters “focused on local, grassroots level work.” In its 2020 impact report, BLM Global Network Foundation gathered reports from five chapters, though it predicted that it would be able to gather “dozens more” in the future. [2]

Notably, however, in December 2020, Politico reported that ten local Black Lives Matter groups were “severing ties” with the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. To that end, in an open letter jointly written by these chapters, they claimed that “the newly announced formation, BLM Grassroots, does not have the support of and was created without consultation with the vast majority of chapters.” [3] [4]

Lawsuit Against Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation

In September 2022, Black Lives Matter Grassroots filed a lawsuit against the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, one of its board members Shalomyah Bowers, and his company Bowers Consulting Firm. The complaint alleged that Bowers had stolen more than $10 million in donations from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, using it as his own “personal piggy bank,” and accused him of “blazing a path of irreparable harm to BLM in less than eighteen months,” including investigations into the group by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and multiple state attorneys general.[5]

The lawsuit claimed that Bowers had “diverted…donations to his own coffers and intentionally took calculated steps to prevent those same resources from being used by BLM…” and accused him of breaching his fiduciary duties and engaging in self-dealing.[6] Melina Abdullah, a co-director of Black Lives Matter Grassroots, stated that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation had “been taken away from the people who built it” and that it was “now led by a highly paid consultant who paid himself upwards of $2 million in a single year.”[7]

After the lawsuit was filed, an attorney for the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation released a statement calling the allegations “completely false” and predicting that the suit was “destined to lose.” The statement claimed that the foundation had “only made payments to Bowers Consulting Firm since 2020 pursuant to its fully executed and legal contract with Bowers Consulting Firm,” which it said had been approved prior to when Bowers had joined the group’s board of directors.[8]

Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation also accused Abdullah of having “attempted to bully the BLMGNF Board into submission to her will.” It claimed that the foundation’s leadership council had received a letter in January 2022 from individuals involved with Black Lives Matter Grassroots that detailed “countless allegations of Melina Abdullah’s financial malfeasance, unprincipled decision making, and a leadership style rooted in retribution and intimidation.”[9]

Melina Abdullah

Meilna Abdullah is the co-director of Black Lives Matter Grassroots, co-host and co-producer of the weekly radio program “Beautiful Struggle” which airs on KPFK (part of the Pacifica radio network), and the host and producer of the Move the Crowd podcast which is hosted on the website of Radio Justice. Additionally, Abdullah is a member of the boards of organizations including the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance, California Faculty Association-Los Angeles, Los Angeles Community Action Network, and the National Association for Ethnic Studies. [10]

Previously, Abdullah was a chair of pan-African studies at California State University, Los Angeles; a member of the Taskforce for the Advancement of Ethnic Studies for the California State University system; and from 2014 to 2018, a member of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, where she supported an initiative to replace the celebration of Columbus Day in Los Angeles with “Indigenous People’s Day.” [11]

Abdullah has been subject to criticism for alleged antisemitism and support for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. [12]

Angela Waters Austin

Angela Waters Austin is the director of operations and policy for Black Lives Matter Grassroots; the founder, president and CEO of One Love Global, Inc, a 501(c)(3) left-of-center Black community issues-oriented nonprofit; the organizer of My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper Michigan Network in connection with President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge; the founder, producer, and host of the weekly Equity Equals podcast, which is hosted on the website of the Michigan Business Network and mainly features interviews with Michigan nonprofit executives and activists; and co-chair of the Within Our Lifetime Network Communications Working Group. [13]

Previously, Austin co-hosted and co-produced public affairs programming for Lansing’s WLAJ-TV53; developed educational and cultural special features for The Michigan Chronicle; founded DiverseCity Design & Communications, Inc, a consulting firm oriented toward nonprofits; and founded the m.a.d.e. ALLIANCE, an initiative promoting left-of-center and civic policy issues. Additionally, Austin, has sat on the boards of The Church of Greater Lansing, the Capital Area College Access Network, and the Power of We Consortium. [14]

References

  1. Ludwig, Hayden. “Tides Center Takes Control of Black Lives Matter Global Network.” Capital Research Center. July 28, 2020. Accessed June 13, 2022.

    https://capitalresearch.org/article/tides-center-takes-control-of-black-lives-matter-global-network/.  Archive: https://capitalresearch.org/app/uploads/Black-Lives-Matter-Thousand-Currents-Tides-Center-Handoff.-07.28.20.pdf ^

  2. “2020 Impact Report.” Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://blacklivesmatter.com/2020-impact-report/ ^
  3. King, Maya. “Black Lives Matter Power Grab Sets Off Internal Revolt.” Politico. December 10, 2020. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/10/black-lives-matter-organization-biden-444097. ^
  4. “Statement From the Frontlines of BLM.” Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.blmchapterstatement.com/. ^
  5. Noah Goldberg. “Black Lives Matter Leader Accused of Stealing $10 Million From Organization.” Los Angeles Times. September 2, 2022. Available at: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-09-02/black-lives-matter-leader-accused-of-stealing-10-million-from-organization ^
  6. Jon Brown. “Black Lives Matter Leader Accused of Stealing $10M From Organization: ‘Unjust Enrichment.’” Fox News. September 4, 2022. Available at: https://www.foxnews.com/us/black-lives-matter-leader-accused-stealing-ten-million-organization-unjust-enrichment ^
  7. Brad Dress. “Black Lives Matter Exec Accused of Stealing $10M in Lawsuit.” The Hill. September 5, 2022. Available at: https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/3629589-black-lives-matter-exec-accused-of-stealing-10m-in-lawsuit/ ^
  8. Byron McLain. “Response from BLMGNF’s Lawyer to Melina Abdullah and BLM Grassroots Lawsuit.” Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. September 5, 2022. Available at: https://blacklivesmatter.com/response-from-blmgnfs-lawyer-to-melina-abdullah-and-blm-grassroots-lawsuit/ ^
  9. “The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Board of Directors’ Response Statement to Melina Abdullah and BLM Grassroots’ Press Conference.” Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. September 1, 2022. Available at: https://blacklivesmatter.com/the-black-lives-matter-global-network-foundation-board-of-directors-response-statement-to-melina-abdullah-and-blm-grassroots-press-conference/ ^
  10.  “Melina Abdullah.” SpeakOutNow. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.speakoutnow.org/speaker/melina-abdullah. ^
  11. “Melina Abdullah.” SpeakOutNow. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.speakoutnow.org/speaker/melina-abdullah. ^
  12. “BLM-L.A. Leader and Anti-Semitism.” Santa Barbara News Press. July 19, 2020. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://newspress.com/blm-l-a-leader-and-anti-semitism/. ^
  13. “Angela Waters Austin.” One Love Global. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.oneloveglobal.org/angela-waters-austin. ^
  14. “Angela Waters Austin.” One Love Global. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.oneloveglobal.org/angela-waters-austin. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

Supported Movements

  1. Black Lives Matter
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