Strong Leadership, Transparency and Accountability Are Essential For Powerful Movements
I am a professional grant writer/fundraiser and trainer in my real life, my hobby is writing (for now). As such, I study various social, community, and economic problems across the country and in certain parts of the world. I stay on top of trends, needs, as well as, good proposed solutions. As a fundraiser, I have learned the art of the ask, how to write and review great grant proposals that get funded, and how to locate data to plead my case for financial support. I have learned the importance of good governance, transparency, and accountability.
Most importantly, I have learned how to locate, analyze, and interpret data in order to make compelling arguments while delivering truth (often about lack and bad stuff). I also had to learn how to follow the money.
Being a fundraiser has taught me where to go (and what to look for) to get money for all types of causes. I also review charities that I plan to donate to or work with to ensure they are legit.
The one thing I have learned over the past 17 plus years of fundraising is that there are many ethnic groups and individuals who talk the talk, walk the walk, and open their pocketbooks and wallets to support causes near and dear to their hearts.
I see it when groups of White people decide they need parks to enhance their quality of life so their children (or dogs) will be able to play safely. When White folks want to fight for or against something they vehemently believe in, they donate generously. They support their causes faithfully (and financially) similarly to Jewish communities, Cuban communities, Asian communities, and Arab communities around the country. If they need it, they come together and make it happen. They understand the principle of sacrificing and giving of oneself for the betterment of the group as a whole long-term.
But when it comes to Black crisis, Black causes, and Black issues, Black people are slow or absent to take the time to advocate, and/or open their purses and wallets to support the causes they care so deeply about. If it ain’t fun or educational (back to school bashes, scholarships, sports, and/or church), most times issues they care about are not important enough to give their money to.
It seems there is an expectation that someone else is supposed to fund our freedom, pay for our fights, and develop our organizations and then hand them over to us so we can run them. While there are many individuals who get it, too many Black people don’t.
Freedom isn’t really free. Neither is justice.
Someone Has to Invest. Someone Must Take Risks.
Black folks won’t invest first. They want someone else to do the work, write the grant, donate the money (or time/effort) upfront first with them taking absolutely no risks. As a grant writer, I have seen this happen more times than I can shake a stick at. It’s complacency. It’s ignorance. It needs to stop, today. If you won’t invest in an issue concerning your own people that you identify first, why should anyone else aid in helping you find solutions? It doesn’t have to be this way.
Think of it like this…
Your car needs gas to run. The vehicle is also used to help other people, so it’s sorely needed. But none of the riders/benefactors help you gas your vehicle up. It’s sort of a community vehicle, without gas money from the community to keep it on the road. If there is no money to buy the gas to make the vehicle move, then it sits still. Without a vehicle to move, you may miss opportunities. You’re late to events, if you make it at all. You may even lose opportunities to increase your assets and advance because you don’t put gas in your vehicle.
Advocacy and lobbying works exactly the same way Black people.
You can talk, and you can have all the meetings you want to about Black issues and Black plights. You can get on the radio and tickle ears, make eyes water, and open hearts with your rousing speeches. You can write books and essays and make lots of money telling the world about racism and it’s impact on us. You can have rallies and gain allies. You can take to social media to share your passion regarding your community’s issues. You can even get folks roweled up and ready to riot (which I strongly disagree with).
But, if you do not put some green backs behind that passion and legally register a vehicle (charity, organization, movement, etc.) in order to gain respect, earn trust, and raise money…
It’s all WORTHLESS.
It also allows others to come in and hijack the movement.
Not investing financially in a movement you care deeply about (with your mouth) sends mixed messages to those you seek to put on notice, as well as prospective donors, and followers you’re attempting to lead.
This is what’s happening with the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM). It’s been hijacked by all types of people for all types of reasons.
Imagine you’re on a plane trying to fly someplace important, but someone has hijacked (taken over) your mode of transportation to use it for their own selfish reasons. They have planned to take you on a trip you didn’t want to go on. You don’t know who is steering the plane, and you don’t know why the plane is being hijacked. If you knew the plane was going to be hijacked, you wouldn’t have boarded, right?
Sometimes you find the devil in the details.
I’m afraid the BLM movement may have been hijacked, and we don’t even know it because we aren’t doing our own due diligence to ensure we aren’t being led astray.
