Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Patrisse Cullors has admitted that she used the group’s multi-million-dollar mansion in Los Angeles for two personal parties in 2021, just a month after suggesting that she had never used the property for personal gain.
Cullors, a self-described “trained Marxist,” told The Associated Press on May 9 that she hosted a small party at the mansion in January 2021, to celebrate the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. She added that about 15 people participated in the party, including members from the Los Angeles chapter of BLM.
At the time, Cullors said she was “seeking refugee” at the mansion because there were “threats against her life.”
The second party at the mansion was held in March 2021, Cullors said, a private birthday celebration for her son.
According to AP, BLM said it had billed Cullors a “rental fee” for using the mansion for her son’s birthday party, and Cullors said she intended to make the payment.
“I look back at that and think, that probably wasn’t the best idea,” Cullors said about her two parties at the mansion.
In April, Cullors denied she had ever lived in the mansion or taken advantage of the property for personal reasons, after New York Magazine revealed that the group bought the property for $5.8 million in October 2020. The 6,500-square-foot estate was purchased with money that had been donated to Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, just two weeks after BLM received $66.5 million from its fiscal sponsor.
Dyane Pascall, the financial manager for a consulting firm operated by Cullors and her spouse Janaya Khan, bought the mansion, according to the magazine. Within a week after the purchase, Pascall transferred the ownership of the property to an LLC in Delaware, a move that “ensured that the ultimate identity of the property’s new owner was not disclosed to the public,” the magazine added.
At the time, Cullors railed against the magazine’s story, saying it was a “despicable abuse of a platform that’s intended to provide information to the public” and a “racist and sexist” attack on BLM.
“The fact that a reputable publication would allow a reporter, with a proven and very public bias against me and other black leaders, to write a piece filled with misinformation, innuendo, and incendiary opinions, is disheartening and unacceptable,” she added.
Cullors also said the mansion was purchased with the intention of being used by the BLM movement community to “work, create content, host meetings, and foster creativity.”
She defended the purchase of the mansion in her interview with AP.
“We really wanted to make sure that the global network foundation had an asset that wasn’t just financial resources,” she said, before adding: “We understood that not many black-led organizations have property. They don’t own their property.”
In May 2021, Cullors resigned as the group’s executive director, amid criticism over her personal wealth and the group’s finances.
Cullors adamantly denied claims that she had personally benefited while guiding the BLM foundation, according to AP.
“The idea that [the foundation] received millions of dollars and then I hid those dollars in my bank account is absolutely false,” she said. “That’s a false narrative. It’s impacted me personally and professionally, that people would accuse me of stealing from black people.”
Looking back, she said BLM wasn’t ready to handle the influx of contributions following George Floyd’s death in May 2020. What’s more, she added that the foundation was slow to build the necessary infrastructure.
“On paper, it looks crazy,” she said. “We use this term in our movement a lot, which is we’re building the plane while flying it. I don’t believe in that anymore. The only regret I have with BLM is wishing that we could have paused for one to two years, to just not do any work and just focus on the infrastructure.”
Shalomyah Bowers, a BLM board member, in a phone interview with AP, said the foundation underwent an independent financial audit. He said the audit and the soon-to-be-released 990 IRS filing will show that “nothing impermissible or nefarious has happened” with BLM’s finances.
“We are now a foundation that is deeply devoted to investing in organizations that are committed to doing the work of abolition [and] committed to building black power,” he said.
On April 26, Indiana’s Attorney General, Todd Rokita, filed a lawsuit against the BLM foundation, as part of an ongoing investigation of the organization’s use of funds.