By DR. JOY MARTINEZ, Staff Writer
Just one day before Black Lives Matter’s co-founder resigned from its foundation, the founder of a Black Lives Matter chapter in Minnesota said he quit after learning the “ugly truth” about the activist group’s priorities. Co-founder Patrisse Cullors announced her last day after leading the organization for almost six years, but insists her leaving is not because of what she called right-wing attempts to discredit her.
The 37-year-old activist’s finances came under scrutiny last month after it was reported she owned four homes, which lead to claims that she had misused donations to acquire her property portfolio. Cullors shared plans to focus on her forthcoming second book, An Abolitionist’s Handbook, and a TV development deal with Warner Bros highlighting black stories. Conservative critics of the organization – and some Black activists – called for an investigation into whether Cullors had used the nonprofit’s funds to enrich herself. In February the BLM Foundation told news media that it had raised more than $90 million amid the racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd. However, in April the foundation reported that Cullors had only received $120,000 between 2013 and 2019 for her work. The Black Lives Matter Foundation said in a statement: “As a registered 501c3 non-profit organization, [the foundation] cannot and did not commit any organizational resources toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer. Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false.”
In a statement, Cullors said, “With smart, experienced and committed people supporting the organization during this transition, I know that BLMGNF is in good hands. The foundation’s agenda remains the same – eradicate white supremacy and build life-affirming institutions.” After the New York Post reported that Cullors – a self-described Marxist – had bought a $1.4 million luxury home in Topanga Canyon, near Malibu, and owned three other homes, including a custom ranch in Georgia, Facebook banned users from sharing the story, citing privacy concerns, and a Black journalist said he was locked out of his Twitter account after he posted the article.
The calls for investigation and her sudden resignation highlights a tumultuous time for the organization. The grieving parents of Michael Brown and Breonna Taylor – whose deaths at the hands of white police officers were often cited by Black Lives Matter – last month reportedly complained the organization had done nothing to help them. Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by police during a raid in March 2020, charged that the movement in her city of Louisville, Kentucky, is nothing more than a scam. “I have never personally dealt with BLM Louisville, and personally have found them to be fraud,” Tamika Palmer wrote on Facebook. “I could walk in a room full of people who claim to be here for Breonna’s family who don’t even know who I am,” Palmer said. “I’ve watched y’all raise money on behalf of Breonna’s family who has never done a damn thing for us nor have we needed it … or asked so talk about fraud. It’s amazing how many people have lost focus … I’m gonna say this before I go. I’m so sick of some of y’all.” The father of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old shot and killed by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, asked Black Lives Matter a simple question: “Where is all that money going?”Michael Brown, Sr. asked, “Who are they giving [the money] to, and what are they doing with it? Why hasn’t my family’s foundation received any assistance from the movement? How could you leave the families who are helping the community without any funding?”
At the end of last year, a collective of Black Lives Matter chapters wrote, “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. 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.”
Just days ago another BLM chapter founder, Rashad Turner, posted a video statement about his reasons for stepping down and away from the organization. “In 2015, I was the founder of Black Lives Matter in St. Paul, said Turner in a YouTube video called “the truth revealed about BLM.” “I believed the organization stood for exactly what the name implies — Black lives do matter,” he said in the video for TakeCharge Minnesota, a group opposing the idea that systemic racism is to blame for problems in US society. Turner said he first started the local BLM chapter under the assumption the group would want to fight for Black people from troubled backgrounds to get educated and find success, just like he had. “However, after a year on the inside, I learned they had little concern for rebuilding Black families,” he insisted. Turner says he realized BLM leaders were issuing statements against teachers’ unions and even the nuclear family structure.
“When I was 2 years old, my father was shot and killed,” Turner explains, detailing how he went on to become the first person in his family to get a degree, going on to get a master’s degree in education. “I am living proof that no matter your start in life, quality education is a pathway to success,” he said. Turner states the organization “cared even less about improving the quality of education for students in Minneapolis,” adding it was “made clear when they publicly denounced charter schools alongside the teachers’ union.” After graduating from the police academy in St. Paul, Turner decided being a cop was not for him. He decided to shift strategies to help his community by becoming an activist. Turner founded the St. Paul chapter of Black Lives Matter in 2015, the same year police fatally shot 24-year-old Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. “I was an insider in Black Lives Matter and I learned the ugly truth — the moratorium on charter schools does not support rebuilding the Black family. But it does create barriers to a better education for Black children,” he insisted.
Turner explained, “When you call for a moratorium on charter schools, that is a direct attack on Black families, on Black children.” He went on to say, “The question I always ask folks: How can Black lives matter if Black minds don’t matter?” Turner stressed that “if Black lives really matter, we must start in that classroom. If we are thinking about Black children, doing what’s best for Black families, we have to start with education,” Turner continued. “There is not a disparity in this country that doesn’t begin with folks not being able to read — so if Black lives really matter, we must start in that classroom.”
“I resigned from Black Lives Matter…But I didn’t quit working to improve Black lives and access to a great education,” he said. Resigning after realizing that BLM would not help him gain “the same success for our children and our communities,” he now leads Minnesota Parent Union, which aims to bring parents and educators together. In the objectives of the union it’s stated, “We acknowledge that racist people exist in the country, but explicitly reject the notion that the United States of America is a racist country. This is a subtle, but significant difference!”