This article is part of the Organization Trends series.
At the time of this writing, prosecutors had just dropped charges against the last three of six police officers accused in the death of Baltimore drug dealer Freddie Gray. The decision closes an ugly chapter in that sad story, in which the highly politicized Baltimore City state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, accused them of murder. The city descended into days of violence and destruction after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake infamously gave space to rioters “who wished to destroy.” But that riot was only one chapter in a still-evolving story of death and destruction provoked by a false narrative of oppression and police brutality.
The Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) casts itself as a spontaneous uprising born of inner-city frustration, but it is in fact the latest and most dangerous face of a web of well-funded socialist/communist organizations that have been agitating against America for decades.
BLM claims to be non-violent. According to its website (BlackLivesMatter.com), “The Black Lives Matter Network advocates for dignity, justice, and respect. …Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it.”
Yet BLM activists are routinely observed screaming violent obscenities and attacking police. For example, this past July, 21 police were injured by rocks, steel pipes, and fireworks during a demonstration in St. Paul, Minnesota, where protesters shut down the interstate for five hours. One officer suffered a spinal fracture after a concrete block was dropped on his head. At a Minneapolis fair protest last summer, BLM activists shouted, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon!”
In her recent book The War on Cops, Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald argues that the BLM movement and the fallout from it have made the inner city much more dangerous, as police forces adopt hands-off policies in response to growing hostility. Some call it the “Ferguson effect,” named after the Missouri town where a young black man, Michael Brown, was killed when he tried to kill a white police officer. Cops across the nation are afraid to patrol black neighborhoods and are overly cautious when dealing with black suspects. Despite their diminished forcefulness in high-crime neighborhoods, police are still being assaulted and killed.
Crime had been trending down for decades, but in 2015 homicide rates increased dramatically over 2014. In Houston, homicides were up 25.2 percent; in Washington, D.C., 54 percent; Baltimore, 58.5 percent; Milwaukee, 72.6 percent; and in Cleveland, a whopping 90 percent. Overall, homicides increased 17 percent in the 50 largest cities—the greatest increase in 25 years.
Black Lives Matter began in 2013 with a Twitter hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, after neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, called a “white Hispanic” in the press, was acquitted in the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin. Radical-left activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi claim credit for the slogan and hashtag. Following the Michael Brown shooting in August 2014, Dream Defenders, an organization co-founded by (the ACORN-affiliated) Working Families Party activist and Occupy Wall Street organizer Nelini Stamp, popularized the phrase “Hands Up—Don’t Shoot!” which has since become BLM’s widely recognized slogan. Not surprisingly, former Communist Party USA vice presidential candidate Angela Davis sits on the Dream Defenders advisory board.
Garza, Cullors, and Tometi all work for front groups of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, one of the four largest radical Left organizations in the country. The others are the Communist Party USA, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Stamp’s ACORN—now rebranded under a variety of different names after its official 2010 bankruptcy—works with all four organizations, and Dream Defenders is backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), ACLU, and Southern Poverty Law Center, among others.
The Freedom Road Socialist Organization is a hereditary descendant of the New Communist Movement inspired by Chinese dictator Mao Zedong and the many communist revolutions occurring throughout the world in the 1960s and ‘70s. Freedom Road split into two separate groups in 1999, FRSO/Fight Back and FRSO/OSCL (Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organizaci??n Socialista del Camino Para la Libertad). Black Lives Matter and its founders are allied w
ith the latter. (Future references to “Freedom Road” in this article refer to FRSO/OSCL.)
And lest anyone think the terms used to describe Freedom Road are too extreme, here’s an excerpt from an April 21, 2016 blog post on its website, mourning the death of “our comrade,” Tim Thomas, at 71:
Tim was a revolutionary organizer, writer and educator. …At George Washington University, Tim became active in the Black Liberation and Marxist movement that remained his lifelong passion. …Tim was a leader of SOBU (Student Organization for Black Unity) and later YOBU (Youth Organization for Black Unity). He was also very active in the African Liberation Support Committee.
