It’s unfortunate and yet somehow also entirely predictable that the airing of Black Lives Matter’s dirty laundry would happen during the trial of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin.
For years, a small group of activists has been asking what the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation — founded by Californians Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, but now solely run by Cullors — does with the donations it collects to fight racial injustice and police brutality.
And in recent months, those questions have become more pointed.
They started with the searing footage of Chauvin’s knee jammed against George Floyd’s neck, his Black body pinned to the concrete next to a police cruiser. And the protests. And the reckoning. Then the foundation revealed that it had raised more than $90 million last year, a good chunk of it from corporations and celebrities trying to prove their antiracist bona fides after Floyd’s death. A few families whose relatives were killed by police questioned why they haven’t seen a cent.
But it wasn’t until the past few weeks that the questions became public accusations.
“Black lives don’t matter. Your pockets matter,” Lisa Simpson declared to reporters on Tuesday, longtime South L.A. activist Najee Ali at her side. “Let’s keep it real.”
Get the latest from Erika D. Smith
Commentary on people, politics and the quest for a more equitable California.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Simpson’s son, Richard Risher, was killed by Los Angeles police in 2016 in Nickerson Gardens. She insists that the local chapter of Black Lives Matter — the first in the country — promised to help pay for the 18-year-old’s funeral, but that she never received any money, even as people told her they had made donations for that very purpose.
However, in a statement issued earlier this month, Black Lives Matter L.A. said it owes Simpson no money and that it operates “primarily as a power-building organization, not a social service organization” that’s equipped to provide financial help to families.
Simpson was undeterred. “Y’all come into our lives and act like y’all got our back and y’all want to say ‘Black Lives Matter,’” she said. “But after we bury our children, we don’t see B, L or M, but y’all out here buying properties.”
That last bit was aimed at Cullors, who has been getting dragged on social media this week over a story in the New York Post about her going on a “million-dollar real estate buying binge” in recent months.
Cullors is executive director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which has several official chapters,…