A controversial co-founder of Black Lives Matter, who was forced to resign in March over questions regarding millions of dollars in donations, said at an event Friday that laws regarding charity transparency were “triggering” and implied they were racist.
Patrisse Cullors had been at the helm of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation for nearly six years before being ousted after it was revealed she purchased a $6 million Los Angeles mansion.
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Cullors said now that hearing about IRS Form 990, a document non-profit charities must file annually to disclose their financial activities to the public, was traumatizing.
“It is such a trip now to hear the term ‘990,’” Cullors said Friday during an event at the Vashon Center for the Arts. “I’m, like… ugh. It’s triggering.”
“I actually did not know what 990s were before all of this happened,” Cullors said, seemingly referencing an investigative report on BLM’s lack of financial transparency. Starting in January, multiple states — including California — ordered the organization to stop collecting donations until it shows what it did with the $90 million in donations given to it in 2020.
“This doesn’t seem safe for us, this 990 structure — this nonprofit system structure,” Cullors continued. “This is deeply unsafe. This is being literally weaponized against us, against the people we work with.”
“People’s morale in an organization is so important,” she said about financial transparency. “But if their organization and the people in it are being attacked and scrutinized at everything they do, that leads to deep burnout. that leads to deep, like, resistance and trauma.”
At the time of her resignation, she decried the investigation as a smear campaign from a far-right group, but claimed neither that nor criticism from other Black organizers influenced her departure.
She repeated the smear campaign allegation Friday, and said questioning her was part of a conspiracy among conservatives to defend systematic racism.
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“They know what they’re doing: how to create the infighting, how to create the distrust,” she said. “We have to stop it before they do it. We have to shut it down. We have to be showing up against it.”
The BLM foundation revealed in February that it took in over $90 million last year, following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd and the subsequent month of unrest. The foundation said it ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60 million, after spending nearly a quarter of its assets on operating expenses, grants to Black-led organizations, and other charitable giving.
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Critics of the foundation contend more of that money should have gone to the families of Black victims of police brutality who have been unable to access the resources needed to deal with their trauma and loss.
“That is the most tragic aspect,” said the Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, president of an Oklahoma City BLM chapter and a representative of the #BLM10, a national group of organizers that has publicly criticized the foundation over funding and transparency.
“I know some of (the families) are feeling exploited, their pain exploited, and that’s not something that I ever want to be affiliated with,” Dickerson said.
Cullors was later investigated by several conservative-leaning journalists that alleged she misused money from the foundation, which may account for her recent purchase of the southern California mansion.
But don’t feel too bad for Cullors. She released a New York Times best-selling memoir last year. And on Oct. 5, St. Martin’s Press will release Cullors’ latest book, titled “An Abolitionist’s Handbook,” which she says is her guide for far-left activists on how to resolve internal conflicts in their organizations meant to battle systemic racism.
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Cullors is also developing and producing original cable and streaming TV content that centers on Black stories, under a multi-year deal with Warner Bros.
The first of her TV projects will debut in July, she said.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article