The national Black Lives Matter group leader has been accused of stealing more than $10 million from the charity’s donors. The BLM Global Network Foundation and its board secretary, Shalomyah Bowers were accused by Black Lives Matter Grassroots, a nonprofit group that represents local BLM chapters across the country in a lawsuit of fraudulently siphoning over $10 million in “fees” to Bowers’s consulting firm.
Bowers treated the BLM Global Network Foundation as his “personal piggy bank” and has acted as a “rogue administrator” and “middle man turned usurper,” says the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The national BLM movement is represented by the BLM Global Network Foundation and was the entity that received over $90 million in the wake of George Floyd’s police killing in the summer of 2020.
In May 2021, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who is a close associate of Bowers, resigned from the BLM Global Network Foundation amid scrutiny of her personal real estate purchases that cost a reported $6 million. During a press conference hosted by BLM-Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah, the lawsuit was announced, as she accused Bowers of shutting her and other leaders out of social media accounts in March.
The BLM Global Network Foundation’s financial accounts hold in the region of $100 million, as Abdullah estimates. The board of directors was accused by Abdullah of “engaging in self-dealing, enriching themselves off of the backs of people who put their blood, sweat, and tears into this movement.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Bowers is accused of leading the foundation “into multiple investigations by the Internal Revenue Service and various state attorney generals, blazing a path of irreparable harm to BLM in less than eighteen months,” says the lawsuit, according to Washington Examiner.
Laurie Styron, the CharityWatch Executive Director, previously said in January that the BLM Global Network Foundation is “like a giant ghost ship full of treasure drifting in the night with no captain, no discernible crew, and no clear direction.”
Recently, the BLM Global Network Foundation has been locked out of funds held on its behalf by the Tides Foundation, which served as the charity’s fiscal sponsor during the second half of 2020, the lawsuit adds. Earlier this year, it was reported by the BLM Global Network Foundation that Tides remained in control of over $26 million of BLM’s funds as of the end of 2021.
The lawsuit says also that Bowers demanded that Tides relinquish all the funds to the BLM Global Network Foundation in a May 4 email. But Tides informed the BLM Global Network Foundation on June 29 that it would pause future distributions from the fund due to the charity’s failure to file tax documents on time, as well as questions surrounding its purchase of a $6 million mansion in Los Angeles in October 2020 with donor funds.
All claims of financial misconduct were denied by Bowers and the BLM Global Network Foundation. “They would rather take the same steps of our white oppressors and utilize the criminal legal system which is propped up by white supremacy (the same system they say they want to dismantle) to solve movement disputes,” they told the Los Angeles Times. The allegations are “slanderous and devoid of reality,” a statement.