If it was meant to be sympathetic, it backfired. The paranoid Cullors claims she suffered from PTSD in the wake of the revelation that she owns four homes, first reported by Isabel Vincent in the New York Post. It also describes how the controversy fueled divisions within BLM.
Of course, it is still the Los Angeles Times, so Cullors is sometimes let off the hook. For instance, she is “philosophical” about being a Marxist and so house-rich. But the story reveals that the impact of the exposé was far greater than we knew.
The article is behind a pay wall but here are some excerpts:
Patrisse Cullors cries when she remembers the fear she felt while checking into treatment for a mental breakdown, how she prayed during the entire ride to the facility.
“I really thought I was gonna die,” said the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network. “I thought I was either gonna get killed by a crazy white supremacist — you know, they’re gonna show up to my house — or I was gonna kill myself. I was really preparing for death.”
“One of the biggest dreams for Black folks is land and home ownership,” Cullors said. “. ..This isn’t new. Black women are often the primary breadwinners and supporters of our family members and community members.”
In the aftermath, Samaria Rice and Lisa Simpson, both mothers of sons killed by police, released a statement calling on Cullors, the organization and other activists under the Black Lives Matter banner to “step down, stand back, and stop monopolizing and capitalizing our fight.”
Simpson, whose 18-year-old son Richard Risher was killed by Los Angeles police in 2016 in the Nickerson Gardens housing development, held a news conference outside of a South L.A. property owned by Cullors.
“Black lives don’t matter. Your pockets matter,” she declared.
“Y’all come into our lives and act like y’all got our back and y’all want to say ‘Black Lives Matter,’” Simpson continued. “But after we bury our children, we don’t see B, L or M, but y’all out here buying properties.”
Six weeks later, Cullors stepped down from the Black Lives Matter Global Network.
Cullors’ mother, Cherisse Foley, was relieved. She’d seen how miserable her daughter was.
“I thought … to myself, ‘You need to get away. You need to be away from something that’s going to cause you to stay the way you are because that’s not good on your heart,’” Foley said.
At the time, Cullors told the Associated Press she could step down because she had created “the necessary bones and foundation” the group needed to function.
That was only partly true, Cullors says now. She was exhausted and afraid; she felt misunderstood and attacked from all sides.
“I have never felt this objectified,” she said. “I’m not a human being to a lot of people. It doesn’t matter that I have a child, that I have family, that I take care of my brother who’s mentally ill.”
The stories about her finances and other criticism had one aim, she said.
“It wasn’t just a character assassination campaign,” she said, “but a campaign to actually get me assassinated.”
Last year, when she finally decided to seek help, Cullors hit roadblocks immediately as she scoured to find an in-patient treatment center that specializes in PTSD but also racial trauma, a place that would protect her privacy but also allow her to bring her 5-year-old. Nothing quite fit her needs, so Cullors organized her own treatment experience with the help of a team of therapists.
Her chest was tight and her stomach was in knots on July 1, when she arrived at the gates of a property she booked in a secluded area an hour outside of Los Angeles. She was afraid the press would find out that she was having a mental health crisis, or that the space was otherwise unsafe.
“I was sensitive to every sound and very paranoid; I was afraid of everything,” Cullors recalled. But her mantra, “‘I will not be a martyr,” carried her past the gates of the property and into a month of treatment.
“Never in a million years did I think that Black people wouldn’t protect me,” she said. “I was really given space to be angry; I had a lot of rage, a lot of anger, a lot of sadness.”