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22 Nov

OP-ED: Was Black Lives Matter A Scam? – Essence

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors on an episode of “Good Trouble” | James Clark/Getty

The artist formerly often called Kanye West has endured sustained criticism ever since debuting his “White Lives Matter” t-shirt design at his YZY SZN 9 presentation in Paris earlier this month, not only outfitting his models with the garment but posing with the design with noted conservative firebrand Candace Owens. In response to the initial backlash over his sartorial decisions, Ye took to Instagram Stories to deal with the backlash, posting: “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam. Now It’s Over. You’re Welcome.”

What Ye is referring to is the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation – which, in accordance with its original three founders (Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza) began with a Facebook post and digital presence, constructing the framework for a radical, anti-capitalist, leaderless platform that will begin to mobilize and expand after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri.

Reeling from the viral videos circulating throughout multimedia platforms of the militarized police force confronting St. Louis organizers, Patrisse Cullors and Darnell Moore collaborated on the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride, bringing over 600 people on 18-hour charter bus trips. The organization would go on to operationalize over 30 chapters across the country, a network unified by a typical cause yet empowered to arrange for matters specific to their locale.

Alicia Garza left the group’s day-to-day operations in 2017 and, fast forward to 2020, the “Black Lives Matter” phrase the co-founders popularized became a comprehensive term. It got here to represent any and all organizing work in respect to the fight for any a part of Black liberation, whether or not it’s reformist or radical or not in any way related to the efforts of BLMGNF. It was a mantra and rallying cry at protests, and it became a shorthand for media packages within the midst of the rebellion after George Floyd’s murder.

The fury of young organizers in Minneapolis, which expanded nationally (after which globally), became attributed to the “Black Lives Matter Movement” – a distinction that will be useful if it were applied in practice.  The company support within the months after Floyd’s murder poured into BLMGNF: in 2020, tax filings report the organization received over $90 million. The organization formally became an independent nonprofit that yr, with Cullors announcing that she can be getting into an executive director position in July.

The person chapters of BLM and other affiliates, nonetheless, had long been ringing alarm bells. Notably, Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area, which was touted because the birthplace of the BLM movement, was never a part of that network. “I take into consideration all of the people in St. Louis who were outside who don’t have any of the access to any of those resources,” Johnetta Elzie, a notable organizer and native to the St. Louis area, points out. “So there’s like, all these opportunities that got here to be for the professionals who’ve hopped on that bus and got here to St. Louis and never did anything to love, share.”

On Nov. 30, 2020, a highly publicized statement went out criticizing the umbrella organization, signed by 10 individual chapters. “Despite years of effort, no acceptable internal means of accountability has ever been produced by BLMGN and these recent events have undermined the efforts of chapters in search of to democratize its processes and resources. Within the spirit of transparency, accountability, and responsibility to our community, we imagine public accountability has change into vital,” the statement read. “As we collectively determine next steps, we encourage our supporters to donate on to chapters, who represent the frontline of Black Lives Matter.”

Later, moms of slain victims of police violence Samaria Rice and Lisa Simpson would put out an announcement listing the BLM Global Network and Cullors alongside the list of leaders they would really like to “stop monopolizing and capitalizing our fight for justice and human rights.”

It could be disingenuous to imply that there have been no allies by any means during this time period for the organization. Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, honored the trio in 2020 for the Time 100. Author Adrienne Maree Brown published an announcement on her blog in support of Cullors after the BLM10 letter, and a bevy of other influential activists and students on the earth of police violence and abolition signed a public statement, each inside and out of doors of the BLM apparatus.

Nevertheless, more chapters resigned and publicized their reasons for doing so without much mainstream coverage. Black Lives Matter IE, representing California’s Inland Empire, progressed in February 2021, stating that they were departing after being approached to affix the network in 2015. They alleged that “the Los Angeles Chapter together with the Global Network have consistently tried to strong-arm other groups and  have worked to undermine a grassroots movement by capitalizing on unpaid labor, suppressing any internal attempt at democracy, commodifying Black death, and benefiting from the identical pain and suffering inflicted on Black communities that we’re fighting to finish.”

A second and  lesser-known letter from the BLM10 – with a number of more chapter signees – was published on June 2021, titled “Tell No Lies,” after Cullors’ resignation. In it, the critiques are more detailed and pointed, elaborating that the argument is beyond any individual actor, but that BLM has come to represent the nonprofit industrial complex it originally presupposed to subvert. “Because BLMGN was not engaged in direct organizing,” a part of it reads, “it had resources available to do other things, corresponding to engage with media, foundations and power brokers of the systems we’re fighting against to present our local work as their very own.” 

People were unwilling to imagine or embrace probably the most marginalized and principled voices inside the apparatus until the crisis became too big to disregard, and it became easy for the right-wing media to take advantage of that fracture.

The response from BLMGN to those accusations proceed to be opaque. In a January 2022 interview with the LA Times, Cullors’ tone is markedly reticent, centering her personal fear and victimization over the discontent of the organization she was accountable for. “No one really understands the role of a movement leader, especially when it’s a Black woman or women in leadership — the extent of vitriol we receive, the extent of criticism,” she says, while recounting her in-patient treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. “This concept that we now have to present and provides and provides and provides until we are able to not give.”

In Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, Robin D.G. Kelley writes, “Without latest visions we don’t know what to construct, only what to knock down. We not only find yourself confused, rudderless, and cynical but we forget that making a revolution will not be a series of clever maneuvers and tactics but a process that may and must transform us.”  The phrase Black Lives Matter gave many Black people a maxim by which they may easily affirm their humanity in a world that was fighting to disclaim us such basic dignities, and that impact shouldn’t be understated; absent intentional work, nonetheless,  there doesn’t appear to be much infrastructure in place to stop a rapidly growing movement to change into lopsided, remaining turgid at the highest while the on-the-ground resources await updates and resources.

Tragically, BLMGNF the organization became a company, leviathan business used to interact in racial capitalism post-Floyd’s murder as an alternative to accountability, equity and reparation. Still, it’s but one organization within the mass movement fighting for Black lives; the decision for our liberation, nonetheless it’s phrased, can’t be dismissed by the Candace Owens and Kanye Wests of the world. The smaller chapters were at all times focused on constructing locally, with on-the-ground, grassroots organizing, even once they were left with limited resources.

And the fight for Black lives stays relevant. Now that enough time has passed and Trump is out of office, corporations have abandoned their pro-BLM rhetoric, pro-police narratives are only as aggressive as ever, and conversations over basic civil rights must now be countenanced.  Significant and sustained sociopolitical change is a frightening task that requires immense rigor. The one scam is believing you could have a radical revolution funded by your oppressor.

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