A conservative-led group, the American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER), has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Fearless Fund, a venture capital fund that invests in women of color business owners.
The Atlanta-based VC fund was co-founded by “The Cosby Show” actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, corporate consultant Ayana Parsons, and entrepreneur Arian Simone. It awards $20,000 grants to small business owners looking to secure money to grow their ventures. “Our mission is to bridge the gap in venture capital funding for women of color founders building scalable, growth-aggressive companies. Fearless Fund is built by women of color for women of color,” reads the fund’s site.
Some of Fearless Fund’s major investors include Bank of America, General Mills, Mastercard, and PayPal. Last week, the organization announced 75 winners of its Women of Color Grant Program in partnership with the Tory Burch Foundation.
AAER’s founder, Edward Blum, is the activist who led the fight to upend affirmative action, a movement that gained support from the Supreme Court in June. His organization claims that the fund’s Strivers Grant Contest “has members who are being excluded from the program because they are the wrong race” (specifically white and Asian applicants) and violates Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which mandates private contracts be made available to all people regardless of race.
Fearless Fund and its founders have not released official public statements addressing the ongoing legal matter. However, the VC seemingly spoke directly to the claims in a Friday (Aug. 4) Instagram post. “We are fearless. We are Black women. We are descendants of slaves. We represent women of color. We are in a position to provide economic opportunity and freedom to women of color and will continue to do that work,” read the post with the hashtag “fearless freedom.”
Across social media, an outpouring of support for the fund can be seen, including from former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Reed, who served as the city’s 59th leader, wrote, “This attack on a leading Black women-led organization in the city of Atlanta must not be tolerated. This is our generation’s fight, and we must meet the moment.” To date, Fearless Fund has raised more than $25 million for over 40 companies, including Slutty Vegan.
Though a co-founder, Pulliam has not been working with the venture capital fund for some time.