Being loosely organized is cool, until it’s not!
The BLM movement wasn’t formed legally. We didn’t invest in it (financially) like we should have, and we did not do our due diligence to make sure we are being led by people with the same mission and same motives that the movement started with.
Money and leadership (or the lack of it) makes or breaks movements (remember Occupy Wall Street, the 99%?). The Civil Rights movement would not have occurred without mobilization AND donations from people of all walks of life, races, and ethnicities, but especially Black people. People invested, and they saw fruit. The same applies for any other great movement in America.
You wanna know why the National Rifle Association (NRA) is so powerful? Because their members and supporters spend money to lobby for what they believe in.
Black folks seem to not understand after all these years and all of these recurring battles that when you don’t fund your own movement properly, your movement gets hijacked.
So What Happens When You Don’t Put Your Money Where Your Movement Is?
SOMEBODY ELSE WILL! (See the definition of tokenism)
About the Black Lives Matter Organization…
Let me say for the record, I am not questioning local chapters of BLM movements, and/or local advocacy. I see quite frequently events on the news and in my home state of FL where loosely organized BLM chapters along with other social justice groups get together to march and stamp out injustice. As a fundraiser and fellow advocate, I totally understand how difficult it is to gain traction and fundraise at the state and local levels.
I applaud grassroots efforts to shed light on misconduct, and questionable circumstances in how Black men, women, and children are treated in America.
What I am questioning is the headquarters of the Black Lives Matter movement (formerly called the Black Lives Matter Global Network, and shall be called BLM henceforth). Is there a national chapter? What are they doing? I’m questioning the donations, the behind the scene supports, and the shift in focus after the money started flowing and the movement began to garner national and international attention?
I need to make sure I’m not following and supporting Russians, Australians, aliens, or people who plan to lead me around and around in a circle while they swindle me out of my money and sweat capital.
Who Is Leading BLM?
Who really leads BLM? What’s really going on? I’m a little worried right now with all the international hacking being disclosed. Hackers are preying on America’s racial divide, and Black people are a hot commodity these days.
Furthermore, I’m concerned because the first movement was started because of police brutality against Black men and women across the U.S. (but primarily men). But if you look at the “What We Believe” page on the BLM website, there is no mention of men anywhere (although at the local levels, men killed by police is the primary focus of protests and advocacy).
Didn’t it all begin with the murder of Trayvon Martin (who was Black teen) and his murderer George Zimmerman (who was a mix-race Hispanic man) being acquitted of all charges because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law? It’s that dreaded law that gives lawful privilege to White scary cats and bullies with guns to do harm to Black and Brown people (but especially Black men) when they feel they are in danger, even when they most times provoke the danger by not minding their own business in the first damn place!
BLM’s guiding principles doesn’t address any safety or principles for men and boys. The guiding principles (see below) seems to be a more palatable mission and vision than the purpose and focus. Men are not included anywhere in the language. Black men are not specifically mentioned in the guiding principles. That’s so strange. The focus has become quite emasculated in my opinion.
The reason for the BLM slogan was a response to police misconduct, excessive force, and killings of unarmed Black people, especially Black men. Unless the founders of the Global BLM movement have decided that killings of unarmed Black men specifically are no longer an issue, there is a serious conflict with the BLM official website and the protests going on in the streets.
We spew Black Lives Matter all day every day without even going to the source to see what they are really advocating. Source everything!
So remember my previous question about what happens when you don’t put your money where your movement is?
Well, let me show and tell you what happens.
Trying to Follow the BLM Global Network’s Money Trail
Simply put, I wasn’t able to. It’s impossible to determine who funds BLM Global Network now. That’s a problem. Just like I want to see 45’s tax returns, I want to have access to anyone’s taxes who is supposed to be leading me someplace.
Why can’t I follow the money you ask? First of all, there is absolutely no information on the BLM website which aids in sharing their annual 990 (which is required but the IRS to be filed annually in order to maintain their tax-exempt status). After much research, it appears the global headquarters is in Oakland, CA (I had to filter through a lot of website pages to gather this info).
The Oakland, California’s BLM Global Network organization’s address and phone number is not available to compare with the few tax records that are available for BLM. The lack of transparency and the lack of information gives me pause.
