On a sunny day late last spring, three leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement — Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Melina Abdullah — sat around a table on the patio of an expensive house in Southern California. The women were recording a YouTube video to mark the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, and they discussed their racial-justice work and the difficulties they had faced over the year. “For me, the hardest moments have been the right-wing-media machine just leveraging literally all its weight against me, against our movement, against BLM the organization,” Cullors said. “I’m some weeks out now from a lot of the noise, so I have more perspective, right? While I was in it, I was in survival mode.” She was referring to an April 2021 article in the New York Post that revealed her purchase of four homes for nearly $3 million. The disclosures had contributed to the idea that there is a disturbing gap between the fortunes of the movement’s most visible figures and on-the-ground activists across the country, and Cullors resigned as executive director of Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation on May 27, within a few days of the patio chat.
“I think they’ve attempted to cancel us, but they have not been successful in canceling us,” Abdullah said at another point in the conversation. “They’ve attempted to say — and I’m just gonna say it — ‘She bought some damn houses. We gonna cancel her.’” Garza cut in with a comment seemingly addressed to critics: “Y’all don’t know shit about what it takes to live in a box here.” None of the women acknowledged the house behind them. It’s far from a box, with more than 6,500 square feet, more than half a dozen bedrooms and bathrooms, several fireplaces, a soundstage, a pool and bungalow, and parking for more than 20 cars, according to real-estate listings. The California property was purchased for nearly $6 million in cash in October 2020 with money that had been donated to BLMGNF.