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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Gustaf Kilander and Andrew Buncombe

Black Lives Matter apologizes after $6M California mansion purchase


Black Lives Matter has apologized for the “distress” caused by the media attention on the purchase of a $6m mansion in California using donated funds.

In a long Twitter thread, the racial justice organisation said that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF) “recognizes that there is more work to do to increase transparency and ensure transitions in leadership are clear”.

Referring to the reports concerning the purchase, the organisation wrote that “we know narratives like this cause harm to organizers doing brilliant work across the country and these reports do not reflect the totality of the movement”.

“We apologize for the distress this has caused to our supporters and those who work in service of Black liberation daily,” they added.

“BLMGNF is working diligently to increase operations transparency, including an internal audit, tightening compliance operations, and creating a new board to help steer the organization to its next evolution,” the group said.

“Black creativity is necessary and vital to Black survival. BLM has always held that tradition sacred, partnering with artists of every kind since our founding,” the organisation added.

An image from property website Zillow shows the $6m house in California bought by Black Lives Matter (Zillow)

Calling the mansion the “Creator’s House,” BLM said the property was bought to “provide a space for Black folks to share their gifts with the world and hone their craft as they see fit, under the conditions that work best for them and outside systems of oppression in creative industries”.

The group said they are “embracing this moment as an opportunity for accountability, healing, truth-telling, and transparency”.

“We understand the necessity of working intentionally to rebuild trust so we can continue forging a new path that sustains Black people for generations,” they said.

A year after one of the founders of the movement, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, alleged she was suffering from “right wing harassment” over her purchase of houses in the Los Angeles area, a controversy that would eventually lead her to quit the organisation, it was reported that the group bought a $6m property, that was subsequently transferred to the ownership of a company in Delaware, ensuring the property’s owner could not be disclosed.

According to New York magazine, the 6,500 square feet property with at least half-a-dozen bedrooms was paid for with cash in October 2020, using money that had been donated to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF), by supporters of the group.

In a statement, Shalomyah Bowers, a BLMGNF board member, said the organisation had bought the property with the intention for it to “serve as housing and studio space for recipients of the Black Joy Creators Fellowship”.

A day after that statement was sent to New York magazine, BLMGNF announced the establishment of the fellowship, which “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”.

There is no allegation that anyone acted illegally or improperly.

But some questions have been asked about the potential impression created by the purchase of such a property, something that has already been seized on by right wing media, and the likes of Donald Trump Jr, who retweeted the story, with the sarcastic phrase – “I’m surprised”.

Asked by New York magazine if the size of the acquisition could open the group to criticism, Jacob Harold – a former CEO of GuideStar and the co-founder of Candid, an information service that reports on nonprofits – said: “That’s a very legitimate critique.

“It’s not a critique that says what you’re doing is illegal or even unethical; it might just be unstrategic.”

He added: “Why aren’t you spending it on policy or, you know, other strategies that an organisation might take to address the core issues around Black Lives Matter?”

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