Additionally, the only legitimate BLM recent tax return I could find publicly available for any BLM chapter/organization was from 2014. It’s unclear whether the organization in Oakland, CA has completed annual returns or if it’s even a 501 c 3 tax-exempt charity able to collect tax-deductible donations.
According to the tax return I found (click the link above), the name of the organization in the Foundation Center’s database is Black Lives Matter, but on the tax return it indicates the name of the organization is the Praxis Project which is based in Washington, D.C (see the pic below). It doesn’t appear to be connected in anyway with Black Lives Matter/Praxis Project’s mission when compared to the BLM Global Network’s mission in Oakland, CA. There is no BLM tax return for the global network headquarters located in CA as you can see below.
I am confused, confused, confused, and more confused! C’mon man.
Why is this so complicated?
Furthermore, there is no information on who serves on the organization’s board of directors for the BLM charity (if that’s what it considers itself) in Oakland, CA or whether there is one in place. If the organization is a public charity or a private foundation, then organizational governance information should be available for public inspection. It’s unclear how this organization is governed, whether they have employees or volunteers, or when/if they meet to strategize, mobilize, build-capacity, train, and/or fundraise.
Lastly, I conducted a brief business search of the Black Lives Matter Global Network (the one with the website online and the one that has the faces of the ladies whom the media calls on when they want to have an official BLM representative on television). There is no organization with this name registered in the state of California, and the organizations that did have similar names don’t list either of the founding members of the BLM Global Network’s on their website.
I also checked with Charity Navigator and Guidestar to see if they had any information about on this particular BLM organization. The watchdog group Charity Watch didn’t have any information for any charity under the name Black Lives Matter.
What in the hell is going on? Is this the same movement?
The Story Gets Stranger
As far as Black Lives Matter Global Network goes, I attempted to donate on the website which is supposed to be the head of BLM according to the web, and there I found a very small disclaimer indicating the organization has partnered with another organization called Thousand Currents (formerly IDEX — International Development Exchange). This meant I had to dig more, which made me suspect there are dead cats on the line since the national mouthpiece for the BLM movement can’t (or won’t) complete the proper documentation to conduct business as a legitimate vehicle, and fundraise in a manner that’s transparent like most other organizations.
How is anyone supposed to take this charity seriously, if they can’t organize their social justice vehicle which allows them to have a seat at the table. Formally organizing and officially fundraising in your own organization’s name also allows others to hold you accountable. If I donate, who do I hold accountable? What am I funding? Who or what am I investing in? Am I supporting the fight for criminal justice form and overly aggressive policing tactics, or globalism?
If I don’t know, I personally don’t donate. Period. But back to my research.
Researching the Pass-Through Entity for BLM
Now, I’m forced to research Thousand Currents, which is an organization with a focus of Social Justice Giving, Organizational Resilience, Community Self-Determination, and Global Solidarity (can you see where some of the themes now come from on the BLM’s website?). The only and most recent tax return available for this organization was for 2016, after the name change. In 2017, Thousand Currents awarded the BLM Global Network grant funds totaling a little over $28,000.
Furthermore, no one can track what BLM is actually doing with any funds they receive to further the cause, or determine how much is raised by them annually, etc.
Needless to say I was saddened about this discovery. When donating to BLM, another organization takes this money and funnels it to them. I have no idea how that arrangement works because the BLM website doesn’t exactly inform us of this partnership. This type of arrangement is nothing new and it’s often called a pass-through entity. The movements started at the same time, and as you’ll see, one organization appears to have gotten richer after linking itself to BLM, while BLM is still AWOL on the scene.
Usually the roles are clearly defined and the relationship is publicly disclosed by both organizations. There is also a fee associated with using pass-throughs for bookkeeping expenses and personnel costs associated with maintaining financial records. Neither BLM nor Thousand Currents has identified each other as partners publicly, which is another red flag for me personally.
Who is the head? What is the mission? Are missions being intertwined as repayment for pass-through? Are these organizations truly partnering? How are funds separated to ensure donations made to BLM are not given to other grassroots efforts?
Has the BLM message and the movement been hijacked by people not affiliated or interested in the original purposes and tenets of the BLM movement? Is it that the people who attempted to create a national charity did not have the skills, money and manpower to develop the capacity of a national charity to lead such a powerful movement? Money raised should have been used to hire trustworthy consultants to aid in their capacity-building efforts.
