A Black Lives Matter (BLM) organizer in Bristol, UK, has confessed to stealing money from a fundraising page created for a 2020 demonstration where a prominent statue was toppled. The Times reported on Tuesday that Xahra Saleem, a 23-year-old self-described screenwriter who also goes by the name Yvonne Maina, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud last week. Approximately £30,000 ($36,400) went missing from a crowdfunding page organized by Saleem.
Saleem was one of the five organizers of the Bristol BLM protest that took place on June 7, 2020, in response to the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in the US. She was recognized as a co-founder of the All Black Lives Bristol group and was featured in a local youth publication’s list of the most influential people under the age of 30 in Bristol.
In the days leading up to the protest, Saleem started a GoFundMe page called BristBLM, seeking donations to cover the demonstration’s expenses and provide protective equipment for the protesters. Additionally, she made an agreement with a Bristol youth charity group called Changing Your Mindset, promising to donate any remaining funds from the fundraiser. However, despite the GoFundMe page raising tens of thousands of dollars, the charity never received the money and eventually had to cease operations. As a result, the Avon and Somerset police launched an investigation into the fundraising page.
Saleem is the latest BLM activist to be accused of embezzling funds meant for the anti-racism movement. Last year, Monica Cannon-Grant, a leader of Black Lives Matter Boston, and her husband Clark Grant were indicted for defrauding donors and misappropriating over $1 million in grants and donations. In the same year, the leader of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF), Shalomyah Bowers, faced allegations of misappropriating over $10 million in donations for personal use.
In 2021, BLMGNF co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors faced controversy when it was revealed that she, along with two other BLM members, purchased a nearly $6 million mansion in a predominantly white neighborhood in southern California using donated funds.
These incidents have raised concerns about the misuse of funds within the BLM movement and have sparked public scrutiny of the financial practices of the organization’s leaders. As supporters of the movement express their disappointment and frustration, it is essential to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of donations and funds.
The case of Xahra Saleem highlights the importance of setting up proper mechanisms to prevent misappropriation and ensure that funds raised for a cause reach their intended purpose. It also serves as a reminder of the need for individuals and organizations to conduct due diligence before donating and to support reputable and transparent initiatives that align with their values. As the fight against racial injustice continues, it is crucial to maintain trust and integrity within social justice movements and hold accountable those who breach that trust.