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Patrisse Cullors Resigns From Black Lives Matter Organization After Backlash Over Real Estate Buys

© AP Photo / ILYA S. SAVENOKBlack Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Khan-Cullors poses during Glamour Celebrates 2017 Women Of The Year Live Summit at Brooklyn Museum
Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Khan-Cullors poses during Glamour Celebrates 2017 Women Of The Year Live Summit at Brooklyn Museum - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.05.2021
Patrisse Cullors, who co-founded the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF) in 2013, has recently faced fierce backlash over the purchase of a $1.4 million home in California. The home purchase left many questioning how much of the group’s donations were going into social justice programs.

In a virtual meeting Thursday afternoon with journalists and BLMGNF leaders, Cullors announced that she is stepping down from her role as executive director in order to focus on other projects, including the upcoming release of her second book and a multi-year TV development deal with Warner Bros.

“I’ve created the infrastructure and the support, and the necessary bones and foundation, so that I can leave,” Cullors told the Associated Press. “It feels like the time is right.”

Melina Abdullah, who co-founded the Black Lives Matter's Los Angeles chapter, said that the organization will continue to grow and evolve despite the departure of its co-founder.

“I would like her to be there forever, but I also know that that’s not feasible. The real test of any organization is can it survive the departure of its founders. And I have no question that Black Lives Matter will survive and grow and evolve, even with the departure of our final co-founder in a formal role,” Adbullah said, according to the Daily Mail Online.

Cullors’ resignation comes after the activist came under fire for five-years’ worth of real estate purchases, which amounted to over $3 million. Cullors referred to the scandal as a smear campaign put on by those on the far-right who wished to do her harm, but claimed that this was not the reason behind her step down from the position.

“This is not a crisis, this is a moment of celebration,” Cullors said. “With smart, experienced and committed people supporting the organization during this transition, I know that BLMGNF is in good hands.”

Cullors added in a YouTube video on Thursday that she made the decision because she felt like it was time to transition out.

The BLM foundation defended its co-founder, saying that she had not received an annual salary from the organization but revealed in February that donations to the organization amounted to over $90 million in 2020 following the murder of Minnesota resident George Floyd.

The foundation claimed to have spent a quarter of its assets on operating expenses and grants donated to other Black-led organizations, including those focused on LGBTQ rights. BLMGNF said it ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60 million, which critics felt should have gone to the families of Black victims of police brutality.

Some leaders from affiliated organizations have called for an investigation into Cullors for her recent spending, but it is currently unclear if one has been opened.

The organization confirmed Cullor’s resignation in a Twitter post on Thursday, praising the co-founder for her work.

In her resignation, Cullors announced Makani Themba and Monifa Bandele as the incoming senior executives to serve in the interim. 

Themba is currently the chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies and the former executive director of the Praxis Project. “I am looking forward to working alongside the powerful team at BLMGNF and BLM Grassroots to continue to work towards Black liberation,” Themba said in a release.

Bandele serves as the chief operating officer at Time’s Up Foundation, which raises money to support victims of sexual harassment, and also serves as a senior leader on the policy table of the Movement for Black Lives. “I’m fortunate to follow the creative and successful leadership of so many across the country, who have set a bold path for the foundation,” Bandele said.

Cullors has described her latest book, “An Abolitionists Handbook,” as a guide for activists on how to care for each other while “fighting to end systemic racism,” is set for release on October 5. 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.

Her first TV project is set to debut in July. Cullors last day with the organization is on May 28.

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