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VC Firm Fearless Fund Barred From Providing Grants to Black Women Entrepreneurs 

Court of Appeals rules against Black women entrepreneurs’ grants from Black-owned VC firm Fearless Fund.

  • Johnson Opeisa
  • 5th June 2024

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has banned Atlanta-based venture capital firm Fireless Fund from continuing its initiative to issue grants exclusively to Black women entrepreneurs.


Fearless Fund, a black-owned firm founded by Arian Simone and Ayana Parsons in 2019, is the first VC fund by women of colour for women of colour and operates on a mission to provide capital, community, mentorship, and education to Black women entrepreneurs, who according to them are the unrecognised economic powerhouses of the world.


Origin of Fearless Fund’s Legal Battle


Launched in 2023, the Fearless Strivers Grant Contest was the firm’s flagship initiative to reach its mark. The contest awarded about $20,000 in small business grants to Black women last year, but it also met stiff opposition from a conservative non-profit organisation—American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER).


The AAER in August 2023 filed a lawsuit against Fearless, alleging that the Strivers Grant violates Section 1981 of the Reconstruction-era Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits discrimination based on race when making and enforcing contracts.


Our nation’s civil rights laws do not permit racial distinctions because some groups are overrepresented in various endeavours, while others are under-represented,” founder Edward Blum said.


The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta passed the AAER’s motion in September, whilst directing the fund program to be paused for the duration of the lawsuit. Fearless in their defence, challenged the injunction in the appeals court in January, as both parties’ legal battles ensued.


The latest ruling from the appeals court on Monday, June 3, however swings in the favour of AAER, as a three-judge panel proclaims that the Fearless Fund’s contest likely violates the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866.


America is supposed to be a nation where one has the freedom to achieve, the freedom to earn, and the freedom to prosper. Yet, when we have attempted to level the playing field for underrepresented groups, our freedoms were stifled,” Simone said in a statement to CNN after Monday’s verdict.


“As a Black woman who has had to fight tooth and nail for her success, my message is this: We CANNOT wait for some higher court or political body to grant us a path to economic freedom. If we must attain that ourselves with both hands tied behind our backs, then that is what we will do. Because when you’ve built a life that neither Ed Blum or his anti-DEI agenda can disrupt, that’s the real flex. That’s the American Dream,” co-founder Parsons also said in a statement via her website.


The venture capital firm is expected to weigh its next options and possibly go to trial

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