BlackLives Matter has $ 42 million in assets

New York (AP) —The Foundation, started by the organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement, is still worth tens of millions of dollars after spending over $ 37 million on grants, real estate, consultants, and other expenses. I have. IRS.

In the new 63-page Form 990, shared exclusively with The Associated Press, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. $ 90 million received as a donation In a protest of racial justice in 2020. The investment is expected to be a donation to ensure that Foundation activities continue in the future, the organizers say.

The last fiscal year from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 ended with a net worth of nearly $ 42 million. According to board members, the Foundation’s operating budget was about $ 4 million.

Tax returns show that about $ 6 million was spent on compounds in the Los Angeles area. The Studio City property, which includes a six-bedroom and six-bathroom home, swimming pool, soundstage, and office space, was intended as a fellowship campus for black artists and is currently being used for that purpose by the Board of Directors. Members say.

This is the first public accounting for the BLM Foundation’s finances since it was founded in 2017. As an emerging non-profit organization, it received financial support from a well-established charity and did not need to publicly disclose its finances until it became independent. , 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization in December 2020.

Tax returns suggest that the organization is still finding its foundation. Currently, there are no managing directors or in-house staff. A non-profit expert tells AP that the BLM Foundation seems to operate like a messy organization with far less resources.

Still, its governance structure makes it difficult to disprove allegations of inadequacy, financial mismanagement, and deviations from the mission that have plagued the BLM Foundation for years, one expert said. rice field.

Brian Mittendorf, a professor of accounting at Ohio State University and focused on nonprofits and their financial statements, said:

“People will soon assume that the mismatch reflects their intent,” he added. “Is there anything wrong here, that’s another question, but surely because they didn’t fill the bunch of those gaps, whether they were prepared to be criticized or not. I think so. “

The BLM movement first appeared in 2013 after George Zimmerman, a vigilant patrol volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, was acquitted. However, Michael Brown’s 2014 death by police in Ferguson, Missouri, made the slogan “Black Lives Matter” a favorite target for progressive rally calls and conservative ridicule.

BLM co-founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Ayọ Tometi have pledged to build a decentralized organization governed by the consensus of the BLM branch. But only three years after its founding, Colors was the only movement founder involved in the organization.

And in 2020, the wave of contributions in the aftermath of protests against the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police meant that the BLM organization needed far more infrastructure.

When Colors revealed a surge in donations last year, local branch organizers and families of police atrocities responded angry. Until then, the Foundation was opaque to the most devoted BLM organizers, many accusing Colors of keeping them out of decisions on how to allocate funding.

Yah Né Ndgo, an activist and former organizer of Philadelphia’s BLM branch, said Colors argued against the promise to hand over control of Foundation resources to grassroots organizers.

“When resources come in, when opportunities come, only (Foundation) decides who will use them, without considering the other organizers who provide access to the resources. It will be. Resources and opportunities in the first place. ” Ndgo, who organized a group of chapters confronting the Foundation on issues of transparency and accountability, said.

so Recent interview Using the AP, Colors acknowledged that the Foundation was not ready to handle the moment. The tax return lists Colors as the unpaid founder and executive director.She Resignation last year. The Foundation also paid a Severance of approximately $ 140,000 to a former managing director who was in conflict with the organizer of the local BLM branch before Colors took office.

Filing indicates that Colors has refunded $ 73,523 to the organization for charter flights for Foundation-related travel. The organization took it in 2021 concerned about COVID-19 and security threats. She also paid the Foundation $ 390 for using Studio City’s assets for two private events.

Last year, Colors was the only voting director of the Foundation’s board of directors, according to Filing, and did not hold a board of directors. This is permitted by Delaware law, which the Foundation incorporates, but its governance structure appears to be that only Colors decides who to hire and how to spend donations. That was never true, said current board members.

For all questions raised about that oversight, the BLM Foundation’s tax returns show that the steward is not wasting donations. Instead, it gave tens of millions of dollars to the BLM branch, a black-led grassroots organization, and the families of victims of police atrocities, and the name rallyed a larger movement.

“This 990 shows that (BLM Foundation) is the largest black abolitionist nonprofit ever in US history. What we are doing is this. It has never been done before, “said Shalomia Bowers, Foundation Secretary-General.

“We pay for grassroots organizations doing abolition work, doing the job of shifting the moral trends of this world to police, prisons, prisons, or those who do not have or believe in violence. I had to, “he said.

