(The Hill) — Black Lives Matter (BLM) leaders on Friday sued an executive of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (GNF) on charges of syphoning $10 million in donations to the organization for use as his own “personal piggy bank.”
Walter Mosley, an attorney representing BLM Grassroots — a separate entity from GNF — filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against GNF and GNF board member Shalomyah Bowers, as well as his consulting firm.
The initial complaint, seeking financial relief and a court order halting GNF’s use of the BLM identity, accuses Bowers of becoming a “turned usurper” and charging fees for BLM donors, which he then used for his own personal funds.
“When more than 300 movement leaders, as well as BLM Founders, insisted that he resign from GNF,” the complaint reads, “he continued to betray the public trust by self-dealing and breaching his fiduciary duties.”
Melina Abdullah, a founder of the BLM Los Angeles chapter and a co-director of the BLM Grassroots, held a press conference last week announcing the lawsuit, accusing GNF’s board of masquerading as white supremacists.
“Global Network Foundation has been taken away from the people who built it,” she said. “Global Network Foundation is now led by a highly paid consultant who paid himself upwards of $2 million in a single year.”
Abdullah said Patrisse Cullors, a BLM founder, had created a transition plan to transfer control of GNF over to the grassroots organization, but GNF has locked her out of social media accounts and is amplifying messages she does not agree with.
In a statement following the press conference, the GNF Board of Directors denied the allegations, saying they were “disappointed and dismayed at the false narrative” spread by Abdullah and other BLM leaders, who they accused of taking $10,000 per month in personal stipends.
“We as Black people and Black-led organizations cannot continue spending all of our precious time and energy fighting and tearing each other down,” the statement reads. “We have no desire and little time to put private business out in the street. However, Melina Abdullah, BLMGR, and its leadership seem intent on fighting publicly about their desire to control the entirety of Black Lives Matter.”
The board denied the entirety of the allegations, claiming they have requested meetings with Abdullah and other leaders, have shared social media accounts with BLM Grassroots and argued there has never been a plan to transition GNF to the BLM Grassroots organization.
The legal battle is the latest controversy within the BLM organization, which began as a movement in 2013 after the death of 17-year-old Travyon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood security guard who fatally shot Martin.
Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Cullors created the original hashtag for BLM, which eventually sprouted into local chapters that make up BLM Grassroots. BLM GNF was incorporated in 2017, primarily as a fundraising component of the movement.
After the death of George Floyd in 2020, the BLM movement gained renewed national and international attention.
But the organization’s finances since then have come under increased scrutiny, particularly over where a large chunk of $90 million raised in donations in 2020 has gone.
And in late 2020, a group of 10 original BLM local chapters announced they were severing ties with GNF over a lack of transparency and support.
New York Magazine also reported earlier this year that BLM executives bought a $6 million home with money donated to GNF.