For the first time in the Black Lives Matter movement’s nearly eight year history, leaders of the organization have shared a detailed look at their finances.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, largely seen as a driving force behind the Black Lives Matter Movement, took in just over $90 million last year, according to a financial snapshot obtained by AP.
The organization is reportedly looking to build out its infrastructure to catch up to the speed of its funding and plans to use its endowment to become known for more than protests related to Black Americans dying at the hands of police or vigilantes.
“We want to uplift Black joy and liberation, not just Black death. We want to see Black communities thriving, not just surviving,” an impact report from the foundation shared with AP read.
Black Lives Matter’s influence and funding grew immensly following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. The death of Floyd, a Black man killed at the hands of Minneapolis police, sparked protests across the nation and around the world.
However, BLM’s growth also reportedly led to tension among the movement’s grassroots organizers and leaders, with the former group publicly airing their grievances about the foundation’s financial transparency, decision-making and accountability.
The foundation told AP that it committed $21.7 million in grant funding to official and unofficial BLM chapters, as well as 30 Black-led local organizations. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60 million, after reportedly spending nearly a quarter of its assets on the grant funds and other charitable giving.
The BLM foundation’s individual donations from its main platform reportedly averaged $30.76, with more than 10% of donations being recurring. However, AP noted that the foundation’s report does not state where the money went in 2020 and that BLM leaders declined to name prominent donors.
Last year, the foundation’s expenses were approximately $8.4 million, including staffing, operating and administrative costs, along with activities such as civic engagement, rapid response and crisis intervention.
A network of chapters was established in 2015 under the BLM Global Network Foundation, following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. BLM’s founders had pledged to build a decentralized movement governed by consensus of a members’ collective, according to AP.
However, critics argue that the foundation has increasingly moved away from being a Black radical organizing hub and has become a philanthropic and political organization run without democratic input from some of its earliest supporters.
BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who became the global foundation’s full-time executive director last year, told AP the organization is focused on a “need to reinvest into Black communities.”
“One of our biggest goals this year is taking the dollars we were able to raise in 2020 and building out the institution we’ve been trying to build for the last seven and a half years,” she said.
Meanwhile, fellow co-founders Alicia Garza, who is the principal at Black Futures Lab, and Opal Tometi, who created a Black new media and advocacy hub called Diaspora Rising, are not involved with the foundation, but continue to make appearances as the co-founders of the movement.
Last year, the foundation spun off its network of chapters into what is now known as BLM Grassroots. While the chapters, as well as other Black-led local organizations, became eligible in July for financial resources through a $12 million grant fund, less than a dozen of the groups who use “Black Lives Matter” or “BLM” in their names are currently considered affiliates.
Several chapters, including those in cities including Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago, were notified last year of their eligibility to receive $500,000 each in funding under a multiyear agreement, according to records shared with AP. However, only one group in Denver signed the agreement and received its funds in September.
A group of 10 chapters, called #BLM10, rejected the foundation’s funding offer, and proceeded to complain publicly about the foundation’s lack of transparency in a letter released Nov. 30.
“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,” the letter states. “To the best of our knowledge, most chapters have received little to no financial support from BLMGN since the launch in 2013. It was only in the last few months that selected chapters appear to have been invited to apply for a $500,000 grant created with resources generated because of the organizing labor of chapters. This is not the equity and financial accountability we deserve.”
Foundation leaders reportedly say only a few of the 10 chapters are recognized as network affiliates.
Black Lives Matter DC organizer April Goggans, who is part of the #BLM10 group, told AP the chapters are simplying asking for an equal say in “this thing that our names are attached to, that they are doing in our names.” Other groups affiliated with #BLM10 are located in cities including Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, San Diego, Hudson Valley and New York.
“We are BLM. We built this, each one of us,” Groggans added.
Records reportedly show some chapters have received multiple rounds of funding in amounts ranging between $800 and $69,000, going back as far as 2016. The #BLM10 reportedly argue that the amounts given have been far from equitable when compared to how much BLM has raised over the years, though Cullors disagrees.
“Because the BLM movement was larger than life — and it is larger than life — people made very huge assumptions about what our actual finances looked like,” Cullors told AP. “We were often scraping for money, and this year was the first year where we were resourced in the way we deserved to be.”
Still, the #BLM10 members say that there is a discrepancy between reality and what the BLM movement’s founders are saying. A spokesperson for #BLM10 did not immediately return FOX Business’ request for comment.
In its early years, BLM disclosed donations from A-list celebrities including Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Prince, prior to his death in 2016.
Leaders at the BLM foundation admited to AP that they have not been clear about the movement’s finances and governance over the years, but that they are now trying to be more open about its financial matters. For example, the foundation told AP that its fiscal sponsor currently managing the organization’s money is requires spending to be approved by a collective action fund that has a board made up of BLM chapter representatives.
The BLM foundation was granted nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service in December, allowing the organization to receive tax-deductible donations directly. In the near future, BLM will also reportedly be required to file public 990 forms, revealing details of its organizational structure, employee compensation, programming and expenses.
“In exchange for getting tax exempt status, you as an organization committed to providing a greater level of transparency to confirm you are fulfilling your mission,” Melina Abdullah, co-founder of BLM’s first ever chapter in Los Angeles, told AP. “We’re turning a corner, recognizing that we have to build institutions that endure beyond us.”
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