An Ohio-based black liberation group has changed its name to rid itself of the Black Lives Matter label, claiming the national organization has made money off the deaths of black people while doing little to help their grieving families.
Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati (BLMC), founded more than three years ago, announced that it will now be called Mass Action for Black Liberation.
"We can no longer use or identify with the name Black Lives Matter - a rally cry that still has meaning, even if perverted by those pushing it as a brand," the newly-named group explained on its website last week.
BLMC was one of several activist groups that often confuse those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the black power movement. Although it incorporated the "Black Lives Matter" catchphrase into its name, the organization was never a sanctioned chapter of what is widely considered the "official" Black Lives Matter (BLM) National Network co-founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza.
The group formerly known as BLMC went on to deliver a blistering critique of that BLM syndicate, alleging it "capitalized off a nameless groundswell of resistance sweeping the nation, branded it as their own, and profited from the deaths of Black men and women around the country without seriously engaging, as a national formation, in getting justice for fighting families."
The condemnation focused on BLM’s national leadership and did not reference any of the network’s local chapters, which organize and carry out almost all of the group’s actions and demonstrations. It also accused BLM of betraying struggles against police brutality, shifting away from revolutionary ideas, and "raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from high-end speaking engagements and donations from foundations."
The activists went on to suggest that individuals associated with what would become the BLM National Network co-opted the movement in 2014 after a police officer shot and killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. They then blamed uninformed journalists for incorrectly crediting BLM for work done by numerous other independent, unrelated civil rights and black nationalist groups, writing:
"No chapter of BLM existed in Ferguson. But the media carried and carries the lie that this broad collection of families and fighters exist under a BLM umbrella. They don't. BLM is a small fraction in a larger pie of the Black liberation movement, nationally. There are many organizations and individuals doing work with no affiliation to BLM and with different names. All the powerful sacrifices of autonomous families and groupings around the country are continuously attributed to works of BLM."
BLM announced earlier this year that two of its three founders, Garza and Tometi, had discontinued their work with the organization “to focus on other impactful, like-minded projects and initiatives,” leaving Cullors as a spokesperson, senior advisor, and chief strategist.
Cullors, who is currently leading multiple criminal justice reform drives in Los Angeles, recently co-authored a book that was on The New York Times bestseller list titled, “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.” She also appeared onstage before a worldwide audience at the Oscars last month and traveled to Australia in November to accept the Sydney Peace Prize on behalf of “the Black Lives Matter movement.”
While Mass Action for Black Liberation did not single out specific BLM national leaders, it cited several examples of behavior it deemed to be self-indulgent, contributing to the group’s decision to move forward without the Black Lives Matter moniker:
They have gained access to high profile associations, including invitations to the White House and celebrity events; have been on magazine covers; are on the way to profiting as authors and subjects of books; and have accepted numerous awards and accolades as so-called founders of the movement – while families struggle, unassisted, to keep their fights going. So many people on the ground have shared a similar experience: when the reporters leave and the bright lights are gone, so are they (BLM).
Ashley Yates, a nationally known organizer who had a public falling out with BLM last year, posted the Cincinnati activists’ allegations on social media, along with the comment: “I don’t know these people but I know there’s a whole lotta facts here.”
“Kudos to them for putting it together so intentionally, with purpose and conviction,” she continued. “Most movement folks just whisper about it.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.