When its name is mentioned on the small screen or featured by the established media, the Black Lives Matter movement is treated as a populist uprising of black youth and their allies against the merciless boot of police repression. But there are organizations, many of them in fact, that are collecting money on behalf of BLM and then distributing those dollars in ways that would surprise the average Instagram warrior urging friends to give.
Of course, many of these donors are none too concerned about how that money is spent given that their motivation for chipping in is the expiation of their guilt for not being oppressed enough. And now that the spigots of guilt are flowing freely, there are numerous BLM copycat groups that have opened GoFundMe accounts and no one knows where that money is going. So if the reader is planning to donate to this slush fund for fake outrage, make sure it isn’t going to a guy in Vancouver raising cash for more Playstation games and Gatorade.
Shaun King, the Carrot Top of the civil rights movement, has been so defensive of what he does with fundraisers for the families of blacks killed by police like Tamir Rice that he has threatened legal action against (actual) black activists who criticize him. But there have been rumblings periodically from supporters of the BLM movement about what they see as the opaque and secretive nature of BLM the actual organization. Raheem Kassam and Natalie Winters recently published the news that BLM’s #DefundThePolice initiative organizes its donations through ActBlue, the national fundraising arm of Democratic campaigns including the presumptive presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. It may not be presentable to say in public, but honest observers cannot help but remark that this “civil rights movement” seems to be just as much about greenbacks as it is about black lives.
The Perils of Big Money Donations
The history of the BLM movement has been told and retold many times but, in short, it was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in 2013 in the wake of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. King and other icons of the movement like DeRay Mckesson, Johnetta Elzie and Hawk Newsome came along later. BLM was always loosely structured and it currently has fourteen chapters listed on its website in the United States, and two in Ontario, Canada. Other parallel movements exist in the UK, European Union, and elsewhere. So which organization receives the money that is donated?
There is a BLM Foundation in Santa Clarita, California, but it only had assets totalling $206 thousand in 2017. In 2016 the Ford Foundation and Borealis Philanthropy pledged $100 million in a “pooled donor campaign” lasting six years to the Black-Led Movement Fund (managed by Borealis). The same report showed that another $33 million was injected from George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the Center for American Progress. Accepting money from the CAP, a partisan think tank founded by Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign chairman John Podesta and headed by Clinton aide Neera Tanden, makes it a partisan effort. In CAP and CAP Action Fund’s IRS disclosures for until the latest in 2018, however, there is no listing for donations to BLM. The pledges from CAP attracted criticism even from the socialist Jacobin website, which featured them in an article on the “Perils of Liberal Philanthropy.”
How much money actually was received by which BLM organization is difficult to discern, given that 501(c)(3) organizations like BLM are not required to disclose donation sources of over $5,000 anymore, and donors may disburse funds through an intermediary. Open Society and the Ford Foundation are both organizations with mammoth endowments in the billions. Like Jacobin, other hard-left critics of big philanthropy have highlighted contradictions of leftist causes benefiting from these enterprises, such as the Trotskyist World Socialist Web Site, which commented in 2016 that
In response to the upheavals of the late 1960s, a section of the ruling class sought to cultivate a base of support among the more privileged sections of minorities that would be loyal to the status quo. . . The agenda of these organizations, as underscored by the support of groups like the Ford Foundation, has nothing to do with the real social and economic grievances of millions of workers and young people of any race or ethnicity.
This commentary was made even before the money was used. On June 11, the BLM Global Network Foundation announced a $6.5 million fund to support organizing work. But as its name suggests, the monies in this fund may not even be limited for use to help black Americans.
The same week that the new fund was announced BLM’s managing director Kailee Scales did a Reddit AMA (ask-me-anything) live discussion thread. Many of those responding torched her for not being forthcoming about how BLM’s money was being used, causing moderators to lock their comments. It is possible, however, to see what Borealis Philanthropy has done with the Black-Led Movement Fund’s assets. The 2020 announcement of its grantees made on May 27 as the George Floyd controversy was just breaking includes a curious selection. Of sixteen new grantees at least four have explicitly LGBT or trans-specific missions:
- The Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative (SNaPCo) “a Black, trans-led, broad-based collaborative”
- The Transgender Gender-Variance, Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP)
- Black LGBTQIA Migrant Justice Project
- The Marsha P. Johnson Institute (MPJI): “protects and defends the human rights of Black transgender people.”
According to the bulletin something called “Trans United” also received a “rapid response grant” for COVID-19 from Borealis’s Black-Led Movement Fund. Another rapid response beneficiary “Fearless Femme 100” describes itself as a “Black non-binary femme from the South Bronx with a creative energy that seeks to fill every medium it can.”
What is ironic is that according to Borealis’ filing records from 2017 it already allocates generous resources to the black transgender community and transgender organizations in general. The Alliance for Global Justice received $207 thousand in part to “support the work of black trans media.” Southern Vision Alliance received $130,000 for “queer and trans people of color.” Trans United, mentioned above, received $115,000. The Transgender Law Center received $102,000. Fusion Partnerships received $33,000 to support the Baltimore Transgender Alliance and Sistas of the “T.” Justice Now received $30,000 to support the Transgender, Gender-variant Intersex Justice Project. Black Transmen Inc received $15,000, curiously for the “Black Transwomen Initiative.” Everyblackgirl, Inc. received $15,000 to support the work of Trans*Visible. It should be noted that it is not always distinguished which Borealis initiative is funding which group.
The Black-Led Movement Fund’s page shows other groups that have benefited from it as “black-led” movements. Enlace, an illegal immigrant support group, has received six operating support grants since 2016, including $56,000 in 2017 through Communities United for People, from the Black-Led Movement Fund. The leadership of the group is composed of several labor unions such as the Service Employees International Union, so it is difficult to know who its “black leaders” are. Its advisory board is composed of five Hispanic women, an Asian woman, and one black woman. The only staff member who is black is a female administrative assistant. This is ironic given that the one population whose labor participation rates have been most adversely affected by illegal immigration is lower-income blacks.
Yet another group that has received no less than 18 grants from Borealis, including five from the BLMF is Freedom, Inc of Madison, Wisconsin. Their profile states that the group “organizes communities to end violence against women, gender non-conforming and transgender individuals, and state violence against communities of color by campaigning against the root causes of violence, creating new definitions and solutions of identity and resiliency.” But the group’s leadership and staff is mostly composed of women from southeast Asian states like Laos and Cambodia.
The national organization for BLM and the similar Movement for Black Lives also receive money from the BLMF, however one could easily ask why any of the other movements listed above receive anything at all. BLM activists continually stress that saying “All Lives Matter” is a tool for diminishing the specific problems of black people, but here is a fund dedicated to black people redirecting money meant for the movement to immigrant groups that do not have any direct connection to black Americans.
As for the smorgasbord of transsexual groups receiving funds, only 0.8 percent of African-American adults identify as transgender according to the Williams Institute of UCLA. As BLM rails against the disproportionate effects of the criminal justice system on blacks, why are they dedicating such a disproportionate amount of money to groups representing such a small slice of the black community? And after so much money was pledged by Ford Foundation and others, why is it that less than a million dollars of funds were actually disbursed by Black-Led Movement Fund through Borealis in the most recently available filing from 2018?
The torching Kailee Scales received in her Reddit thread should be amplified every day, since BLM does not lack monetary resources, and this is before one talks about the free publicity from celebrities and media that function as advertisements.