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Cullors’ departure follows a massive surge in support and political influence in the U.S. and around the world for the BLM movement, which was established nearly eight years ago in response to injustice against Black Americans. The resignation also comes on the heels of controversy over the foundation’s finances and over Cullors’ personal wealth.

The 37-year-old activist said her resignation has been in the works for more than a year and has nothing to do with the personal attacks she has faced from far-right groups or any dissension within the movement.

“Those were right-wing attacks that tried to discredit my character, and I don’t operate off of what the right thinks about me,” Cullors said.

As she departs, the foundation is bringing aboard two new interim senior executives to help steer it in the immediate future: Monifa Bandele, a longtime BLM organizer and founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in New York City, and Makani Themba, an early backer of the BLM movement and chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies in Jackson, Mississippi.

“I think both of them come with not only a wealth of movement experience, but also a wealth of executive experience,” Cullors said.

The BLM foundation revealed to the AP in February that it took in just over $90 million last year, following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, a Black man whose last breaths under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer inspired protests globally. The foundation said it ended 2020 with a balance of more than $60 million, after spending nearly a quarter of its assets on operating expenses, grants to Black-led organizations and other charitable giving.

Critics of the foundation contend more of that money should have gone to the families of Black victims of police brutality who have been unable to access the resources needed to deal with their trauma and loss.

“That is the most tragic aspect,” said the Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, president of an Oklahoma City BLM chapter and a representative of the #BLM10, a national group of organizers that has publicly criticized the foundation over funding and transparency.

“I know some of (the families) are feeling exploited, their pain exploited, and that’s not something that I ever want to be affiliated with,” Dickerson said.

Cullors and the foundation have said they do support families without making public announcements or disclosing dollar amounts.

In 2020, the BLM foundation spun off its network of chapters as a sister collective called BLM Grassroots, so that it could build out its capacity as a philanthropic organization. Although many groups use “Black Lives Matter” or “BLM” in their names, less than a dozen are considered affiliates of the chapter network.

Last month, Cullors was targeted by several conservative-leaning publications that falsely alleged she took a large annual salary from the foundation, affording her recent purchase of a southern California home.

In April, the foundation stated Cullors was a volunteer executive director who, prior to 2019, had “received a total of $120,000 since the organization’s inception in 2013, for duties such as serving as spokesperson and engaging in political education work.”

“As a registered 501c3 non-profit organization, (the foundation) cannot and did not commit any organizational resources toward the purchase of personal property by any employee or volunteer,” the foundation said in a statement. “Any insinuation or assertion to the contrary is categorically false.”

In 2018, Cullors released, “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir,” which became a New York Times bestseller. She has also consulted on a number of racial justice projects outside of BLM, taking compensation for that work in her personal capacity.

She and the BLM movement have come a long way since its inception as a social media hashtag, following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Cullors, along with BLM co-founders Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, pledged then to build a decentralized movement governed by consensus of a members’ collective. In 2015, a network of chapters was formed, while donations and support poured in. Garza and Tometi soon stepped away from day-to-day involvement in the network to focus on their own projects.

Cullors, who has arguably been the most publicly visible of the co-founders, became the foundation’s full-time executive director last year purely out of necessity, she said.

“We needed her,” said Melina Abdullah, who leads BLM Grassroots and co-founded, with Cullors, BLM’s first-ever official chapter in Los Angeles.

“George Floyd was killed and the whole world rose up,” Abdullah told the AP. “I would like her to be there forever, but I also know that that’s not feasible. The real test of any organization is can it survive the departure of its founders. And I have no question that Black Lives Matter will survive and grow and evolve, even with the departure of our final co-founder in a formal role.”

On Oct. 5, St. Martin’s Press will release Cullors’ latest book, titled “An Abolitionists Handbook,” which she says is her guide for activists on how to care for each other and resolve internal conflict while fighting to end systemic racism. Cullors is also developing and producing original cable and streaming TV content that centers on Black stories, under a multi-year deal with Warner Bros.

The first of her TV projects will debut in July, she said.

“I think I will probably be less visible, because I won’t be at the helm of one of the largest, most controversial organizations right now in the history of our movement,” Cullors said.

“I’m aware that I’m a leader, and I don’t shy away from that. But no movement is one leader.”

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Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

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“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

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Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

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Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

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“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

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