Millions of dollars were donated to the Black Lives Matter Foundation since the murder of George Floyd. However, BuzzFeed News reports that the organization isn’t associated with the Black Lives Matter movement that fights against police brutality and racial injustice.
Per the report, the Black Lives Matter Foundation—a Santa Clarita, California-based “charitable organization”—raised at least $4.35 million at the beginning of June. The foundation also only has one paid employee, founder Robert Ray Barnes.
Barnes issued a statement to BuzzFeed, confirming that his foundation isn’t linked to the BLM movement. “I don't have anything to do with the Black Lives Matter Global Network. I never met them, never spoke to them,” Barnes said. “Our whole thing is having unity with the police department.”
He declined to share how much money his foundation has raised in total. According to 2017 tax filings, the organization procured $279,000 in donations that year. It obtains funds through PayPal, GoFundMe, and employer matching programs.
The foundation’s mission statement is exceedingly different from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc., which the BLM movement is attached to. BLM directs its efforts on defunding law enforcement and redistributing that money into communities. It doesn’t promote working with the police.
“The Santa Clarita group is improperly using our name,” a BLM Global Network spokesperson told BuzzFeed. “We intend to call them out and follow up.”
The foundation also raised money on the fundraising platform Benevity, where Apple, Google, and other companies have pushed employee donations. There, the foundation’s mission statement reads: “Today, we think most people would agree, that regardless of race, something must done to heal the riffs between some communities and the police, and with your help we at BLMFoundation have the very ideas to do just that.”
The statement also quotes Barack Obama and the Harry Potter series, saying there’s a plan in place for “Community Organized Programs” that would bring communities and police officers closer together. Examples include buffet dinners, the distribution of positive pamphlets, and a program called “have a cup with a cop,” where community members can meet with an officer over coffee and donuts.
However, it appears that Barnes—a Los Angeles-based music producer—hasn’t launched any of these programs. He also contends that the name “Black Lives Matter” was his idea first. He registered his foundation’s name in 2015, after protests fighting police brutality emerged following Mike Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.
He told BuzzFeed, “It can’t be done overnight. The idea is to go slow.”
Of the 279,000 that the foundation raised in 2017, $89,000 was spent on expenses. No record exists of how he spent the funds, apart from a $5,150 cash grant to the “Family Renewal Develop Center,” which might be a childcare center in L.A. Barnes wouldn’t provide any other information for churches and scholarships funds he alleged that the foundation donated to.
GoFundMe closed all the foundation's active campaigns, freezing $350,000 in donations. Bonfire, an apparel site that pledges profits to charity, froze $14,000 that was raised for the foundation.
The phrase "Black Lives Matter" was popularized following the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. The Black Lives Matter Global Network was established the following year and now includes a network of local Black Lives Matter chapters.