Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag in 2013. It soon developed into a grassroots movement. Following the tragic death of George Floyd in 2020, the BLM name became a lucrative label for non-profits.
Concerned citizens, along with corporate donors like Amazon, Microsoft and Tinder, donated a combined US$90 million in 2020 alone to the largest of these non-profits: the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF).
Two years later, no one seems to know who is in control of the $60 million that remains in the organisation’s bank account, or how it is being spent.
According to a recent report by the Washington Examiner, BLM co-founder Patrisse Kahn-Cullors had planned to hand the organisation’s reins over to two activists following her resignation last May. But in September, those activists announced via a Twitter post that they never ended up taking the job due to disagreements with BLM leadership.
Kahn-Cullors’ resignation was itself controversial. She had quit amid a real estate buying binge, during which she had purchased four homes valued at a combined $3.2 million. Kahn-Cullors and the organisation insisted that BLM funds were not spent on the properties.
The two remaining BLM board members have refused to answer the Washington Examiner’s repeated queries about who is currently in charge of the organisation’s finances.
The paper also noted that the address listed on BLMGNF tax forms was incorrect: when reporters paid a visit to the Los Angeles address, a security guard informed them there had never been a BLM office at the location.
Several charity experts told Examiner reporters that BLM’s lack of financial transparency “raises major legal and ethical red flags”. One called for a full audit and investigation into the group.
Aside from the New York Post and several conservative outlets, the press has been conspicuously silent on what should rightly be a national scandal.
A notable exception is the left-wing NYMag, which recently ran a story titled ‘The Murky Finances of Black Lives Matter’. While sympathetic to BLM’s cause, NYMag described “two branches of activism” within the movement:
“There are on-the-ground, grassroots organisers like Johnson, who work locally, passionately, with little money, often risking their lives and livelihood through their protests. And then there are the larger, more professionalized national groups with corporate donations and fund-raising power, whose high-profile leaders can garner lucrative speaking gigs and book deals.“
In describing the long-existing “tensions between the two paths,” NYMag noted that as early as November 2020, ten local chapters of BLMGNF were calling for more financial accountability. In a statement, they complained of “no acceptable process of either public or internal transparency about the unknown millions of dollars donated to BLMGNF, which has certainly increased during this time of pandemic and rebellion”.
In response, the central office reported $8.4 million in operating expenses and $21.7 million in grants to more than 30 organisations, leaving $60 million in the coffers. “But if the disclosures were intended to quiet dissent, they didn’t succeed,” the magazine recounts:
A few weeks later, in March 2021, two mothers of victims of police violence, Lisa Simpson and Samaria Rice, released a statement calling for BLMGNF and others to stop capitalising on their suffering.
“We don’t want or need y’all parading in the streets accumulating donations, platforms, movie deals, etc. off the death of our loved ones, while the families and communities are left clueless and broken,” they wrote. “Don’t say our loved ones’ names period! That’s our truth!”
So where has the money gone? Spiked notes that “BLM’s impact report lists far more transgender-advocacy organisations as its recipients than organisations promoting black civil rights”. Six-figure grants were given to Trans United, Black Trans Circles, the Transgender District, the Black Trans Travel Fund, Black Trans Media, and the Trans Justice Funding Project, among a long list of others.
The Heritage Foundation has drawn attention to the group’s ‘BLM At Schools’ initiative, which aims to introduce the organisation’s race- and sex-based creed to school students across America.
The initiative’s website lists among its 13 guiding principles, ‘Globalism’, ‘Queer Affirming’, and ‘Trans Affirming’. It also borrows a phrase from BLM’s now-deleted ‘What We Believe’ manifesto to describe one of its chief aims as “disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure”.
Black Lives Matter appears to be confused as to its purpose. Or is it?
In seeking to clarify BLM’s underlying philosophy — that of Critical Race Theory — author and cultural critic James Lindsay has recently offered two succinct definitions: “Calling everything you want to control ‘racist’ until it is fully under your control,” and, “A Marxian conflict theory of race; i.e., Race Marxism”.
While somewhat sardonic, Lindsay’s definitions — and particularly his identifying them with Marxism — help account for the otherwise disparate philosophies and behaviours of the movement. As the BLM At Schools website announces, “We have nothing to lose but our chains” — quoting Karl Marx.
For all of BLM’s good intentions, its financial leadership has trodden a well-marked Marxist trail of centralised wealth, little to share with the masses, and no accountability. Black lives of course matter, but perhaps a better philosophy is required to communicate such an important message.