Cullors maintained in an interview with the Associated Press that she had done nothing wrong despite accusations she benefited from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF), including accusations she bought homes for herself with dollars gifted for activism.
But questions about where and how the money is being used exploded after the group disclosed it had raised $90 million in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“I thought practicing radical transparency with black people would have been received well,” Cullors told the Associated Press. “What was unhelpful about releasing it was not getting enough people allying with us about it. We weren’t the only organization to receive millions of dollars.”
“The idea that [the foundation] received millions of dollars and then I hid those dollars in my bank account is absolutely false,” the activist insisted. “That’s a false narrative. It’s impacted me personally and professionally, that people would accuse me of stealing from black people.”
The mansion that has most recently made headlines was featured in the background of a YouTube video that showed BLMGNF co-founders Cullors and Alicia Garza, and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles founder Melina Abdullah, discussing their activism on the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, according to Sean Campbell at New York Magazine.
The group paid $6 million in cash for the 6,500-square foot, seven-bedroom Los Angeles mansion in Studio City.
“For me, the hardest moments have been the right-wing-media machine just leveraging literally all its weight against me, against our movement, against BLM the organization,” Cullors said in the video. “I’m some weeks out now from a lot of the noise, so I have more perspective, right? While I was in it, I was in survival mode.”
The co-founder of the national Black Lives Matter movement was referring to allegations that she used BLMGNF donor funds to help pay for new homes she purchased for $3.2 million in Los Angeles and Georgia, New York Magazine reported.
She denied having used Black Lives Matter donations to buy the ostentatious properties but donors continued to question what was happening with the money they had contributed for activism.
The purchase of the $6 million home called “Campus” by the organization’s leadership was not publicly reported and the way the purchase was handled revealed they had hoped to keep its existence a secret, New York Magazine reported.
When that publication began asking questions about it, Black Lives Matters circulated a strategy memo discussing how to deal with the revelation.
Responses ranged from “Can we kill the story?” to “Our angle — needs to be to deflate ownership of the property,” New York Magazine reported.
The memo had bullet points that explained “Campus is part of cultural arm of the org — potentially as an ‘influencer house,’ where abolition+ based content is produced by artists & creatives.”
It also described the property as a “safehouse” for organizations leaders who had been threatened, New York Magazine reported.
But the shady way that the group went about acquiring the mansion raised even more eyebrows.
Two weeks after BLMGNF received $66.5 million in contributions in October of 2020, Dyane Pascall bought the property that would become known as “Campus” for $6 million in cash, New York Magazine reported.
Pascall is the financial manager of Janaya and Patrisse Consulting, an LLC owned by Cullors and her wife.
He is also the chief financial officer of Trap Heals, a nonprofit led by the father of Cullors’ child, New York Magazine reported.
Pascall transferred ownership of the mansion less than a week later to a Delaware LLC established by the law firm Perkins Coie, a move that hid the identity of the property’s owner from the public.
Black Lives Matter leadership immediately began using the house after its ownership was transferred, New York Magazine reported.
Cullors’ brother, Paul Cullors, was paid to run physical security for the Campus in addition to handling security at his sister’s private homes.
The group’s internal records showed Cullors’ mother was approved for a cleaning job at “Campus,” New York Magazine reported.
Cullors’ sister also signed an employee nondisclosure agreement but it was unclear if she was paid to work there.
The Black Lives Matter co-founder admitted to the Associated Press that she used the compound to hold two parties that weren’t for Black Lives Matter after they bought the property.
Cullors said she hosted an Inauguration party in January of 2020 and a birthday party for her brother in March of this year.
She said she planned to pay a rental fee for the birthday party and the foundation confirmed she had been invoiced, the Associated Press reported.
However, the activist said she regretted the decision to use the group’s compound in the manner.
“I look back at that and think, that probably wasn’t the best idea,” Cullors said.
She also confirmed that she had employed family members to take care of the compound, but said she did so because they had the right skill sets that were needed, the Associated Press reported.
Cullors, a self-proclaimed Marxist, resigned as executive director of BLMGNF in May of 2021 after the allegations of malfeasance arose surrounding the new homes she had purchased, just a few days after she filmed the video with Garza and Abdullah at the $6 million home that donors didn’t know about, according to New York Magazine.