The Black Lives Matter Foundation has amassed over $4 million in donations over the past few weeks, which comes as no surprise in light of recent events. What does come as a surprise is that the foundation has zero ties to the global BLM movement behind the ongoing protests in the US and other countries.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, its founder Robert Ray Barnes revealed that he doesn't "have anything to do with the Black Lives Matter Global Network" – an official name of the organisation behind the movement. What is more, Barnes implies the movement has stolen the name of his foundation despite that it was founded long after Black Lives Matter emerged as a hashtag and a movement.
"I had plenty of motivation to create the Black Lives Matter Foundation and the people who were doing Black Lives Matter weren’t interested in a foundation. They never created it. Now all of a sudden they’re interested in it. […] They have stolen from me. They have lied and been able to profit using my name", Barnes said.
The Black Lives Matter Foundation, run by Barnes, also fights for a different cause than the BLM movement. While the latter calls for "defunding the police", Barnes wants to bring police and minorities, such as African Americans, together and reach "unity".
"Crime exists now and will forever continue, so we desperately need the services of the police; however, we need the services of good police. We need police officers that will respect all life equally and apply deadly force only when absolutely necessary", Barnes explained in an interview with BuzzFeed.
$4 Million Mishap
Despite first emerging as a major power back in 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement failed to organise itself, pick leadership, and build an organised structure. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation was only registered in 2017, two years after Barnes started his foundation, and was not a non-profit group unlike the BLM Foundation. The movement was hence forced to garner donations via a separate charity with a name poorly associated with BLM - Thousand Currents.
This apparently led to a mishap with not only ordinary donors, but also big companies, sending their money to a foundation they believed funded the movement. According to BuzzFeed estimates these donations exceed $4.35 million across several donation platforms. These platforms, such as GoFundMe, PayPal’s Giving Fund and Benevity, say they have frozen funds and will allow donors to redistribute them. Some of them placed a warning sign on the Black Lives Matter Foundation's page or blocked it for good.
Benevity revealed that a major portion of funds was donated by the employees of big tech companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Dropbox, which in turn doubled their workers' donations to the foundation. Barnes' foundation was featured by some of these companies as "approved" although providing links to the website of the BLM movement, BuzzFeed reported.
While it's unclear how much of these donations will reach the Black Lives Matter Foundation, Barnes praised them as an opportunity to give a boost to his cause, which accumulated around $300,000 in 2017, according to tax filings. The foundation's chairman, its only paid employee, had trouble elaborating on the programmes run by it.
Barnes said that the charity, founded in 2015, is currently trying to "outline a real plan of action". He mentioned the idea of hosting "Community Organised Programmes" or "COP events", where members of different communities and police officers would meet and chat at buffet dinners.
The Black Lives Matter Foundation might have trouble organising these though as the BLM movement's spokesperson said it would be calling out Barnes' charity for "improperly using our name".