“Now is the time to call for an end to state violence directed at communities of color. And now is the time to advocate for investment in public services—including but not limited to police reform—together with education, health, and employment in communities for people that have historically had less opportunity and access to all those things.”
—the Ford Foundation “Equals Change Blog”
The short but luminous existence of social activist networking hit a milestone recently, when the media announced that Black Lives Matter (BLM) received a $100 million endowment from the Ford Foundation, the legal philanthropic entity. One of the foremost charitable non-profits in the world donating such a windfall to such a polarizing movement, eliciting oppositional perceptions from a wide spectrum of the national racial divide, suggests the controversial organization might be on the verge of mainstream respectability.
Overtures to key individuals within BLM, however, brought forth ignorance, or out right denial about a donation. Locally, Cal State Los Angeles Chair of Pan-African Studies (and BLM organizer) Melina Abdullah adamantly denied that she or her colleagues solicited or received any funding. Further north in the Bay Area, BLM communications strategist Shanelle Matthews echoed Abdullah’s response.
“BLM was not granted $100M by Ford,” she declared.
Another voice from the ivy-walled bastion of academia, Darnell Hunt, who is a keen observer of issues of culture, media and race over at UCLA, expressed surprise over this humanitarian bonanza.
“I haven’t heard anything about a $100 million Ford Foundation grant to BLM,” he said.
“It would be wonderful if true!”
Seeking validation for a pronouncement by major media news outlets (Fox News and the Washington Times) proved problematic as well. A curious pattern emerged during the course of scanning these headlines, however. Most of the publications heralding this windfall were conservative in their editorial slant (the Washington Times is a center-right tabloid not to be confused with the more widely circulated Washington Post), or they are devoted to law enforcement issues (Police Magazine).
A complicated enterprise: the murky world of hand outs
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”
—from The Diary of Anne Frank, 1947.
Extensive searches via the Internet proved elusive as well. Breaking these components down to their simplest terms, and using the keywords “ford foundation Black lives matter,” led us to the Ford Foundation website itself.
Therein was a blog titled “Why Black lives matter to philanthropy.” The body copy goes over the recent tragic headlines dominating the news in the past few years, the observation that these horrific incidents can either widen the divide between dissenting segments of the population, or, through carefully implemented advocacy, attempt to bridge these crevices and mend these threats to our cohesive civilization.
“These are the reasons we support the Movement for Black Lives,” the blog declares.
This gives us two different organizations, boasting similar names, adding to the confusion (even confounding major news outlets).
It goes on to describe “six-year investments in the organization and networks that compose the Movement for Black Lives.” But no concrete monetary amount is mentioned. The concerns administrating this giveaway with Ford include Borealis Philanthropy and Movement Strategy Center, apparently through a collaborative called the Black-Led Movement Fund.
Assisting in the management of all this is the Bay Area International Development Exchange (IDEX).
Alas, repeated efforts to reach a press secretary or spokesperson at IDEX yielded a series of voice recordings. Meanwhile the Ford Foundation program officers charged with oversight of this mega-donation, Brook Kelly-Green and Luna Yasui, have no phone listings on the website.
Originated in 1936 by the Ford family of automobile manufacturers, the foundation has advanced its mission of propagating human welfare around the globe. Presently boasting assets in excess of $12 billion, its distribution of bequests, fellowships, grants, initiatives and other offerings have promoted the arts, economic development, human rights, and other philanthropy.
In the interim, the foundation has endured accusations of being unduly swayed by leftist political factions and being a tool of the CIA. It’s current president, former banker and corporate lawyer Darren Walker is African American and openly gay.
The organization annually doles out $500 million in endowments, fellowships, grants, and other largesse earmarked to advance the benefit of humanity.
What’s in a name?
The Movement for Black Lives (https://policy.m4bl.org/) is a separate group that on its’ website calls itself an “umbrella” organization encompassing BLM and a host of other activist factions under what is called its “United Front.” The site is notable for its lack of transparency, as no contact information, listing of officers, or others in charge are available.
In a Moyers & Company interview, BLM co-founder Alicia Garza says, “Black Lives Matter started as a hashtag in 2013 in response to the aquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African American teen Trayvon Martin. In August, the Movement for Black Lives, a collection of 50 racial justice groups and individuals working under the BLM umbrella, revealed its in-depth policy platform…” With both organizations claiming to be top dog, and numerous media outlets repeatedly using the two names interchangeably, confusion amongst them has begun to circulate.
The rumor of a nine-figure contribution going to a controversial, possibly left wing organization that might be considered a threat to Middle America, is clearly a choice tidbit to be tossed to the ravenous hounds running the Internet rumor mill. Extensive efforts to validate these positive tidings among those with actual ties to the BLM grassroots network were unsuccessful.
“I have heard these tales from several sources, without verifiable sources ever substantiating them,” an anonymous source said.
“When people talk about the (mid 20th century) Civil Rights Movement, they associate it with Martin Luther King, although there were scores of other individuals and organizations independent of Rev. King,” says the unnamed informant.
“That said, the situation today has people lured in by the publicity surrounding officer-involved shootings and the demonstrations that follow.”
BLM is a network distinguishing itself from its precursors by virtue of its commitment to a group-centered methodology as opposed to the traditional religious-based groups centered upon one individual, charismatic leader, usually a clergyman like Martin Luther King, or successors like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.
Thus, the 30-odd chapters across the United States (plus one in Toronto, Canada) are united under a list of guiding principles, but are given latitude to operate without the regimentation that categorized those pushing for equality in the mid 20th century. Each chapter is encouraged to follow the overall mantra of a national mandate, but can act as individual entities in the collective push for equality.
This push for egalitarianism maybe a factor behind the confusion that shrouds some of the actions of this upstart movement.
BLM also differs from their testosterone-driven predecessors in that its leadership is commonly associated with the three women regarded as its founders: Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi.
In keeping with BLM’s commitment to equality for non-heterosexual individuals, Cullors and Garza identify as gay or queer, while all three were runners up for the Advocate’s (the leading American LGBT themed magazine) 2015 person of the year.
“BLM gained momentum with the shooting of successive martyred figures like Trayvon Martin (February 2013), and Michael Brown (August 2014). Each additional outrage predictably drew curious outsiders into the fold, some legitimate converts, and some drawn in by the spectacle,” the source recounts.
This presumably includes the (November) 2014 shooting of toy gun-welding Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio.
“What ever their motivation, the hype propels the movement, and sometimes over shadows it,” this BLM insider says.
In essence, these hangers on may be riding the movement’s “coat tails,” so to speak, possibly for their own, hidden agendas.
Among the individuals jumping on the bandwagon for shoveling funds into this movement is Leah Hunt-Hendrix, granddaughter of oil tycoon (and rumored inspiration for infamous fictional T.V. villain J.R. Ewing of “Dallas” fame). Her Solidare (http://solidairenetwork.org/) progressive alliance has reportedly invested $800,000 over the past two years in BLM and a host of other humanitarian entities.
Also of note is investor George Soros, who has donated more than $11 million to progressive causes since 1979. While the details regarding the Ford Foundation’s own contributions remain unclear, enormous sums of money are being circulated around the axis of Black activism.