Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors steps down from movement’s foundation

Patrisse Cullors speaks on stage at the Teen Vogue Summit

Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, one of the largest social and political movements in the history of the US, is to step down from the foundation.

Cullors, a high-decibel LGBT+ rights activist, said Friday (28 May) would be her last day at the helm of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation after six years.

“I’ve created the infrastructure and the support, and the necessary bones and foundation, so that I can leave,” Cullors told the Associated Press news agency.

“It feels like the time is right.”

The 37-year-old executive director had recently buffeted a smear campaign from the right about her wealth – this had nothing to do with her resignation, she stressed.

In fact, she said, her intention to stand down had been in the works for more than a year.

“Those were right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character, and I don’t operate off of what the right thinks about me,” she said.

Patrisse Cullors says she ‘came back’ to BLM after George Floyd

With her departure, Cullors said she will now laser in her attention to the release of her second book, An Abolitionist’s Handbook, alongside a television deal with Warner Bros.

In a statement on the foundation’s website, she added: “With smart, experienced and committed people supporting the organization during this transition, I know that BLMGNF is in good hands.

“The foundation’s agenda remains the same – eradicate white supremacy and build life-affirming institutions.”

Patrisse Cullors speaks at the 2018 ACLU National Conference. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Monifa Bandele, a longtime BLM organiser, and Makani Themba, chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies, will be brought in as interim senior executives.

Her exit from the foundation came at a turbulent time for Cullors and the foundation, where the group’s bookkeeping had become a lightning rod for backlash from right-wing agitators.

Cullors was stung by criticism over her sprawling $3 million property portfolio, which included a luxury home in Malibu and a ranch in Georgie.

Right-wing critics falsely alleged she took home part of her salary to front the payments.

Such a claim, Cullors said, is “categorically untrue and incredibly dangerous”.

In a statement, the Black Lives Matter Foundation said: “As a registered 501c3 non-profit organisation, [the foundation] cannot and did not commit any organisational resources toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer.

“Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false.”

Cullors co-founded Black Lives Matter in 2013 out of the collective frustration over George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

She later helped form the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. The tag simmered for years, flaring during every police killing of a Black person.

Black Lives Matter went on to become a remarkable lever for change in the US, acting, for many elected officeholders and decision-makers, as something of a guiding light on issues of race.

The death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in 2020 touched off a moment of collective grief and frustration which roared into a year-long nationwide protest against racial injustice.

In the two weeks after the death of Floyd, some 2,000 protests spilt onto the streets of all 50 states, according to Count Love, which monitors protests. One poll from Civis Analytics, a data science firm, found that around 15 to 26 million Americans took part in the demonstrations over the summer.

On her Instagram page, Cullors explained that by the end of 2019, she had considerably leaned back from her senior post. “I really wanted to see the next generation of leadership lead,” she said.

When the uprisings seized the nation – and the world – in 2020, “I came back,” she said.

“It was always supposed to be interim and so, now is my time.”