Tax filings reveal more questionable spending by BLM organization, cofounder Cullors

A federal 990 tax form shows a more complete picture of the organization's spending.

Published: May 19, 2022 9:12am

Updated: May 19, 2022 2:07pm

Recent tax filings have resulted in renewed scrutiny over Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors' use of charity funds that includes an $840,000 job to her brother to provide security for the nonprofit, social justice group.

According to tax documents filed with the IRS, Cullors' brother, Paul Cullors, received the money in the last fiscal year.

In addition, Damon Turner, the father of Cullors' child, received a $970,000 payment for helping to produce "live events" as well as additional "creative services," the filings also show.

The organization closed its last fiscal year, which ended on June 30, 2021, with $42 million in net assets. 

According to a member of the board, the organization has an annual operating budget of about $4 million. The tax document – a 990 form that all nonprofits must file if they want to maintain their tax-exempt status – also shows the group spent an additional $37 million on foundation grants, real estate, and chartered private flights.

In addition, $32 million was invested in the stock market. The investments, says the organization, will become an endowment to ensure the continuation of the entity's work into the future. 

Cullors resigned as executive director of the organization last year after facing multiple controversies over her spending habits. At the time, Cullors denied that she was resigning due to questions about her spending.

"Those were right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character, and I don’t operate off of what the right thinks about me," she said.

The Black Lives Matters movement started in 2013 but emerged to national prominence following the May 2020 death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis resident, while being arrested by police. 

The decentralized movement, with chapters across the country, focuses on so-called "systemic racism" and alleged police bias against black people. But it has faced criticism about some leaders attempting to profit off the brand instead of focusing on change. 

The recent tax filing also follows revelations that the group purchased a $6 million property in Los Angeles. Prior to that purchase, it was discovered last year, prior to her resignation, that Cullors purchased four houses for about $3.2 million.

Initially, Cullors claimed the property would be used as a campus of sorts for BLM, though it remains unclear if that is how the properties have been utilized. 

Cicley Gay, a communications professional and current board chair of the organization, says BLM is "decolonizing philanthropy."

"We, as a board, are charged with disrupting traditional standards of what grant-making in philanthropy looks like," she said. "It means investing in black communities, trusting them with their dollars."

According to a report in the New York Post, however, Cullors was apparently for some time the organization's only voting director on the board, and she held no meetings. 

Records also show that the board's secretary, Shalomyah Bowers, was paid $2 million for providing the organization with staffing and fundraising support.

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