BLM Founder's Million Dollar Home Purchase Sparks Bigger Questions About The Hidden Financials Behind BLM

Have you donated to Black Lives Matter? You wouldn’t be alone.

By Katarina Bradford5 min read

In 2020, Black Lives Matter raked in $90 million in donations, in addition to almost $1 billion in corporate pledges. I bet you would hope that your money is going toward causes to strengthen and improve black communities, yet the BLM organization has been anything but transparent about what happens to donations once it hits their accounts. Moreover, it’s unclear whether your money is going towards BLM’s non-profit or for-profit branch. That’s right, Black Lives Matter is only a charity in part. There’s a good chance that your donation has gone into BLM’s for-profit account, which is shielded from financial disclosure. 

However, whether your money has gone to BLM’s non-profit or for-profit branches, you would hope that your money is being used to further racial justice. Ironically, and sadly, what BLM money trails we do have access to hardly have anything to do with racial justice — unless you think BLM founders purchasing a multi-million dollar home in a predominately white upper-class community north of Malibu somehow improves black lives. This only scratches the surface of BLM’s deliberate lack of transparency and alarming financial history. 

Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ Real Estate Spree

Let’s start with the multi-million dollar house. This $1.4 million bougie Topanga Canyon home was purchased by BLM cofounder and self-ascribed Marxist, 37-year-old Patrisse Khan-Cullors. You might be thinking that owning a million-dollar home in Los Angeles isn’t out of the ordinary, even for the head of a so-called “charity.” Los Angeles is one of the U.S.’s most expensive housing markets after all. However, this isn’t Khan-Cullors’ first major real-estate purchase. She and her wife, Janaya Khan, the cofounder of BLM Canada, have purchased two other properties in the LA area, along with another property outside Atlanta, Georgia. Sound a bit suspicious?

It should. Khan-Cullors’ real estate spending spree coincides with when she initially launched BLM as a national movement. In 2016, only a few years after the BLM movement took off when Khan-Cullors and other founders created the #blacklivesmatter hashtag, Khan-Cullors purchased her 3-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom home in Inglewood, California for $510,000, which is now worth nearly $800,000. As if one LA home weren’t enough, in 2018, Khan-Cullors purchased a $590,000 4-bedroom home in South Los Angeles, which is now valued at $720,000. 

In addition to these three Los Angeles-based properties, last year, Khan-Cullors purchased a $415,000 custom 3.2-acre ranch outside Atlanta featuring a private airplane hangar with a studio apartment above it, and a 2,500-foot "paved/grass" community runway that can accommodate small airplanes. Khan-Cullors’ U.S. properties alone amount to $3.2 million before taking into account the growth in property value.

Patrisse Khan-Cullors owns four U.S. properties worth at least $3.2 million. 

Additionally, Khan-Cullors might be trying her hand at international real estate. An anonymous real estate source told the New York Post that Khan-Cullors and Janaya Khan were spotted viewing properties at the Albany, a private, luxury resort community in the Bahamas where Justin Timberlake and Tiger Woods both have homes. Albany homes are priced between $5-$20 million. 

However, it’s noteworthy that, since 2016, Khan-Cullors has made multiple lucrative deals for her personal brand. In 2018, Khan-Cullors published her best-selling memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, and in October 2020, Khan-Cullors signed "a multi-platform" deal with Warner Bros to produce content for "black voices who have been historically marginalized.” Though we don’t know how much Khan-Cullors personally gained from each of these deals, it’s reasonable to assume that the deals were lucrative enough to fund Khan-Cullors’ real-estate spree. However, the fact that Khan-Cullors’ finances and dealings with BLM’s accounts are anything but transparent is worrisome to many, chief of which are fellow BLM organizers. 

After learning about Khan-Cullors’ real estate purchases, Hawk Newsome, the head of Black Lives Matter Greater New York City, called for "an independent investigation" and for greater transparency in how the BLM global network spends its money. Newsome says, “If you go around calling yourself a Socialist, you have to ask how much of her own personal money is going to charitable causes. It’s really sad because it makes people doubt the validity of the movement and overlook the fact that it’s the people that carry this movement.” Newsome added that his chapter doesn’t receive any funding from the Black Lives Matter Global Network. 

But BLM has dismissed the questions around Khan-Cullors' home purchases, blaming white supremacy as the real motive behind the story. "The narratives being spread about Patrisse have been generated by right-wing forces intent on reducing the support and influence of a movement that is larger than any one organization. This right-wing offensive not only puts Patrisse, her child and her loved ones in harm's way, it also continues a tradition of terror by white supremacists against Black activists."

If you go around calling yourself a Socialist, you have to ask how much of her own personal money is going to charitable causes.

White supremacy is yet again a convenient excuse to avoid any unwanted questions or attention. As a self-ascribed Marxist and Socialist organizer, it’s ironic that Khan-Cullors is living the capitalist dream. Perhaps Khan-Cullor should practice what she preaches? The millions she apparently has in her pocket would do wonders redistributed towards inner-city programs. 

