Attorneys for a Black women-owned venture capitalist firm presented oral arguments in a federal appeals court in Miami Wednesday to challenge a temporary injunction that has prohibited the group from awarding grants exclusively to Black women entrepreneurs.
The hearing is the latest in an ongoing legal battle between the Fearless Fund and the American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER), a nonprofit headed by Edward Blum, the legal strategist behind the Supreme Court case that dismantled affirmative action in college admissions last June.
“If the Fearless Fund is not allowed to give grants to Black women consistent with their mission, it calls into the question every other charitable organization doing the same thing,” Alphonso David, an attorney representing the Fearless Fund, said at a press conference following the hearing. “That’s why this case is important to them and that’s why this case should be important to everyone else in this country.”
Arian Simone, co-founder and CEO of the Fearless Fund, said in a statement this week that her organization remains “undeterred by this relentless, concerted attempt to set economic equity back.”
“In fact, since our most recent court appearance, we’ve expanded our practice to be a one-stop-shop for women of color entrepreneurs who are seeking guidance and financing to help grow their businesses,” Simone said.
Last August, Blum filed a lawsuit on behalf of AAER against the Fearless Fund and its foundation over its Fearless Strivers Grant Contest program, which offers funding exclusively to Black women entrepreneurs.
AAER attorneys have argued that their members, who were unnamed in the lawsuit, were excluded from the firm’s program because they weren’t Black and that they faced “additional harm” from the illegal act of racial discrimination, CNN previously reported.
In September, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta granted the AAER’s motion for an injunction, which halted the program for the duration of the AAER’s lawsuit.
The legal battle comes amid a string of attacks against diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in corporate America, schools and higher education in recent months.
Black business leaders say they fear the efforts to dismantle DEI programs stand to undo decades of progress toward leveling the playing field for Black and brown people.
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