LOS ANGELES - Following the recent anti-racism protests that have erupted around the world in the wake of the death of George Floyd during an encounter with Minneapolis police on May 25, a group known as “The Black Lives Matter Foundation,” has reportedly raised nearly $4 million from individuals and various corporations unaware that the foundation has nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
BLM says on its website it was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.
But the Black Lives Matter Foundation, which was founded in 2015 and is a completely separate organization, has reportedly raised millions from companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft in confusion over the similarity in both of the organization’s names, according to a recent report by BuzzFeed News.
“I don't have anything to do with the Black Lives Matter Global Network. I never met them; never spoke to them. I don't know them; I have no relationship with them,” Robert Ray Barnes, the founder of the Black Lives Matter Foundation, said in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
A BLM spokesperson told BuzzFeed that Barnes’ foundation and the BLM movement are “two completely separate organizations,” adding that the foundation based in Santa Clarita is “improperly using our name.”
“We intend to call them out and follow up,” the spokesperson said.
Barnes also claimed that BLM “stole” the name of the organization from him. “They took my name. I own that name. I haven’t stolen anything from them. They have stolen from me. They have lied and been able to profit using my name,” Barnes said.
Barnes told BuzzFeed the he registered his foundation in May 2015.
One major differentiation between the two organizations is their mission statements.
While BLM has advocated for “defunding the police” in an effort to reallocate police funding to community efforts, in a 2017 tax filing, the Black Lives Matter Foundation states that its goal is to “use our unique and creative ideas to help bring the police and the community closer together to save lives.”
According to the tax filing, the foundation took in more than $279,000 in contributions while spending & 89,000 on expenses in 2017.
Barnes told BuzzFeed that he has made contributions to local churches and a veterans foundation he claims was started by his family. The California Attorney General’s Office issued a cease and desist order to Barnes’ organization in December, 2019, for failing to file annual financial reports.
Despite the order, the Black Lives Matter Foundation has been active on charity platforms, including GoFundMe and PayPal’s Giving Fund.
BuzzFeed reported that in early June, GoFundMe had frozen nearly $350,000 sent to the foundation, saying that the company is working to ensure the money “goes to the right place,” adding that it would refund money to donors who did not intend for the funds to go to Barnes’ foundation.