I’m left with more questions than answers.
Why is it that after 4-years, this group hasn’t gotten their capacity together to organize and fundraise legally? Do people really know what BLM is doing? Furthermore, why is it that Black people aren’t funding BLM and aiding in capacity building, defense, lobbying and advocacy efforts?
Another Organization, Another Twist
Although noted as Black Lives Matter on Foundation Center’s website (see the graphic above), after clicking on the 990 return for the group located in Washington, D.C., I learned the organization’s real name is the Praxis Project, not Black Lives Matter. This group has nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter movement. They don’t even use the language to describe the same purposes and principles as BLM on their official website or on their brief Wikipedia page.
More confusion. If I am looking to discover what BLM is all about to determine whether I want to donate, volunteer, or be a part of the movement, how do I do that if there is no reliable vehicle for me to inspect? Are organization’s using BLM to spread misinformation, plant seeds of doubt, and exploit our racial divisions?
Who knows. I think BLM has been hijacked.
Money Moves The Vehicle
The KKK actively fundraises across America and the world in order to spread their message of hate. Their followers who believe in their guiding principles and segregationist ways give to them loyally. The Sons of the Confederacy, a group in support of maintaining Confederate history and White supremacy fundraises as well, so do many other hate groups noted on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s roster of active Hate Groups. A simple search of the Foundation Center’s 990 site will illustrate how they stay in the business of actively disseminating hate.
The NAACP fundraises locally at the city/county levels, statewide, as well as nationally. Although it appears they have an ageism rift going on, the one thing I can say about the founders of the NAACP is that they knew an organized vehicle would be respected, and that money comes with order.
Even the Southern Poverty Law Center sues as a method of fundraising to sustain social justice causes and fights, and they are one of the wealthiest social justice groups in America with assets close to a billion (with a b) dollars. The Southern Poverty Law Center is anything but poor (a story for another day). Check out the not-for-profit wealth accrued from fighting for racial injustice.
So as you can see, money moves the vehicle. But only if you have a vehicle to fuel up.
These organizations (regardless of ideology or mission) have followers who believe wholeheartedly in there messages, and regardless of what you think of them, they put their money where there mouths are. They do this with little fan fare, under the radar, and have been doing so for years.
Black folks, please hurry up and get the memo!
It takes money to make things happen. Good things and bad things. Walking and talking will only take you so far. A financial investment is needed to make any strong organization stronger and to catapult it forward to the next level.
The Name, The Mission, and The Movement Has Been Hijacked
The bottom line is that there are more questions than answers here about BLM. There is no legal vehicle you can donate your money to in an effort to support or build capacity for the BLM movement. Yet we speak it with our mouths, we use the tag lines on our essays and on social media, and speak passionately individually and collectively on local levels about how Black lives aren’t safe in 2018.
BLM has no true vehicle, which is why they are being villanized and scapegoated by hackers all over the internet (as warned by the former POTUS Obama). It’s also why they have no real response from the organization on how it plans to protect us Black folks from being used, and it explains why there has been no federal supports/defense to combat the theft of the narratives of racial discrimination against Blacks in America.
Grassroots BLM activists are like nomads without a stable home. The movement will never be respected until it becomes a legal entity with a core message, a face/ head, leadership, legitimate funds to move it, and most importantly accountability.
Gil Scott Heron had it right when he said the revolution won’t be televised. It’s on the internet instead.
Get It Together Black People
How can you (BLM) ask for accountability from others when you aren’t willing to be the change you want to see?
If you don’t fund your own movement, someone else will. No one will be able to decipher truth from the lies. Look at how Russia used the internet to trick us on social media already. Question all sources. Guard your ears, eyes, minds, and especially your hearts. The fate of future generations of Black people will depend on it. You won’t be getting to many more warning signs. Before you know it, you will be in wars with all kinds of folks/groups inside and outside of America.
If you don’t have time to read long, in-depth investigations or conduct your own research sometimes, you are making the time to be fooled most of the time.
In the meantime… I’m going to be a lot more skeptical about using the term Black Lives Matter in my writing and in person until I can figure out exactly what I’m following, and who for that matter.
I don’t need any more “alternative realities” in my life. The current POTUS has that taken care of for me.