Tim joined the Revolutionary Workers League in 1972 and later the League of Revolutionary Struggle (LRS), a New Communist Movement group that brought together in one organization Asian-American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, African American, and white communists who shared a vision of national liberation as a critical element of communist revolution. After that group dissolved in 1990, Tim and a number of former LRS comrades came into the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, where they continue to advance the theory and practice of self-determination socialism.
As Co-Chair of FRSO’s Oppressed Nationality Commission, Tim helped us live up to our commitment to building the Black Liberation Movement through its downturns and upsurges. He wrote extensively about Bay area peoples’ movements, organizing methodology, and developments in the Black Liberation Movement. Tim saw to completion an extensive update of our Oppressed Nationality Unity Document, which was passed just last month at FRSO’s 2016 Congress. Tim also chaired a FRSO working group on immigrant rights. At the time of his death, he was collaborating with comrades on a comprehensive paper about the Black Liberation Movement.
Freedom Road is comprised of dozens of groups. The radical-left model is based on building alliances of many organizations, small and large, working separate issues but dedicated ultimately to the same thing: overthrowing our society to replace it with a hardcore socialist (or communist) one.
BLM is one of many projects undertaken by Freedom Road. Except for the website, BlackLivesMatter.com, there is no actual organization. The website implicitly acknowledges this, describing #BlackLivesMatter as, “an online forum intended to build connections between Black people and our allies to fight anti-Black racism, to spark dialogue among Black people, and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement.”
But today the movement has become so widely recognized that it may receive funding from the Left’s granddaddy funder, the radical billionaires’ donor consortium known as the Democracy Alliance.
Blacks, gays, and women are disproportionately represented among the membership of Freedom Road, which self-consciously emphasizes issues related to those groups. Alicia Garza penned a “Herstory” of BLM and is a “queer,” black veteran activist of numerous Freedom Road organizations. Her résumé includes
Special projects director, National Domestic Workers Alliance
Executive director, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER)
Board member, School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL)
2011 Board chair, Right to the City Alliance
Board member, Forward Together
Patrisse Cullors describes herself as a “working class, queer, black woman.” She claims the country killed her father, a drug addict. At a 2015 Netroots Nation conference, Cullors led chants shouting, “If I die in police custody, burn everything down …rise the f—k up! That is the only way motherf—kers like you will listen!” Cullors founded and directs Dignity and Power Now, which claims to seek “dignity and power of incarcerated people, their families, and communities.”
Cullors was trained by Eric Mann, a former Weather Underground leader who exhorts followers to become “anti-racist, anti-imperialist” activists. Mann runs another Freedom Road front, the Labor/Community Strategy Center. Like many professional leftists, he makes good money—over $225,000—living in “the system” he advocates destroying.
Opal Tometi is the daughter of illegal aliens from Nigeria. While in college, she worked for the ACLU defending illegal aliens against “vigilantes” opposed to illegal immigration. She is currently executive director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
Freedom Road/BLM organizations are generously supported by a universe of wealthy foundations. Some of the groups, like those employing BLM founders Garza and Tometi, receive money directly. Others, like Cullors’ Dignity and Power Now, are financed by organizations designed specifically to underwrite the activities of others. These will be taken in turn.
National Domestic Workers Alliance (Garza)—In business since 2007, the Alliance’s 2014 revenues were $7.6 million, with net assets of $5.2 million. Its board includes two members of CASA de Maryland, a vocal advocate for illegal aliens that takes in millions of dollars in government grants (see Organization Trends, September 2012). CASA received grants from the Alliance in 2013 and 2014 as did the radical-left Institute for Policy Studies in 2013. The Alliance received $6.5 million between 2011 and 2014 from a number of familiar foundations, Ford ($1.9 million), both of George Soros’s major philanthropies (Open Society Foundations, formerly Open Society Institute, and the Foundation to Promote Open Society) ($1.3 million), Marguerite ($450,000), Surdna ($595,000), Kellogg ($250,000), Ben & Jerry’s ($30,000), and others.
People Organized to Win Employment Rights or POWER (Garza) reports 2013 revenues of $456,676, including $92,173 in government grants. POWER evolved from the now defunct communist group STORM (Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement). Obama’s former “green jobs czar,” the self-described “communist” and “rowdy black nationalist” Van Jones, served on STORM’s board. Since 1999, POWER has received money from the Marguerite Casey Foundation ($655,000), Surdna ($464,000), Public Welfare (301,000), Tides ($168,000), Ben & Jerry’s ($62,000) and many others—even the American Heart Association ($90,000 in 2014). In January 2015, POWER merged with another Freedom Road group, Causa Justa, and Garza left.
Right to the City Alliance (Garza) discloses 2014 revenues of $844,206. The Alliance is a nationwide network of activist organizations that resist gentrification of inner cities because it displaces “low-income people, people of color, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of color….” In business since 2009, it has received funding from the Ford Foundation ($1.3 million), both major Soros philanthropies ($600,000), Surdna ($400,000), Marguerite Casey ($387,500), Tides ($165,000), Ben & Jerry’s ($50,000) and others.
School of Unity and Liberation or SOUL (Garza) has enjoyed rapid revenue growth since Alicia Garza’s rise to fame as a BLM leader. Revenues skyrocketed from $110,304 in 2013 to $660,237 in 2014. SOUL claims to have trained 712 organizers in 2014. The group trained 679 in 2013, and costs are roughly the same, so SOUL was able to more than double its net assets in 2014. It receives funding from the Akonadi Foundation ($322,500), Heinz ($255,000), Rockefeller ($210,000), Surdna ($460,000), Tides ($298,000), and others.
Forward Together (Garza) describes itself as “a multi-racial organization that works with community leaders and organizations to transform culture and policy to catalyze social change.” Its 2014 revenues were $4.0 million with net assets of $4.2 million. Between 2012 and 2014, the organization received a total of $2.9 million from Ford ($655,000), Susan Thompson Buffett ($604,318), General Service ($190,000), and others. Garza serves on the board.
Black Alliance for Just Immigration (Tometi) reports 2014 revenues of $554,434. This modest organization only lists two full-time staff, yet receives support from many recognizable foundations. Since 2010 this includes Kellogg, ($75,000), Marguerite Casey ($337,500), both major Soros philanthropies ($100,000), Ben & Jerry’s ($10,000), and others. Tometi was paid $60,000 in 2014 to direct the group.
Cullors’ Dignity and Power Now is underwritten by Community Partners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Los Angeles with a $24 million budget (including $4 million in government grants) that fiscally sponsors nonprofits; that is to say, it is an existing nonprofit that lets unincorporated groups use its nonprofit status to receive tax-deductible donations. It is not a Freedom Road organization.
Advancement Project is a Freedom Road group that funds a variety of radical causes. The Project sees America as a racist, oppressive nation and, according to Discover the Networks, “works to organize ‚Äòcommunities of color’ into politically cohesive units while disseminating its leftist worldviews and values as broadly as possible by way of a sophisticated communications department.” Its 2013 revenues were $11.3 million. The Project receives generous funding from a wide variety of wealthy foundations, including the California Endowment ($7.3 million), Ford ($8.5 million), Kellogg ($3 million), Hewlett ($2.5 million), Rockefeller ($2.5 million), both major Soros philanthropies ($8.6 million), Tides ($1.3 million), and many others, totaling approximately $55 million over the past decade.
Movement Strategy Center (MSC) also facilitates funding, development and advancement of Freedom Road organizations. Its 2013 revenues were $7.5 million, including $156,032 in government grants. MSC has received funding from the California Endowment ($2.3 million), Ford ($1.8 million), both major Soros philanthropies ($1.1 million), Surdna ($1.4 million), Tides ($1.6 million), Akonadi ($1.1 million), Robert Wood Johnson ($378,750), Ben & Jerry’s ($60,000), and others.
The Surdna Foundation (2014 revenues $64.9 million, with net assets of $1 billion) appears repeatedly in the above lists and is one of the oldest foundations supporting BLM. It was formed in 1917 by John Emory Andrus, at the time one of the wealthiest people in America. Surdna is his name spelled backwards.
In addition to its Freedom Road funding, Surdna has provided $145,000 to Race Forward over the past two years for “Equitable Economic Development,” as part of its Strong Local Economies initiative. The grant descriptions, however, have little to do with economics; for example, this one from 2015: “This general operating support grant will help Race Forward (RF) to advance racial justice and address inequalities in key areas through research, media, and practice (training).” (For more information on the Surdna Foundation, see the January 2014 and September 2007 issues of Foundation Watch.)
While not a Freedom Road organization, Race Forward is the rebranded Applied Research Center (ARC), a think tank dedicated to “racial justice,” and it participated in the Ferguson protests. Race Forward publishes ColorLines, which focuses on “police violence,” “gender and sexuality,” “Islamophobia,” and other predictable leftist themes. Race Forward and ARC are directed by radical leftist Rinku Sen who “has positioned ARC as the home for media and activism on racial justice…” according to Tufts University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center. Prior to its rebranding, ARC received millions from a host of well-heeled funders over the past 10 years including Arcus, ($927,784), Ford ($2 million), both major Soros philanthropies ($1.2 million), Tides ($1.3 million), Kellogg ($4 million), and many others.
Both of George Soros’s major philanthropies are listed among the many donors to Freedom Road and other “racial justice” groups like ARC. But according to the Washington Times, Soros has been a much larger “racial justice” funder than these figures reveal, having donated at least $33 million in one year to groups that organized unrest in Ferguson and other riots, including:
Drug Policy Alliance (over $18.5 million since 2010)
Center for Community Change ($5.2 million since 2010)
Equal Justice USA ($800,000 since 2010)
Gamaliel Foundation ($1.3 million since 2010)
Make the Road New York ($769,430 since 2010)
Sojourners ($300,000 since 2011)
Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference ($500,000 in 2011—2012)
Mainstream BLM Support
Mainstream funders have jumped in as well. For example, United Way has partnered with A&E and iHeartMedia to create Shining the Light Advisors, a committee of “nationally known experts and leaders in racial and social justice,” to oversee grant disbursements. These “advisors” include such radicals as Van Jones, Advancement Project co-director Judith Browne Dianis, and Race Forward‘s Rinku Sen.
BLM’s mission includes a kitchen sink of favored radical-left causes, including poverty, prisoner deinstitutionalization, illegal immigration, and gay rights. Highlighting Freedom Road’s orientation toward gay blacks, it describes how “Black, queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.”
Its wide network of affiliates and partner organizations like the Communist Party USA and the remnants of the ACORN network allows BLM to turn out large crowds. Many participate simply to protest, commit violence, loot, or all three.
Freedom Road, for example, was prominent at the Ferguson protests and took video of the event. It even created a Black Lives Matter button. Following are more Freedom Road organizations involved with BLM. (Funding estimates provided when known.)
Black Left Unity—A Marxist-Leninist organization that supports favored causes of the communist Left, including unity with Cuba, war against capitalism, and Occupy Wall Street.
Black Workers for Justice—A group based in North Carolina which claims to struggle on behalf of “oppressed nationalities.”
Causa Justa/Just Cause—a Black-Latino solidarity organization allied with the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, the Right to the City Alliance, and others. Its 2013 revenues, $1.6 million, included $689,484 in government grants. Causa Justa has received over $2.3 million since 2010, mostly from the California Endowment, Marguerite Casey, and a few others. As noted above, POWER was absorbed into Causa Justa.
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance—“A national alliance of US-based grassroots organizing (GRO) groups organizing to build an agenda for power for working and poor people and communities of color.” It has received $20,000 from Ben & Jerry’s since 2010.
Hands Up United—works for “liberation of oppressed Black, Brown, and poor people through education, art, civil disobedience, advocacy, and agriculture.”
Intelligent Mischief—its Black Body Survival Guide is in the works and has raised $8,785 to date through crowdfunding website Indiegogo.
Organization for Black Struggle is affiliated with the Communist Party USA. Its website claims Black Workers for Justice and the Advancement Project as allies. Chaired by Freedom Road member Montague Simmons, the Organization received $277,955 in revenues in 2014, its first year as a registered 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization.
Showing Up for Racial Justice is a “national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice.” Showing Up quotes Garza, “We need you defecting from White supremacy and changing the narrative of White supremacy by breaking White silence.”
Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE)—had 2013 revenues of $2.8 million. It is led by Anthony Thigpenn, a former Black Panther and board member of the Apollo Alliance. Apollo is a secretive alliance of labor, environment, and other left-wing activists that formulated Obama’s trillion dollar “stimulus” plan. Board member Van Jones described Apollo “as sort of a grand unified field theory for progressive left causes.” Now a project of the Blue Green Alliance, SCOPE has received about $12 million since 2010 from numerous foundations, the most generous being Ford ($1.9 million), James Irvine ($2.3 million), New World ($1.4 million), Hewlett ($1.4 million), and the California Endowment ($1.2 million). (For more on the Apollo Alliance, see Green Watch, November 2012).
BLM groups have also joined with the Communist Party USA, the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, Democratic Socialists of America, SEIU, Color of Change, and many others. Anarchist and top Occupy Wall Street organizer Lisa Fithian, who orchestrated the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization riots, trained Ferguson protesters. Fithian says “create crisis, because crisis is that edge where change is possible.”
Fithian echoes Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, the creators of the infamous Cloward-Piven Crisis Strategy, who spent decades attempting to provoke poor, inner-city blacks to riot, because as Cloward said, poor people advance only “when the rest of society is afraid of them.”
Rasheen Aldridge was a leader of the Ferguson protests. He has participated in numerous Communist Party USA events in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Another prominent Communist Party member active in BLM protests is Michael McPhearson, who leads the Don’t Shoot Coalition.
Carl Davidson and Pat Fry, co-chairs of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, exploited the revolutionary atmosphere of the Ferguson riots to create an eight-point plan for “Left Unity” demanding “a common aspiration for socialism.”
Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), is Missouri’s rebranded ACORN group. It created an illustrative chart offering a snapshot of the Left’s grievance agenda. Capitalism is always the problem. Socialism is always the solution.
Interestingly, MORE doesn’t believe in socialism when it is footing the bill. MORE promised to pay Ferguson protesters $5,000 a month to cause trouble. But just as ACORN stiffed its employees while preaching socialist generosity, so MORE stiffed its own rent-a-mob protesters. (“Ferguson rent-a-mobs exposed,” by Matthew Vadum, FrontPage Magazine, May 18, 2015.)
Islamist organizations have also jumped on the BLM bandwagon, reminding us of the unholy alliance that exists between them and the radical Left. In September 2015, the Muslim Brotherhood-front Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) joined BLM activists in storming California Governor Jerry Brown’s office. CAIR also participated in the Ferguson protests. Meanwhile, ISIS is reportedly recruiting American blacks for its cause.
Intellectual Genealogy of Black Lives Matter
“We must be ready to employ trickery, deceit, law-breaking, withholding and concealing truth. …We can and must write in a language which sows among the masses hate, revulsion, and scorn toward those who disagree with us”—Vladimir Lenin
That quote from the Soviet Union’s first leader captures the entire essence of the Left’s strategy. No matter what the issue, no matter what the facts, the Left advances a relentless, hate-filled narrative that America is irredeemably evil and must be destroyed as soon as possible. The BLM movement is only the latest, but perhaps most dangerous variant on this subversive theme.
Communists use language and psychology as a weapon. Their constant vilification of enemies is a form of psychological warfare. It puts America and Americans on trial. The verdict is always guilty. Facts don’t matter because the Left does not want to resolve the problems they complain about. They use those problems to agitate and provoke, hoping conflict becomes unavoidable and thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their hatred is tactical.
Obama’s favorite Harvard professor, Derrick Bell, devised Critical Race Theory, which exemplifies Lenin’s strategy as applied to race. According to Discover the Networks:
Critical race theory contends that America is permanently racist to its core, and that consequently the nation’s legal structures are, by definition, racist and invalid …members of “oppressed” racial groups are entitled—in fact obligated—to determine for themselves which laws and traditions have merit and are worth observing. …
Bell’s theory is in turn an innovation of Critical Theory, which was developed by Marxist thinkers of the Frankfurt School who were affiliated with the Institute for Social Research, founded in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1923. The Institute’s left-wing scholars were mostly Jewish and fled Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s, relocating to Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York. Critical Theory, which discredits all aspects of Western society, rapidly infected the minds of newly minted college professors, who then spread its poison throughout the university system.
We know it today as political correctness. One of its most famous purveyors was the Frankfurt School’s Herbert Marcuse, longtime associate of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Julian Bond. Marcuse invented the concept of “partisan tolerance,” that is, tolerance for leftist ideas and intolerance of all others. The Southern Poverty Law Center applied Marcuse’s strategy in developing its “Hate Watch” list, and Rules for Radicals author Saul Alinsky used it in his own life’s work.
The “racist” narrative was turbocharged with the concept of “White Privilege,” the notion that whites—the dominant demographic group in capitalist America—are irretrievably racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, fill-in-the-blank-ophobic, imperialistic oppressors who exploit everyone. Whites are the only true evil in the world and should be exterminated. “Dr. Kamau Kambon, who taught Africana Studies 241 in the Spring 2005 semester at North Carolina State University, also said this needs to be done ‚because white people want to kill us.’” (“Activist: exterminate white people,” by Jon Sanders, Carolina Journal, Oct. 21, 2015.)
Writing under the alias Noel Ignatin, Ignatiev co-authored a Students for Democratic Society (SDS) pamphlet with fellow radical Ted Allen titled, White Blindspot. In 1992 he co-founded Race Traitor: Journal of the New Abolitionism. Its first issue coined the slogan “Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” Its stated objective was to “abolish the white race.” More specifically, the New Abolitionist newsletter declared:
The way to abolish the white race is to challenge, disrupt and eventually overturn the institutions and behavior patterns that reproduce the privileges of whiteness, including the schools, job and housing markets, and the criminal justice system. The abolitionists do not limit themselves to socially acceptable means of protest, but reject in advance no means of attaining their goal [emphasis added].
But do not be confused: “White” with an uppercase W does not mean white as most Americans use the word. “White” in radical parlance means anyone of any race, creed, nationality, color, sex, or sexual preference who embraces capitalism, free markets, limited government, and American traditional culture and values. These beliefs are deemed to be irredeemably evil, and anyone who aligns with them is “white” in spirit and thus equally guilty of “white crimes.” Ignatiev still teaches, now at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
The Black Lives Matter movement carries this narrative to unprecedented heights, claiming that only whites can be racists. (“The Result of Victimhood and Lies: Great Evil,” by Dennis Prager, National Review Online, Sept. 1, 2015.) And while justifying violence to achieve “social justice,” the movement’s goal is to overthrow our society to replace it with a Marxist one. Many members of the black community would be shocked to learn that the intellectual godfathers of this movement are mostly white Communists, “queers,” and leftist Democrats, intent on making blacks cannon fodder, the shock troops of the coming revolution.
James Simpson is an economist, former White House budget analyst, businessman, and investigative journalist. Veteran researchers Trevor Loudon and Matthew Vadum (senior vice president, Capital Research Center) contributed to this report.