BLM Is a Non-Profit and a For-Profit Organization

This isn’t the first time Black Lives Matter has been accused of covering up its finances. In fact, the lack of transparency has been a purposeful strategy of the movement since its inception. When advertising for donations and support, BLM is depicted as a non-profit charity. You would think that all donations would be allocated directly to the organization’s cause. But this isn’t the case. Only one branch of Black Lives Matter is a non-profit charity. That’s right — the greater BLM network is a for-profit organization that doesn’t have to publish its financial and tax records like non-profit charities do.

The Oakland-based non-profit founded by Khan-Cullors and Kailee Scales was incorporated in 2017 and titled “BLM Global Network Foundation” with the mission to “eradicate White supremacy and build power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities." This BLM incorporation claims five branches in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. As a non-profit, this BLM incorporation is accountable to tax and financial disclosures. However, it's difficult to find these disclosures. BLM donations are processed through Democratic super PACs ActBlue and Thousand Currents, who have made it difficult to trace the donations once they hit BLM’s accounts.

BLM’s for-profit and non-profit branches have almost identical names, which could confuse donors.

However, this marks only the beginning of BLM’s concerted effort to cover up the organization’s finances. Shortly after incorporating the non-profit BLM Global Network Foundation, Khan-Cullors set up the BLM Global Network, a for-profit organization, which isn’t required to disclose how much it spends or pays its executives. The only word distinguishing the non-profit and the for-profit branches of BLM is “foundation.” This forces us to wonder whether donors know if they’re giving to the non-profit or the for-profit. Yet this is the rub: there is no way to actually know how much money has been going into the for-profit’s pockets because they’re exempt from financial disclosure. 

Yet there is some evidence that millions of dollars have been improperly allocated into different BLM branches due to name confusion. In May 2015, Robert Ray Barnes, a music producer from California, incorporated the “Black Lives Matter Foundation” in California, more than a year before Khan-Cullors incorporated the non-profit BLM Global Network Foundation. As Barnes started his BLM branch more than a year before the BLM Global Network Foundation, Barnes’ non-profit was completely unaffiliated with Khan-Cullors’ non-profit. 

However, once Khan-Cullors launched the BLM Global Network Foundation, donors poured in millions of dollars into Barnes’ completely unaffiliated charity, thinking it represented the greater BLM movement. In fact, Apple, Microsoft, Dropbox, and Google were planning on donating more than $4 million to Barnes’ group before BuzzFeed reported the non-profit didn’t represent the wider Black Lives Matter movement. 

Corporations almost donated millions to an unaffiliated BLM charity with a similar name.

This is only some of the evidence of how millions of dollars have been misallocated across different BLM groups. More than $1 billion in corporate giving has been pledged by mega-companies like Walmart, Bank of America, and Facebook, yet it’s not clear whether this money is going to the non-profit or the for-profit branch of BLM, or even to a completely unaffiliated branch of BLM altogether. The fact that BLM purposefully created a for-profit branch almost identical in name to its non-profit branch ought to set off alarm bells. Moreover, the fact that founding member Khan-Cullors refuses to disclose such vital financial information and is covered by the for-profit laws is cause to demand an investigation. 

Additionally, actual BLM branches affiliated with the greater BLM network have been audited by the IRS for their lack of transparency. The IRS revoked the non-profit status of BLM charities in New York, Vermont, Florida, and South Carolina for failing to file annual returns.

Where Did the Money Go?

Is there any financial information we can learn from BLM? Per regulatory laws, the non-profit branch of BLM has to disclose its financial information. According to a BLM statement to the AP, the non-profit branch of BLM made $90 million in 2020, with $21.7 million committed to grant funding and helping 30 black-led groups across the country. However, this leaves $68.3 million left unaccounted for, more than three times the amount allocated for grants. Moreover, the non-profit incorporation of BLM refuses to disclose how much it made from prominent donors or how much Khan-Cullors is allocated as a salary from non-profit donations. 

$68.3 million dollars donated in 2020 alone are unaccounted for.

Have your BLM donations been used to purchase Khan-Cullors’ multi-million real-estate investments? We don’t know and we can’t know so long as Khan-Cullors keeps silent and is protected by her army of corporate and political supporters. 

Closing Thoughts

Black Lives Matter’s deliberate denial of transparency should be alarming across party lines. Whether or not you support BLM, an organization holding such tantamount political and social influence receiving billions in support ought to be held accountable for their finances. Yet we have seen just the opposite. 

BLM’s self-described Marxist, Socialist founder racks in millions within her luxury properties while corporate and individual donations pile into BLM’s for-profit accounts. Countless people have donated to BLM genuinely believing in the organization’s cause for social justice. They took money out of their pockets believing their donations would actually make a difference. Are they? The donors have the right to know. 

So this ends with a call to Patrisse Khan-Cullors. Will you show us exactly how the billions in BLM accounts are being used towards racial justice? The American people, especially your donors, deserve to know.

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