Black Lives Matter is facing a rebellion within its own ranks as regional affiliates seek greater control over the movement and demand answers about where millions of dollars in donations have gone.
After years of tensions between the national organization and local outlets, the rift went public this week with the release of a statement by 10 BLM chapters accusing the top brass at the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation of failing to open their books or share the wealth with the rank and file.
“For years, there has been inquiry regarding the financial operations of BLMGN and no acceptable process of either public or internal transparency about the unknown millions of dollars donated to BLMGN, which has certainly increased during this time of pandemic and rebellion,” reads the “Statement from the Frontlines of BLM” posted Monday.
“To the best of our knowledge, most chapters have received little to no financial support from BLMGN since the launch in 2013,” the statement reads.
In addition to the D.C. chapter, the missive was signed by affiliates in Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis, New Jersey, New York’s Hudson Valley, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Vancouver, Washington. The chapter in Louisville, Kentucky, said it supported the chapters.
“Black Lives Matter Louisville stands in full solidarity w/ all the chapters that sent out the brave statement for full transparency,” the Louisville group tweeted. “We will be sending out solidarity statements & regional statements soon. Fam: take time to heal.”
The grassroots revolt comes with the BLM Global Network Foundation, the group founded by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi in 2013 as Black Lives Matter, undergoing a rapid expansion and reorganization in the wake of the George Floyd protests, which dramatically raised the group’s political and financial profile.
Black Lives Matter has always been highly decentralized, even disorganized — not every group with “BLM” in its title is affiliated with the national foundation — but the chapters said there was an expectation that the leadership “would support us chapters in our efforts to build communally.”
Despite that, “our chapters have consistently raised concerns about financial transparency, decision making, and accountability,” reads the statement, which faults the national organization for enacting major changes without consultation such as the recent formation of BLM Grassroots.
BLM Grassroots “effectively separated the majority of chapters from BLMGN without their consent and interrupted the active process of accountability that was being established by those chapters,” the statement reads.
The Washington Times has reached out for comment to the national leadership.
In October, the foundation rolled out the Black Lives Matter PAC, which reportedly plans to raise $500,000 for Georgia’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidates, leading to complaints that the radical social justice movement is rapidly morphing into an arm of the Democratic Party.
Show us the money
Then there’s the money or, rather, where’s the money?
Before the protests, the foundation listed about $3.4 million in assets, according to a 2019 financial audit by Thousand Currents, which served as the group’s fiscal sponsor from 2016 until July, when the philanthropic giant the Tides Center took over.
“This puts Black Lives Global Network Foundation squarely in the middle of a massive political network, with total revenues that exceeded $636 million in 2018 alone,” Capital Research Center researcher Hayden Ludwig said in a July 28 post.
Less than a month after the George Floyd protests erupted over his May 25 death, the foundation had collected 1.1 million donations averaging $33 each, or $36.3 million, according to figures provided June 18 to The Associated Press.
Scott Walter, president of the conservative watchdog group Capital Research Center, said the “fiscal sponsorship” relationship works to the advantage of nonprofit groups seeking to camouflage their financial picture.
“My first thought is the old saying: Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and ends as a racket,” said Mr. Walter, whose group runs the InfluenceWatch website. “I don’t blame BLM chapters for being upset.”
He said the activists should “demand BLM Global Network Foundation stop operating as a ‘fiscally sponsored project’ of the Tides Center.”
“That lets the group hide its revenues, assets, salaries, vendors, expenses (broken into categories like travel and fundraising), lobbying, grants to other groups, and much more,” Mr. Walter said. “It should operate as an independent charity that discloses such information to stakeholders.”
The BLM Global Network Foundation announced in June that it would donate $6 million to Black-led organizing groups and establish a $6.5 million fund to provide for multiyear grants of up to $500,000 for its affiliated chapters.
“We know that in order to change policy, we must change culture,” Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation managing director Kailee Scales said in a June 11 statement. “We will continue to work to impact culture and policy by developing a strong media presence as well as working to help support local organizers on the ground.”
The chapters say they have yet to see the money. On Tuesday, the philanthropic community’s annual Giving Tuesday, local leaders urged donors to contribute directly to the affiliates instead of the BLM foundation.
“Despite millions being donated to @Blklivesmatter, local chapters have lacked support & resources from national leadership,” tweeted Black Lives Matter DC. “As a result, much of our community work continues to be erased.”
Since the protests began in May, the three co-founders have raised their profiles. They appeared on the Sept. 22 cover of Time magazine as part of the “100 Most Influential People” edition. Ms. Garza signed on in July as a WNBA social justice adviser, and Ms. Cullors signed a production deal last month with the Warner Bros. Television Group.
In a 2015 interview, Ms. Cullors said she and Ms. Garza were “trained Marxists” after being asked about the group’s ideological foundation on the Real News Network.
The organization plans to place an emphasis next year on education. “Beginning in 2021, BLM Global Network Foundation will roll out its education platform, developing curriculum around its contributions to media, as well as a political education program,” the group said in a June statement.
The chapters have their own wish list. They want the BLM PAC, BLM Grassroots and BLM Global Network Foundation to “stop representing themselves as leaders or representatives of all Black Lives Matter,” according to a press release.
They also said they want the national leadership to provide “full financial transparency and accountability,” including a “full financial report from the past and current fiscal sponsors, a report of all contracts and staff and removal of any obstacles for interviews with them.”