Ayana K. Parsons, The Reverend Al Sharpton, and Sean "Diddy" Combs pose for photos during a town hall at the Congressional Black Caucus's 52nd Annual Legislative Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Thursday, September 21, 2023 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice

On September 30, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a 2-1 vote agreed with a request to temporarily block the Fearless Fund from considering applications for grants only from Black women-owned businesses. This was a victory for Edward Blum’s organization, the American Alliance for Equal Rights, in the effort to strike down all diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

In response, legal counsel for the Fearless Fund made clear they will seek “further appellate review,” which could mean the case could go all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

In a more succinct statement, Fearless Fund co-founder Arian Simone wrote on Instagram, ‘The journey continues.’

The ruling halts the grant process. After that, a separate panel of judges will decide whether the Strivers Grant can be deployed while the suit is played out in district courts. There is no date on when that panel of judges will convene.

The American Alliance for Equal Rights filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the program in August, claiming it violates the Reconstruction-era Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits racial discrimination in contracts. Blum’s lawsuit focuses on Fearless Fund’s Fearless Strivers Grant Contest. It’s a competition that awards Black women who own small businesses $20,000 in grants and digital tools to help them grow their businesses and mentorship opportunities.

The Fearless Fund argues that the grants are awards and not contracts and are protected by the First Amendment.

“This isn’t about money,” explained Fearless Fund co-founder Ayana K. Parsons during a panel discussion at the 52nd Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. “This is about wealth creation. This is about the American dream, and quite frankly, Edward Blum, who has sued the Fearless Fund, is trying to dismantle our economic freedom and our ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and experience that which is the American dream. So this is so much bigger than us.”

On September 26th, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash’s decision greenlit the Fearless Fund’s Strivers Grant application process. 

Seven of the twelve judges currently serving on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are Republicans. Six of the seven were named by former President Donald J. Trump. 

The Fearless Fund is a venture capital firm that invests in women of color-led businesses seeking pre-seed, seed level or series A financing. Their mission is to bridge the gap in venture capital funding for women of color founders building scalable, growth aggressive companies. 

According to a 2021 report by Goldman Sachs, single Black women are 24 times less likely to be business owners than white men. Additionally, the dollar amount of funding to Black founders is up, but still represents just 1.2 percent of the record $147 billion in venture capital invested in U.S. startups in 2021. 

In a statement to the Associated Press, the Fearless Fund disagreed with the ruling.

“We strongly disagree with the decision and remain resolute in our mission and commitment to address the unacceptable disparities that exist for Black women and other women of color in the venture capital space,” the Fearless Fund said in a statement. 

The bottom line is Edward Blum and others on the far-right are determined to tear down any edict, initiative, law, or program designed to help minorities while instilling fear in the process. Why? These programs are antithetical to their beliefs, which are fundamentally racist.

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...