A spokesman for the national Black Lives Matter organization suggested a New York-based Black activist who called for an independent investigation of the group’s finances is illegally using the BLM name.
Hawk Newsome, the leader of an unaffiliated organization called Black Lives Matter Greater New York, criticized BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, a self-identified “trained Marxist,” for presenting herself as a socialist while at the same time purchasing four homes across the U.S. since 2016 for a total of $3.2 million.
“If you go around calling yourself a socialist, you have to ask how much of her own personal money is going to charitable causes,” Newsome told the New York Post on Sunday. “It’s really sad because it makes people doubt the validity of the movement and overlook the fact that it’s the people that carry this movement.”
Newsome added that “black firms and black accountants” need to audit BLM Global Network Foundation (BLM), the group that Cullors co-founded and currently leads, and “find out where the money is going.”
An outside spokesman for BLM told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Tuesday that Newsome “is not and has never been a part of the official Black Lives Matter organization, but continues to use BLM’s name even after sending him multiple cease and desist letters. Therefore, any mention of him as a leader is not factual.”
The spokesman, Sean Wherley of the communications firm We Are Rally, added: “Only BLM chapters who adhere to BLM’s principles and code of ethics are permitted to use the BLM name.”
Newsome scoffed at BLM’s suggestion that he was not permitted to use the phrase Black Lives Matter.
“So the issue has become my affiliation and not the use of funds,” Newsome told the DCNF. “Interesting.”
Newsome’s organization, Black Lives Matter Greater New York, has been a registered business entity in the state since December 2016, New York business records show.
And BLM does not have legal rights over the phrase Black Lives Matter.
In fact, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected six applications BLM had submitted for trademarks containing the phrase in 2018 in part because the slogan is a social and political message that is not linked to a source of goods or services, according to JD Supra.
“This movement belongs to the people,” Newsome said. “It is for the people and by the people. It is the people that take to the streets and march in the name of BLM. No one has ownership of that. It is the equivalent of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. claiming ownership of the civil rights movement.”
Newsome confirmed that he had received cease and desist letters from BLM and said he had sent them a response that caused the group to “leave me alone.”
Neither Newsome or BLM provided the DCNF with a copy of the cease and desist letter or Newsome’s response.
Wherley, the BLM spokesman, reversed course when asked by the DCNF why the group claims to have the right to determine who can and cannot use the BLM slogan.
“We are saying [Newsome] is not affiliated with BLMGNF,” Wherley said. “There may be individuals who include the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ in their organizational names, but they are not affiliated with BLMGNF. Does that make sense?”
BLM issued a public statement Tuesday in response to reports that Cullors, its co-founder and executive director, had purchased four homes across the U.S. since 2016. Her latest real estate acquirement came on March 30 with the purchase of a $1.4 million home in a majority-white Los Angeles neighborhood through a corporate entity under her control, according to a celebrity real estate news site.
The statement said BLM had paid Cullors a total of $120,000 since the organization’s inception in 2013, but that the group “cannot and did not commit any organizational resources toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer. Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false.”
The statement added that reports of Cullors’ multimillion-dollar real estate buying spree are part of a “right-wing offensive” that “puts Patrisse, her child and her loved ones in harm’s way” and “continues a tradition of terror by white supremacists against black activists.”
In addition to her compensation from BLM, Cullors raked in upwards of $20,000 a month serving as chairwoman of a Los Angeles jail reform group in 2019, the DCNF previously reported.
The group, Reform LA Jails, told the DCNF on Wednesday that it paid Cullors “market rate compensation” for her services, and added that it is “sexist and racist to expect an executive level Black woman to not be paid for their work.”
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