Earlier this month, the Foundation announced Bowers as one of three members of the Board. He is President Cicley Gay, a communications expert with over 20 years of experience in nonprofits and charities, and a member of BLM’s Los Angeles branch focused on the impact of mass imprisonment on his family. ‘I’m Zhane Parker.

“We are non-colonizing philanthropy,” Gay said. “As a board of directors, we are responsible for breaking the traditional standard of what a philanthropic grant is like. It invests in the black community and trusts them with their money. Means to do. “

According to Bowers, the Foundation will set up a “Transparency and Accountability Center” on its website to make financial documents available for public inspection.


Foundation relies on consultants

To get here, the Foundation relies on a small group of consultants, some of whom are closely associated with the founders and other BLM organizers. For example, tax returns show that the Foundation paid about $ 970,000 to Trap Heels LLC, a company founded by Damon Turner, who had a child in Colors. According to Bowers, the company was hired to produce live events and provide other creative services.

According to tax returns, the Foundation has paid more than $ 840,000 to Colors Protection LLC, a security company run by Patrice’s brother Paul Colors. The BLM movement is known for violent protests against law enforcement agencies, and the Foundation felt that protection could not be entrusted to former police experts who normally run security companies, Bowers said. He added that he asked a security contractor to bid.

Formerly Deputy Managing Director, Bowers is the founder and president of the company, which received most of the money spent on consultants last year. Bowers Consulting provided much of the Foundation’s operational support, including staffing, financing and other key services, and tax filings paid more than $ 2.1 million.

Mittendorf, a professor of accounting at Ohio State University, said the foundation’s reliance on consultants is not uncommon for new nonprofits. However, having a clear policy on commerce can reduce the improper appearance, he said.

“It’s a best practice not to do business with influential people in your organization or with companies that are affiliated with influential people in your organization,” says Mittendorf. “Make sure you have policies and other controls on conflicts of interest. By doing so, all of these transactions are done to benefit the organization, not the individual. increase.”

The tax return shows that the Foundation has a policy of conflict of interest. And Bowers said the last BLM board approved a contract with his company when he wasn’t a member of the board.

“Our company intervened when Black Lives Matter had no structure or staff,” he said. “We filled the gap when nothing else existed, but to be clear, there were no conflicts of interest.”

The organization’s financial debate has elicited an investigation by at least two state lawyer presidents. Board members said they were cooperating in civil investigations in Indiana and Ohio and submitted relevant documents to these authorities.

Isabelle Leighton, Interim Executive Director of the Donors of Color Network, an organization that promotes racial equality in philanthropy, said discrimination in the nonprofit sector leaves little room for black-led progressive movements to make public mistakes. Said. She said that such organizations usually receive far less financial and operational support than wealthy white-led nonprofits, but have received far more criticism.

“Colored people take advantage of the deep story that people who have already made it do not deserve the same resources they get,” Layton said. “This is intended to begin suspiciously creating a unique new echo chamber where people criticize those who deserve resources.”


BLM Grants Chapter and Family $ 16 Million

The Foundation’s tax returns claim that the BLM Foundation has ignored the larger move. Nearly $ 26 million last year, or 70% of the cost, was subsidized to organizations and families.

12 BLM chapters, including Boulder, Colorado. Boston; Washington DC; Detroit; Los Angeles; Gary, Indiana; Philadelphia has received a grant pledge of up to $ 500,000. The Family Foundation, founded in honor of Floyd and others killed by police and vigilants, Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, each received $ 200,000 in donations.

In a statement, Jakari Harris, executive director of the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, said he was “incredibly grateful” for the grant, “the biggest ever received in the United States.” Donate. ” Educate college scholarships, mental health support for the black community, and “the dangers of police atrocities around the world.”

The Michael ODBrown: We Love Our Sons & Daughters Foundation, run by Michael Brown Jr.’s mother, Lezley McSpadden, has been approved with a larger multi-year grant of $ 1.4 million. A representative of the Brown Foundation told AP that he received the first $ 500,000 in 2021.

The representative said McSpadden was pleased to receive the support of the BLM Foundation.

Among its large grants is $ 2.3 million to the Living ThroughGiving Foundation, a non-profit charity that encourages donations at the local level. $ 1.5 million for Team Blackbird, LLC, a rapid response communication and exercise strategy project that enhances visibility of the athletic organization.

The tax return does not reveal the Foundation’s largest donor.

“Transparency and accountability are very important to us, but trust is also important,” said Gay, Chairman of the BLM Foundation. “Presenting the (donor’s) name after the facts can betray that credibility at this time.”


Morrison writes about the race and justice of AP’s racial and ethnic teams. Follow him on Twitter: