Speaking to The Guardian, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who went on a mansion-buying spree, claimed that she was the "fall guy" for the organization, "a movement," she said, that is much bigger than her.
It was in May 2021 that Cullors stepped down as BLM's executive director. The general public hadn't heard much from her since then, especially after it was revealed that she spent $6.3 million for a Toronto mansion that formerly belonged to the Communist Party.
As far as explanations go, readers are led to believe that Cullors had enough personal success separate from BLM as an organization for personal lavishness.
"You're catching me at a place of deep, deep self-reflection," she said, "but I look forward to many more years ahead where I can look back with more fondness. I think right now I have a lot of hurt and resentment and I feel like I've been treated as the fall guy for a movement that is much bigger than me. And some will say: 'Well you let yourself be Time 100, you let yourself be in the forefront and you're about to be on the cover of The Guardian – kinda comes with the territory.' True."
Much of the recent controversy surrounding BLM is by the group's lack of proper IRS filings for their swath of donations. Earlier this month, the controversy surrounding BLM's improper reporting led the group to be dropped as an official charity.
The California Attorney General went as far as swearing "financial liability" would be pursued. It was only as of Thursday that the state began to allow BLM to fundraise again after an "accounting gimmick" was cleared up. [The same goes for Connecticut, Colorado, New Mexico, and Maine, where the group faced similar problems.]
The pivot in part is being dedicated to Hillary Clinton's campaign lawyer Marc Elias, who was brought on board earlier on February.
What it boils down is Cullors claiming to be her lack of management skills. She had a breakdown about a January 2022 article that criticized her credibility.
"I think it's because Black people in general have a hard time with money. It's a trigger point for us," Cullors told The Guardian. In her case, she says, "A lot of that has to do with being socialized as a woman and just wanting to do the work, not bragging about what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished.”
Despite the claims made against Cullors' management style, she publicly swears by the claim that millions of dollars were put "back into the community."
For a piece that claims to be on Cullors responding to the public backlash, the first half of The Guardian article is dedicated to biographical background.
Cullors grew up in a household where her own father, biologically, was different from the figure that raised her. He was a man who was also a recovering alcoholic and it's these teachings of empathy that Cullors claimed were the building blocks of her youth. It helped her to have an explanation as to why she seemed so outspoken compared to her siblings.
When Cullors came out as a lesbian at 16, it served as her pivot point into adulthood. The Guardian piece describes at this point that while her mother still kept tabs on her, Cullors grew increasingly aware of the police ecosystem of the United States. [In a 2015 speech, the self-avowed Marxist was recorded calling police a terrorist organization that she "always wanted to fight."]
Her brother's 1999 arrest served as a radicalizing point in her mindset as an activist. But in addition to that, Cullors said she was labeled "gifted" and grew up surrounded in an education system full of white privilege.
Cullors said during her interview: "'It is unacceptable that I come home to police sirens and helicopter policing and that I go to school, where all these white kids are doing every drug under the sun and nothing is happening to them. Why not them, when they're actually the ones dealing the drugs?' I'm talking about massive amounts of drugs that I would not have had access to if it wasn't for white communities. That wasn't right."
Despite these early indications for successful activism, The Guardian interview takes a turn in the second half: Cullors wants the world to know she was unprepared for the mainstream success that the BLM movement ended up having, globally.
The Guardian piece says it was in 2013 that Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi laid the groundwork for the Black Lives Matter hashtag following George Zimmerman being cleared over the death of Trayvon Martin. Their motivation for taking charge? The trio was supposedly worried about the message being hijacked.
By 2014 it was a formal organization. "What we did, Alicia, Opal and I, is create infrastructure so that we could have language and a framework around why police violence, vigilante violence, incarceration, were the greatest dangers to our community. We created a language around queerness and transness as not the enemy to Black people. My specific role was bringing people together, going across the country and world to talk about the tactic of protest, the tactic of what we call 'shutting shit down', of lifting up Blackness and being OK with saying: 'Black lives matter.'"
That ultimately led to the summer 2020 George Floyd riots. It led BLM to get over $90 million in donations that year. That's in contrast to the reported "$1 billion plus" in riot damage reported as a result of the protests that turned into riots.
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