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Patrisse Cullors steps away from Black Lives Matter foundation

Patrisse Cullors of Black Lives Matter arrives at the Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 4, 2018. Cullors said she is leaving the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation this week. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Patrisse Cullors of Black Lives Matter arrives at the Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 4, 2018. Cullors said she is leaving the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation this week. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

May 28 (UPI) -- Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, said Thursday she is stepping down from the foundation that bears its name as she prepares to release a second book and take on other projects in a personal capacity.

Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi are credited with starting the hashtag #BlackLives Matter after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2013.

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From there, they built a movement around the hashtag, followed by local chapters and then the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. While Garza and Tometi went their separate ways, Cullors became the foundation's executive director last year.

The foundation said in a statement that Makani Themba, chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies, and Monifa Bandele, chief operating officer at the Time's Up Foundation, will take over as senior executives. It said Themba and Bandele have been involved with Black Lives Matter since its inception.

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"With smart, experienced and committed people supporting the organization during this transition, I know that BLMGNF is in good hands," Cullors said in the statement. "The foundation's agenda remains the same -- eradicate white supremacy and build life-affirming institutions."

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Some local affiliates had complained that they had been cut out of decision making since Cullors took over as executive director along with the perception that they benefitted from money donated to the foundation after the death of George Floyd last year.

"There's been intentional erasure," of local activists, Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City organizer Sheri Dickerson told Politico last December. "People assume that that money is distributed to local chapters. That is not the case. People also assume that when actions are made, that national [leadership] has the support and agreement from this collective that what they're saying is representative of us. And that's certainly not the case."

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The foundation said Cullors helped it advocate for police reform, launch a grassroots sister organization to empower local chapters, form a political action committee to increase voter participation and donate $25 million to families and organizations.

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