A Black Lives Matter co-founder who once admitted that she had been “trained” to be a Marxist organizer has been appointed to the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.
Patrisse Cullors recently revealed the move in a newsletter to her supporters, titled “The Abolitionist’s Update on Art and Activism.” She said she “came back and hit the ground running” after “some much needed time of rest.” In May, Cullors stepped down as executive director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation following a controversy surrounding her property purchases.
“I’m thrilled to continue to weave my roles as artist and organizer, where I can continue to support Black creatives,” Cullors wrote in the update sent last week. “I have a ton of to-do’s on my list. I won’t share them now. Just stay put and watch as they unfold.”
“I truly believe Black creatives are the backbone of our society and community,” she continued. “We are often under represented and under resourced. But I plan on advocating for the full support of Black creatives across my beautiful ass city!”
Cullors was appointed to the commission by L.A. County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, a Democrat. The group functions in an advisory role to the powerful L.A. County Board of Supervisors, the governing body of America’s most populated county. A press release from Mitchell’s office said, “Cullors will serve on behalf of the 2 million residents of the Second District,” which is represented by Mitchell and includes Watts, Compton, Inglewood, and Koreatown.
“Art is a powerful tool in helping to connect, envision and create a better world,” said Sup. Mitchell. “Patrisse has demonstrated her understanding of this and has experience using various mediums of art and community engagement to inspire and create change. Patrisse shares my commitment to equity and justice and will use her creativity to make arts and culture more accessible for the residents throughout the Second District.”
According to Mitchell’s office, “There are over 107 arts organizations that primarily serve Second District residents and are using a wide range of artistic mediums to address key social justice challenges that include: anti-recidivism, healing trauma, and dismantling systemic racism.”
Cullors has been creating art to complement her grassroots activism for at least seven years. During that time, she emerged as one of the most prominent organizers in Southern California and led numerous efforts and organizations demanding systemic change. The first meeting of what would become the Black Lives Matter Global Network took place at an L.A. art center called St. Elmo’s Village, known as a black artists’ community. Street protest dances, poetry, and other artistic concepts are often incorporated into her projects and demonstrations.
“Artists and cultural workers historically and presently play a significant role in shaping movements,” Cullors said in 2018 after she joined the faculty of the Social Justice and Community Organizing program at Arizona’s Prescott College. She created a course examining how social practice, cultural work, and art impact community organizing.
Cullors recently co-founded “a reimagined art gallery and studio located in the Second District that is dedicated to shifting the trauma-induced conditions of poverty and economic injustice through the lens of Inglewood and its community,” according to Mitchell’s office.
“We can create meaningful change by investing in our imaginations and collective skills, give dollars towards beautifying our communities with art that is for us and by us, and continue to educate and amplify what justice can look like if we first invest in ourselves,” said Cullors. “All of these areas of work are areas that the Department of Arts and Culture is also committed to, and I am very excited to join this collaboration as an Arts Commissioner.”
During a 2015 interview, Cullors said both she and fellow BLM co-founder Alicia Garza were “trained Marxists,” and that ideological theory had been influential in building the BLM movement.
Cullors is not the first Black Lives Matter leader appointed as an L.A. County commissioner.
Dr. Melina Abdullah, a professor at Cal State L.A. and lead organizer of BLM’s L.A. chapter, sat on the Human Relations Commission for four years. During her tenure, Abdullah pushed the Sheriff’s Department to reveal information about ongoing investigations, initiated hearings on community experiences with law enforcement, and was instrumental in replacing Columbus Day as an official County holiday with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Abdullah was appointed to the post in 2014 by then-L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Democrat who was recently indicted on federal corruption charges.