BLM Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors Defends Herself To LA Times: 7 Things To Know

BLM Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors Defends Herself To LA Times: 7 Things To Know


Photo: Patrisse Cullors arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

In the spring of 2021, Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network (BLMGN), came under fire for a number of things. People complained that the millions in donations the organization had received were mismanaged. There were complaints about her buying several expensive real estate properties and she got major backlash for signing a multimillion-dollar deal with Warner Bros. Television Group to create content for the entertainment company.

In May 2021, Cullors resigned from the organization, which she co-founded with Oakland activist Alicia Garza and New York activist Opal Tometi.

Cullors interviewed with The Los Angeles Times and defended herself. Here are seven things to know about the interview, which was published on Jan. 13, 2022. 

1. Cullors said she suffered trauma

After stepping down, she told the L.A. Times she had to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in July 2021. “I’m in this place where I’m trying to heal what happened while also making sense of it,” she said. “I really thought I was gonna die. I thought I was either gonna get killed by a crazy white supremacist — you know, they’re gonna show up to my house — or I was gonna kill myself. I was really preparing for death.”

2. Cullors: Media reports misleading

In April 2021, news outlets reported that Cullors had been on a personal “million-dollar real estate buying binge.” The reports were misleading, she said.

The New York Post reported that since 2016, Cullors had spent an estimated $3.2 million on four properties. She bought three homes in the Los Angeles area and one outside of Atlanta.

“As protests broke out across the country in the name of Black Lives Matter, the group’s co-founder went on a real estate buying binge, snagging four high-end homes,” the NY Post story read. Other media outlets picked up the story, which Cullors now claims was a non-story.

Cullors said she did not purchase the properties with funds from the BLM Global Network, pointing out she had two lucrative book deals. For one, she wrote a New York Times bestselling memoir in 2018. She also signed a production deal with Warner Bros. in 2020 to develop programming “for children, young adults and families.”

Cullors has another deal with YouTube and also does public speaking, operates an art gallery in South L.A. and teaches at Prescott College, a private liberal arts college in Arizona.

“One of the biggest dreams for Black folks is land and home ownership,” Cullors said. “I knew that in order to have a certain level of stability I wanted to own a home and I also wanted people in my life to have access to home ownership. It means that I’ve co-financed homes, and I’ve supported folks to be on the path of home ownership. This isn’t new. Black women are often the primary breadwinners and supporters of our family members and community members.”

3. Still committed to saving Black lives

Cullors, 38, told the Times she’s still committed to Black lives, while she did not say if she is committed to the BLM organization.

4. Admits to failures as a leader

Cullors told the Times she has reflected on what went wrong (and what went right) during her years in leadership. She said one problem was that “instead of reaching out, she’s turning her organizing talents inward,” the Times reported.

Garza and Tometi had left to lead other organizations. “When the larger construct that you invested in abandons you, where do you go? I think that’s what I’m really trying to figure out right now,” Cullors said. “I’m in this place where I’m trying to heal what happened while also making sense of it.”

She added, “I come from flat models, where we all do the work and there’s no hierarchy.” Cullors’s background had been in the arts and local organizing. She now sees the need for a hierarchy “that’s rooted in collaboration but is very clear on roles and responsibilities.”

5. Cullors made a controversial step

When she faced hardships controlling the rapidly expanding grassroots organization, she hired a nonprofit services leader, the Tides Center, to manage the organization’s back office and accounting.

“Then in a controversial step, Cullors assumed the role of executive director. Lastly, she created two arms of the organization, the Black Lives Matter Political Action Committee to engage in politics and BLM Grassroots to oversee the organization’s chapters,” the Times reported.

This move caused tensions and pushback from the chapters. In December 2020, 10 local chapters calling themselves the BLM10 drafted an open letter claiming that Cullors became executive director “against the will of most chapters and without their knowledge.” They also claimed they had received “little to no financial support from BLMGN since the launch in 2013.”

6. Families of police killing victims unhappy

Samaria Rice and Lisa Simpson, both mothers of sons killed by police, released a statement calling on Cullors to “step down, stand back, and stop monopolizing and capitalizing our fight.”

“Black lives don’t matter. Your pockets matter,” declared Simpson, whose 18-year-old son, Richard Risher, was killed by Los Angeles police in 2016.

“Y’all come into our lives and act like y’all got our back and y’all want to say ‘Black Lives Matter,’” Simpson continued. “But after we bury our children, we don’t see B, L or M, but y’all out here buying properties.”

Six weeks later, Cullors announced she was stepping down from the Black Lives Matter Global Network.

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7. Scared and misunderstood

Cullors told the Times at the time of her resignation she was exhausted and afraid, she felt misunderstood and attacked from all sides.

“I have never felt this objectified,” she said. “I’m not a human being to a lot of people. It doesn’t matter that I have a child, that I have family, that I take care of my brother who’s mentally ill.”

She added, “It wasn’t just a character assassination campaign, but a campaign to actually get me assassinated.”

Photo: Patrisse Cullors arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)