Black Lives Matter splinters as leaders seize power

“Black Lives Matter” became an oft-cited rallying political cry for some Americans disenchanted with President Donald Trump’s pro-police and pro-law enforcement messaging, in addition to grassroots activists who clamored for varying levels of reform in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Even as its popularity plummeted among Americans— due to the movement’s involvement in nights of looting, violence, property damage and destruction—the Black Lives Matter movement appeared to be on good terms with its local chapters.

But that is not the case, as Politico reported that its sole remaining founder, Patrisse Cullors, is remaking the movement into a political organization despite the objections from local chapters. The news outlet pointed out that the movement “is buckling under the strain of its own success” as local chapters and national leaders are blasting each other over the future of the movement.

Accuracy in Academia had previously investigated Black Lives Matter’s financial network and its claims, discovering in the process that the Black Lives Matter movement is purposely hiding its donors, assets, and financial details of how it spends its funds. Much of the group’s selling point to activists was based on the assurance that local leaders, not national leaders, will receive necessary funding to rally their communities to their cause.

But those promises were empty promises, according to chapter leaders.

Black Lives Matter’s national leaders not only endorsed Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidate, but also formed a political action committee called Black Lives Matter PAC, formed corporate partnerships, and added another organizing arm called Black Lives Matter Grassroots. Cullors also unilaterally appointed herself as the executive director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, which is the official name of the movement’s national leadership. Chapter leaders claimed that Cullors made the politically-charged decisions without their input, which “triggered mutiny in the ranks” and ten chapters officially severed ties from the Black Lives Matter Global Network.

In an open letter, ten chapters announced their departure from the movement. “With a willingness to do hard work that would put us at risk, we expected that the central organizational entity … would support us chapters in our efforts to build communally,” the letter said. This breakaway group, the #BLM10, listed several disagreements and grievances with national leadership. Particularly, the chapters complained about Cullors’ lack of transparency and her power grab to assume national leadership.

The chapters alleged that they were left in the dark about fundraising figures and did not have easy access to funds. Since the movement’s founding in 2013, local chapters said they have not received adequate funding “despite repeated promises,” as Politico noted. Previous discussions to air their grievances with Cullors directly failed and were unproductive.

The Black Lives Matter Global Network responded to the #BLM10 claims and said that these splinter groups are trying to co-opt the brand to gain credibility and fundraise. Adding to the ongoing dysfunction, two of the original three founders, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, have left the movement while local chapters saw their funding and decision-making power disappear.

The movement used to claim that it had a “leaderful” structure, where every member had an equal say and that leadership could not overrule the common members of the movement. The Marxist goals of the group, which Accuracy in Academia has detailed in-depth, ultimately failed in practice similarly to Marxist governments in the past.

An organizer with the movement’s Oklahoma City chapter, Sheri Dickerson, told Politico, “There’s been intentional erasure,” of local activists by national leadership. “People assume that that money is distributed to local chapters. That is not the case. People also assume that when actions are made, that national [leadership] has the support and agreement from this collective that what they’re saying is representative of us. And that’s certainly not the case.”

Philadelphia chapter leader Yahné Ndgo said, “We didn’t have an opportunity to agree to discuss. Nothing.” Ndgo added, “So then we ask questions, and we are told no answers.”

D.C. organizer April Goggans blasted national leadership, “What [supporters] see is national folks talking about trying to get a meeting with Biden, while kids are literally outside of my door asking for food.”

For example, Black Lives Matter’s homepage links to ActBlue, which is the online fundraising arm for Democratic Party causes. There is little evidence that ActBlue funnels any Black Lives Matter donations back to local chapters, which would support Dickerson’s allegations of nonexistent funds for local chapters.

What happened to the movement’s $13 million fundraising haul by June 2020, after months of protesting across the country? Local leaders said they do not know what happened to those funds, since they never received a portion of them. Instead, they were forced to crowdfund to make ends meet.

In July, chapters were told to apply for funding from the foundation arm, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, to the tune of multiyear grants scaling up to $500,000 without restrictions. However, #BLM10 said that there were too many gray areas on what constituted a legitimate affiliate, which led to few chapters qualifying for the grants.

In short, Black Lives Matter has become a corporate-like organization, freezing out local chapters and activists, allegedly hoarding funding for its own goals, and changing the original nature of the movement.

Any student of history would have realized that the promises of Marxism are never fulfilled in practice. The few and powerful seize means of production and wealth, while the activists are tossed aside after fulfilling their roles as pawns. Black Lives Matter activists are no longer useful to national leadership and have been frozen out, left to survive on their own while leaders reap the benefits.

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