A co-founder of Black Lives Matter announced on Thursday that she is stepping down as executive director of the movement’s foundation
Patrisse Cullors, who has been at the helm of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation for nearly six years, said she is leaving to focus on other projects, including the upcoming release of her second book and a multiyear TV development deal with Warner Bros Her last day with the foundation is Friday.
“I’ve created the infrastructure and the support, and the necessary bones and foundation, so that I can leave,” Cullors told The Associated Press. “It feels like the time is right.”
Cullors’ departure follows a massive surge in support and political influence in the US and around the world for the BLM movement, which was established nearly eight years ago in response to injustice against Black Americans.
The resignation comes on the heels of controversy about the foundation’s finances and about Cullors’s personal wealth.
The 37-year-old activist said her resignation has been in the works for more than a year and has nothing to do with the personal attacks she has faced from far-right groups or any dissension within the movement.
“Those were right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character, and I don’t operate off of what the right thinks about me,” Cullors said.
As she departs, the foundation is bringing on board two new interim senior executives to help steer it in the immediate future: Monifa Bandele, a longtime BLM organiser and founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in New York City, and Makani Themba, an early backer of the BLM movement and chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies in Jackson, Mississippi.
The BLM foundation revealed in February that it took in just more than $90 million last year, following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, a Black man whose last breaths under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer inspired protests globally.
The foundation said it ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60 million, after spending nearly a quarter of its assets on operating expenses, grants to Black-led organisations and other charitable giving.
Critics of the foundation contend more of that money should have gone to the families of Black victims of police brutality who have been unable to access the resources needed to deal with their trauma and loss.
Cullors and the foundation have said they do support families without making public announcements or disclosing dollar amounts.
Last month, Cullors was targeted by several conservative publications that falsely alleged she took a large annual salary from the foundation, affording her recent purchase of a southern California home.
In April, the foundation stated Cullors was a volunteer executive director who, prior to 2019, had “received a total of $120,000 since the organization’s inception in 2013, for duties such as serving as spokesperson and engaging in political education work.”
“As a registered 501c3 non-profit organization, [the foundation] cannot and did not commit any organizational resources toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer,” the foundation said in a statement.