Former BLM leader Patrisse Cullors denies misuse of funds

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Former Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation leader Patrisse Cullors said in a recent interview that allegations the organization’s leadership misused millions of donation dollars are false.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Cullors said BLM was not prepared for the high volume of financial contributions that came in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in 2020.

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Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders in Los Angeles, California on March 1, 2020. (Photo by Ronen Tivony/Sipa USA)

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders in Los Angeles, California on March 1, 2020. (Photo by Ronen Tivony/Sipa USA)

“On paper, it looks crazy,” she said. “We use this term in our movement a lot, which is we’re building the plane while flying it. I don’t believe in that anymore. The only regret I have with BLM is wishing that we could have paused for one to two years, to just not do any work and just focus on the infrastructure.”

Recent disclosures found that the foundation paid $6 million for a Los Angeles compound in 2020. The Studio City property includes a home with six bedrooms and bathrooms, a swimming pool, a soundstage and office space, and is intended to be both a meeting venue and a campus for Black artists, The AP notes.

But BLM received backlash following the purchase, including from some of the organization’s supporters. 

CAMBRIDGE - JULY 18: A child holds a Black Lives Matter sign in front of Whole Foods Market while supporting workers who walked out in solidarity after getting dismissed from Whole Foods for wearing Black Lives Matter face masks in Cambridge, MA on July 18, 2020. (Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

CAMBRIDGE – JULY 18: A child holds a Black Lives Matter sign in front of Whole Foods Market while supporting workers who walked out in solidarity after getting dismissed from Whole Foods for wearing Black Lives Matter face masks in Cambridge, MA on July 18, 2020. (Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
(Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

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Justin Hansford, director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University, said the purchase could be used by opponents of BLM and that possible donors may halt contributions to Black-led social justice organizations.

“That’s the thing that you don’t want to get out of hand,” he told the outlet.

Cullors, however, stands by the purchase. She told the AP, “We really wanted to make sure that the global network foundation had an asset that wasn’t just financial resources, and we understood that not many Black-led organizations have property. They don’t own their property.”

A woman holds a "BLM" sign in the rain as tens of thousands of people participate in a silent protest march organized by Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County as people protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 12, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson 

A woman holds a “BLM” sign in the rain as tens of thousands of people participate in a silent protest march organized by Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County as people protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 12, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson 
(REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson)

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The 38-year-old said she made regrettable mistakes that do not ensure trust and even admitted to using the property for personal reasons.

Yet, she rejects the idea that she personally benefited during her six-year tenure as leader of BLM. That includes reports that she had bought homes for herself and her family.

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“The idea that [the foundation] received millions of dollars, and then I hid those dollars in my bank account is absolutely false,” Cullors said. “That’s a false narrative. It’s impacted me personally and professionally, that people would accuse me of stealing from Black people.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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