Patrisse Cullors has been busy making the media rounds amid financial criticism of the Black Lives Matter Global Network that she co-founded. On Thursday night, Cullors appeared on the Black News Channel (BNC) for an interview with Marc Lamont Hill to set her record straight by addressing the controversy around her organization, her career, the right-wing media that she says is targeting her, and much more.
BLM leadership has been accused of not sharing the organization’s recently acquired wealth with activists and other like-minded Black liberation groups. Meanwhile, Cullors, in particular, has been alleged to have gone on a home-buying spree in purported evidence of the lavish lifestyle she allegedly enjoys by profiting off of Black death and trauma.
Neither could be further from the truth, Cullors told Hill during the BNC interview.
“I have never taken a salary from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation,” Cullors stated. “That’s important because the right-wing media is trying to say donations for BLM went toward my spending. That is categorically untrue and incredibly dangerous.”
Cullors said all of her income “comes directly from the work that I do.” However, she stressed that aside from being the Executive Director of Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, she also is a college professor, a TV producer, an author with two book deals – including one New York Times bestseller – along with having a deal with YouTube.
And there’s nothing wrong with that either, Cullors said.
“Organizers should get paid for the work that they do,” Cullors added, addressing the implication that activism shouldn’t be rewarded financially. “They should get paid a living wage.”
Suggesting otherwise, as the New York Post recently attempted to do with a series of news reports questioning Cullors’ real estate assets, “is frankly racist and sexist,” she added.
Cullors said that yes, she owns multiple homes, but other reports about her properties have been incorrect.
“I’m not renting them out in some Airbnb operation,” Cullors told Hill. “Black women take care of their families, especially when they’re in a position to.”
She said her real estate purchases have been investments in Black communities and called the report that she was eyeing property in an exclusive Bahamas enclave where celebrities have homes a “lie.”
Cullors said she uses the properties to house her family.
“I haven’t been to the Bahamas since I was 15 years old,” she added. “I don’t know where that lie came from.”
She referred to her treatment by the conservative media as “misogynoir.”
Cullors added later: “The point of the articles is to discredit me and also to discredit the movement. We have to keep focused on white supremacy.”
The New York Post — the main right-wing media outlet that’s been running with these stories — reported earlier this week that the head of Black Lives Matter Greater New York City, which is unaffiliated with the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, called for “an independent investigation” into the organization’s finances.
Cullors also addressed the reports that she is a Marxist, something that would contradict the reports about owning multiple extravagant homes.
“I think that is a critique that is wanting,” Cullors said. “I say that because the way that I live my life is in direct support to black people, including my family members. For so many black folks who are able to invest, they choose to invest in their families.”
Cullors previously addressed the topic late last year.
She said the news coverage regarding her real estate properties has made her family less safe.
“These folks have created a much dangerous situation for me and my family,” Cullors said, suggesting the images of homes in the articles make it easier for white supremacists to find out their exact locations. “It’s very serious.”
The interview ultimately turned to the topic of BLM having a $90 million endowment — $20 million of which was demanded by activists in Ferguson, Missouri, which is largely credited as the birthplace of the BLM movement following the police shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. in 2014. Those activists demanding money and claiming BLM has ignored them included Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., who claimed he hadn’t received more than $500 from the organization since his son was killed.
Tory Russell, a Ferguson-based activist and leader at the International Black Freedom Alliance who appeared alongside Michael Brown Sr. in the above video calling out BLM, recently explained the basis of his financial expectations from BLM.
“When they (BLM) came to Ferguson we welcomed them in with open arms because we saw Black wanting to struggle for freedom with us,” Russell told NewsOne last month. We taught them the lessons we learned from the uprising in hopes that our people could build a movement for Black liberation in the 21st century.”
But Russell said what followed “was demoralizing” after multiple failed attempts at what he called “reconciliation.”
He added: “We hope that BLM just gives us the resources we are asking for so we can show the world what a Black movement based on Black love, Black unity and Black power can look like. Hopefully, they give us what we deserve.”
Cullors stressed that it hasn’t even been a full year since BLM came into its newfound wealth, with the bulk of the $90 million coming in the form of donations following George Floyd’s police-involved death in Minneapolis.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had real dollars,” Cullors said.
An email sent to NewsOne last month from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation said the organization committed 23% of its total assets to charity last year, which is nearly triple the national average for foundations. That charitable giving came about in part because groups have formally requested financial assistance from BLM, the email said.
“Our community members do need resources, they do need support,” Cullors told Hill in the interview Thursday night. However, she cautioned: “We are not a charity. We are a power-building body. It’s important that people understand the difference.”
Cullors said she has since met with Mike Brown Sr. and “had a really amazing conversation about what is needed and how we can actually support.”
With that said, Cullors emphasized that there are other organizations in addition to BLM where people should go to see financial resources.
“We are an organization that has always fought for Black lives and we will always fight for Black lives, Cullors said. “The role of a community organizer is to help build power.”
Watch the full interview below.