On April 4, New York Magazine published an article that claimed the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF), a tax-exempt nonprofit that serves as the national hub of the Black Lives Matter movement, secretly purchased a nearly $6 million luxury property in Los Angeles in 2020 with funds donated to the organization.
In the days following the report, some Republican lawmakers, including Texas state Rep. Lance Gooden, California state Rep. Darrell Issa, and several others on Twitter questioned how the national organization is really using its donated funds. VERIFY viewers Matthew and Rhoda also sent VERIFY an email asking if Black Lives Matter really purchased a multimillion-dollar mansion.
Did Black Lives Matter purchase a multimillion-dollar mansion in Los Angeles?
- Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation
- Patrisse Cullors, co-founder, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation
- Shalomyah Bowers, board member, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation
- Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor
- Los Angeles County Property Records
- California Secretary of State Business Entities
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Yes, Black Lives Matter’s national nonprofit purchased a multimillion-dollar mansion in Los Angeles in 2020.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Black Lives Matter movement was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman confessed to fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was Black, in Sanford, Florida. Nearly nine years later, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF) has grown into a prominent racial justice organization with a mission to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes,” according to its website.
On April 5, Patrisse Cullors, who co-founded Black Lives Matter but stepped down from her role as BLMGNF's executive director in May 2021, shared a post on her Instagram page stating that the organization purchased the property mentioned in the New York Magazine article as a space where those within BLMGNF and the broader movement could “work, create content, host meetings and foster creativity.”
“Although I cannot speak to how BLMGNF uses the property currently as I left the organization last year in May, it was purchased to be a safe space for Black people in the community,” Cullors wrote, explaining that the property was not purchased “secretly” like the headline of the New York Magazine article implies.
Cullors' resignation from her role as executive director followed controversy over BLMGNF's finances and over Cullors’ personal wealth, according to the Associated Press.
Los Angeles County property records obtained by VERIFY show a Studio City mansion was sold for $5,888,800 on Oct. 27, 2020. The 6,785 square foot home, which was originally built in 1936, includes seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, a pool, a guest house, a sound stage and a music studio, according to multiple real estate listings and photos. VERIFY also found a public business record of a Limited Liability Company (LLC) registered in Delaware that uses the property’s address in the LLC’s name. It was established a few days before the mansion’s purchase.
Shalomyah Bowers, a BLMGNF board member, told VERIFY in a statement that the LLC is associated with BLMGNF. The Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office also confirmed in an email that the property owner is recorded as the LLC. Since the LLC uses the property’s address in its name, VERIFY is not publishing it because of privacy concerns.
Bowers explained that Perkins Coie, a law firm that previously worked with BLMGNF, and an associate named Dyane Pascall, “were engaged to assist with the closing of the acquisition” of the property.
“BLMGNF formed an LLC to take ownership of the property, which is customary in real estate transactions to avoid exposing BLM’s assets to any litigation or liability,” Bowers said.
Bowers said the organization purchased the property “with the intention for it to serve as housing and studio space for recipients of the Black Joy Creators Fellowship.” He also said the property does not serve as a personal residence. BLMGNF officially announced the fellowship on April 1.
“The fellowship provides recording resources and dedicated space for Black creatives to launch content online and in real life focused on abolition, healing justice, urban agriculture and food justice, pop culture, activism, and politics. Providing housing is an established practice for creators and artists,” Bowers said.
In February 2021, BLMGNF told the Associated Press that the organization took in over $90 million in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd. 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 organizations and other charitable giving.
Critics of BLMGNF say more of the donated 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. The Associated Press also reported that Cullors was previously targeted by several conservative-leaning publications that alleged she took a large annual salary from the foundation.
New York magazine reported BLMGNF used donated money to purchase the LA mansion. VERIFY has not independently confirmed that claim. VERIFY asked BLMGNF if donations were used to purchase the house but did not get a response at the time of publishing. Cullors said in her Instagram post that she “never misappropriated funds.”
According to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) records, BLMGNF was awarded federal tax-exempt status in 2015. A tax-exempt organization must file an annual information return or notice with the IRS (form 990) unless an exception applies. However, IRS records show BLMGNF has not filed a form 990 since 2019.
Cullors and Bowers both said the organization plans to submit the latest tax form 990 in May, which will include information about the LA property.
“I have never misappropriated funds, and it pains me that so many people have accepted that narrative without the presence of tangible truth or facts." Cullors wrote in her April 5 Instagram post. "Nevertheless, this will soon be made clear upon the release of the BLM 990s."
Bowers also told VERIFY that the organization “always planned” to disclose the property on the upcoming 990 due May 15 “as part of BLMGNF’s ongoing transparency efforts.”
As of April 13, BLMGNF is no longer collecting donations on the organization’s official website.