The head 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 his personal use, according to a complaint filed in court this week.
Shalomyah Bowers was named in the court filing as a “rogue administrator, middle man turned usurper” who siphoned off contributions from the nonprofit activist group to use as his own “personal piggy bank”, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday.
“His actions led [sic] [Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation] in multiple investigations by the Internal Revenue Service and various state attorneys general, setting the stage for irreparable harm to BLM in less than eighteen months,” the suit alleges. “While BLM leaders and movement workers were on the streets risking their lives, Mr. Bowers remained in his comfortable offices devising a scheme of fraud and misrepresentation to break the implicit contract between donors and the BLM.”
The lawsuit, filed by Black Lives Matter Grassroots, was light on the details of Bowers’ alleged theft of funds, but delved into the cracks within the network of Black Lives Matter groups, tracing the leadership and power shifts that left Bowers with close control of the organism.
Bowers and his group have denied all allegations of financial misconduct and chastised those suing him for “falling victim to the prison logic and social violence that fuels the justice system” by filing a lawsuit against him.
“They prefer to follow the same steps as our white oppressors and use the white supremacist-backed criminal justice system (the same system they say they want to dismantle) to resolve movement disputes,” the board said. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. directors said in a joint statement.
Bowers is one of three board members.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is an administrative organization that raises funds to distribute to Black Lives Matter Grassroots, the umbrella organization for the group’s local chapters.
Bowers was hired by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors in 2020 to help raise and distribute funds to groups within the foundation.
But he instead indulged in personal dealings, handing out grants to his own consulting firm and charging exorbitant fees reaching eight figures, according to attorney Walter Mosley, representing the plaintiffs in the case.
“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 Thursday at a press conference hosted by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah, who said that in March Bowers banned her and other leaders from accounts. BLM social media by changing passwords.
But even as Abdullah hurled accusations at Bowers, he hit back in a statement, saying Abdullah was the one who committed “financial malfeasance”.
He also accused Abdullah of “unprincipled decision-making and a leadership style rooted in revenge and intimidation”.
Black Lives Matter has come under tax scrutiny since 2020, when the group received $90 million in donations amid protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police.
The organization filed its first public IRS Form 990 tax form in 2022 and has been criticized by some for buying a $6 million Studio City resort.
Los Angeles Times