Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Who Funds Black Lives Matter?


WSWS  |  Last summer, the Ford Foundation, one of the most powerful private foundations in the world, announced that it was organizing to channel $100 million to the Black Lives Movement over the next six years.

“By partnering with Borealis Philanthropy, Movement Strategy Center and Benedict Consulting to found the Black-Led Movement Fund, Ford has made six-year investments in the organizations and networks that compose the Movement for Black Lives,” according to the Ford Foundation web site. In a statement of support, Ford called for the group to grow and prosper. “We want to nurture bold experiments and help the movement build the solid foundation that will enable it to flourish.”

In the wake of the monetary commitment by the big-business foundation network, Black Lives Matter (BLM) has explicitly embraced black capitalism. It appears the group is now well positioned to cash in on the well-known #BLM Twitter hashtag. Announcing its first “big initiative for 2017,” BLM cofounder Patrisse Cullors stated that it would be partnering with the Fortune 500 New York ad agency J. Walter Thompson (JWT) to create “the biggest and most easily accessible black business database in the country.”

BLM joins the ranks of prestigious JWT clientele including HSBC Bank, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and Shell Oil. JWT also represents the US Marine Corps. CEO Lynn Power suggested that the BLM partnership would provide the advertising firm with an opportunity to “shape culture positively.” “I am really glad that our partnership with Black Lives Matter is giving us the opportunity to play a truly active role,” she enthused.

The joint project, Backing Black Business, is a nationwide interactive map of black-owned enterprises. This virtual Google-based directory has nothing to do with opposing police violence, from which Black Lives Matter ostensibly emerged. Cullors nevertheless portrayed the venture as enabling blacks to have “somewhere for us to go and feel seen and safe,” concluding, “In these uncertain times, we need these places more than ever.”

Such developments may come as a surprise to those who embraced the sentiment that “black lives matter” because they saw it as an oppositional rebuke to the militarization of police and the disproportionate police murder of African Americans. Many did not realize that the political aims and nature of Black Lives Matter were of an entirely different nature.

In fact, the election of Donald Trump has served to put even more distance between the large layers of workers and young people opposed to police violence and the privileged upper middle class layer that Black Lives Matter represents. The latter, developments have shown, are leveraging #BLM as a brand to make a name for themselves, find lucrative sinecures and, more generally, get on the gravy train.

BLM’s most recent scheme is even more crass than Backing Black Business. In February, BLM launched a “black debit card” underwritten by OneUnited Bank. “A historic partnership has been born between OneUnited Bank, the largest Black-owned bank in the country, and #BlackLivesMatter to organize the $1.2 trillion in spending power of Black people and launch the Amir card during Black History Month,” boasts OneUnited’s web site.