Black Lives Matter leader accused of stealing $10 million from organization
The leader of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has been accused by former colleagues of stealing more than $10 million in donations from the organization for personal use, according to a lawsuit filed in court this week.
Shalomyah Bowers was called in the court filing as a “rogue administrator, a middle man turned usurper” who siphoned contributions to the nonprofit activist group to use as a “personal piggy bank,” according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday.
Bowers’ actions led the foundation into investigations by the Internal Revenue Service and various state attorneys general, “blazing a path of irreparable harm to BLM in less than eighteen months,” the suit claims. “While BLM leaders and movement workers were on the street risking their lives, Mr. Bowers remained in his cushy offices devising a scheme of fraud and misrepresentation to break the implied-in-fact contract between donors and BLM.”
The suit, filed by Black Lives Matter Grassroots, was light on details of the alleged theft of funds, but delved into the fissures within the network of Black Lives Matter groups, charting changes in leadership and power that left Bowers with tight control of the organization.
Bowers and his group denied all claims of financial misconduct and chastised those suing him for “falling victim to the carceral logic and social violence that fuels the legal system” in taking legal action against him.
“They would rather take the same steps of our white oppressors and utilize the criminal legal system which is propped up by white supremacy (the same system they say they want to dismantle) to solve movement disputes,” the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s board of directors said in a joint statement.
Bowers is one of three members of the board.
Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is an administrative organization that raises funds to distribute to Black Lives Matter Grassroots, the umbrella organization for local chapters of the group.
Bowers was hired by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors in 2020 to help raise and distribute money to groups within the foundation.
Attorney Walter Mosley, representing the plaintiffs in the case, alleges that Bowers instead engaged in self-dealing, giving grants to his own consultant firm and charging exorbitant fees reaching eight figures.
“The lawsuit demands that they return the people’s funds and stop impersonating Black Lives Matter,” Mosley said in a statement.
The lawsuit was announced at a news conference Thursday hosted by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah, who said that Bowers shut her and other leaders out of the BLM social media accounts in March by changing the passwords.
As Abdullah leveled accusations at Bowers, he shot back in a statement, claiming that she was the one who committed “financial malfeasance.”
He also accused Abdullah of “unprincipled decision making, and a leadership style rooted in retribution and intimidation.”
Black Lives Matter has come under fiscal scrutiny since 2020, when the group received $90 million in donations amid protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
The organization filed its first public IRS 990 tax form in 2022 and was criticized by some for buying a $6-million Studio City compound.
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