The Black Lives Matter Global Network has shaken up its leadership in an unexpected move amid heightened scrutiny over the organization’s finances in recent months.
Patrisse Cullors, who co-founded Black Lives Matter and has served as its executive director, will be stepping down from that position, the group announced Thursday. At the same time, Black Lives Matter introduced the appointments of two new senior executives who will be serving in an interim capacity following Cullors’ departure.
Cullors said in a statement that the names leading Black Lives Matter may be changing, but everything else will stay the same.
“With smart, experienced and committed people supporting the organization during this transition, I know that BLMGNF is in good hands,” Cullors said. “The foundation’s agenda remains the same — eradicate white supremacy and build life-affirming institutions. Between the two Senior Executives and BLM Grassroots Co-Director Melina Abdullah, who is an original member of BLM and co-founder of its first chapter in Los Angeles, their immense talent will build a future where Black lives do more than matter — they will truly thrive.”
As Cullors steps down, Makani Themba, Chief Strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies, and Monifa Bandele, Chief Operating Officer at Time’s Up Foundation, will be stepping up during the period of transition “until the organization finds a new permanent team,” Black Lives Matter said.
Themba said she is eager to get started.
“BLM was and continues to be an organization that is centered on our love for Black people,” Themba said. “I am looking forward to working alongside the powerful team at BLMGNF and BLM Grassroots to continue to work towards Black liberation.”
Bandele, who called herself “a strong advocate for the transformation of Black lives and the end of white supremacy,” said she was “fortunate to follow the creative and successful leadership of” those “who have set a bold path for the foundation.”
Cullors spoke last month with Marc Lamont Hill on the Black News Channel to address controversies 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. 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.
“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.
It’s not clear if any of the above played a role in the decision for Cullors to step down.
Under Cullors’ leadership, Black Lives Matter was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and helped foster a worldwide racial reckoning through ongoing protests against police violence, racism and white supremacy, among other significant accomplishments.
There was not an immediate announcement about what’s next for Cullors following her departure from the Black Lives Matter Global Network.