- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Black Lives Matter Global Network has blamed “right-wing forces” for the uproar over co-founder Patrisse Cullors’ reported millions in real-estate holdings, even as a leading BLM activist called for an independent probe.

The network defended Ms. Cullors, who described herself in 2015 as a “trained Marxist,” after she was slammed for buying last month a $1.4 million home in exclusive Topanga Canyon, a Los Angeles County enclave that is 88% White.

“Patrisse’s work for Black people over the years has made her and others who align with the fight for Black liberation targets of racist violence,” read the statement provided Monday to The Washington Times. “The narratives being spread about Patrisse have been generated by right-wing forces intent on reducing the support and influence of a movement that is larger than any one organization.”

The statement continued: “This right-wing offensive not only puts Patrisse, her child and her loved ones in harm’s way, it also continues a tradition of terror by white supremacists against Black activists.”

Ms. Cullors, who is married to Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Janaya Khan, has purchased four homes since 2016 — three in the Los Angeles area; one in Conyers, Georgia — at a total cost of $3 million, according to transaction records posted by Dirt and The New York Post.

She has been accused on the right of being a “race hustler” and a “fraud,” given BLM’s dim view of capitalism, but the criticism also has come from the left.

Hawk Newsome, leader of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, called for an independent investigation into the foundation’s spending, saying that the questions were hurting the movement.

“If you go around calling yourself a socialist, you have to ask how much of her own personal money is going to charitable causes,” Mr. Newsome told The New York Post. “It’s really sad because it makes people doubt the validity of the movement and overlook the fact that it’s the people that carry this movement.”

The BLM Greater New York emphasized in an email that Mr. Newsome “called for independent auditors and not a governmental entity. We do not trust the government to investigate civil rights activists.”

According to the foundation, Ms. Cullors has been paid $120,000 since the group was founded in 2013, and she has received no compensation since 2019. In her current role as executive director, she serves “in a voluntary capacity and does not receive a salary or benefits.”

The organization raised $90 million in 2020, according to its annual report, but said Monday that none of that went toward personal real-estate buys.

“To be abundantly clear, as a registered 501c3, BLMGNF cannot and did not commit any organizational resources toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer. Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false,” read the group’s statement.

Ms. Cullors has other revenue streams: In October, she signed a multiyear deal with the Warner Bros. Television Group for an undisclosed amount, and her 2018 memoir, “When They Call You a Terrorist,” was a New York Times bestseller.

Her second book, “An Abolitionist’s Handbook: 12 Steps to Change Yourself and the World,” is scheduled to be released in October by St. Martin’s Press.

“All Black activists know the fear these malicious and serious actions are meant to instill: the fear of being silenced, the trauma of being targeted, the torture of feeling one’s family is exposed to danger just for speaking out against unjust systems,” read the BLMGNF statement. “We have seen this tactic of terror time and again, but our movement will not be silenced.”

Critics noted that Topanga Canyon is only 1.9% Black, according to the 2019 census update.

“She had a lot of options on where to live. She chose one of the whitest places in California,” tweeted conservative sports commentator Jason Whitlock. “She’ll have her pick of white cops and white people to complain about. That’s a choice, bro.”

The flap also has highlighted tensions between the movement’s national foundation led by Ms. Cullors and local activists who say they have seen little of last year’s mass fundraising haul fueled by the George Floyd protests.

In its 2020 annual report, the foundation reported $90 million in contributions while calling for defunding the police, blasting “white supremacy” and declaring the need to “immediately support our Black communities.”

A document issued in December by 10 chapters, called the #BLM10Statement, took issue with the foundation’s transparency, direction and financial support, while one group, BLM Inland Empire, announced in February it was leaving the network.

In its 2020 Impact Report, the BLMGNF said that it had donated $21.7 million to 11 BLM chapters — BLM Greater New York was not one of them — and 30 other local organizations, 23 of which were led by “Black LGBTQIA folks and/or directly serve these communities.”

Ms. Cullors described herself and co-founder Alicia Garza as “trained Marxists” in a 2015 interview with Jared Ball of The Real News Network.

“We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on, sort of, ideological theories,” Ms. Cullors said.

She addressed the issue in a December video on her YouTube Channel entitled “Am I Marxist?”

“Am I a Marxist? I am a lot of things,” Ms. Cullors said. “I do believe in Marxism. It’s a philosophy that I learned really early on in my organizing career. We were taught to learn about the systems that were criticizing capitalism. We were taught to understand why there were philosophies that were criticizing capitalism.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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