California Black Freedom Fund

Statement by Marc Philpart following the Fearless Fund ruling

Photo credit: Hamilton Families, courtesy of the San Francisco Foundation

This week, using a Reconstruction-era law originally intended to protect formerly enslaved people from economic exclusion, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled 2-1 against the Fearless Fund, a grant program intended to level the extremely uneven playing field for Black women entrepreneurs. Many of us in philanthropy and beyond have been anticipating this pretrial ruling on a procedural issue. While this decision is disappointing, for me, it is also galvanizing. 

In the wake of this challenge, and others such as against the city of Evanston, many organizations and leaders are left wondering what these attacks mean more broadly for racial equity and civil rights. In this crucial time in our nation’s history, it is essential for those of us in philanthropy to protect our partners and progress on racial justice. We are thankful to our funder and legal partners who have joined us to launch LEAD for Racial Justice. This initiative aims to provide racial justice organizations in California with accessible resources and hands-on support to fully understand the legal landscape and their ability to conduct and invest in vital racial justice work.

Racial justice efforts remain legal and necessary, even as opponents are sowing confusion and fear. We know more attacks are undoubtedly coming, and the Fearless Fund case itself will make its way through the courts to be decided on the merits. We are clear- eyed about the challenges, and remain undaunted.  Instead of pausing or retreating, we must do more now, while we can, as much as we can for as long as we can.

This moment calls for resilience, and continuing our proactive pursuit of racial equity and racial justice. I often think about those who came before us, on whose shoulders we now stand as we do the work of freedom. In their fight for basic dignity, justice, and rights, they overcame so many challenges and won tremendous victories in the face of enormous opposition – victories that are now under attack. They changed the course of history and redefined the story of this country. 

Today, the fight continues. We can’t back down. We must redouble our commitment and lead the way forward to ensure a California and a nation where everyone belongs and thrives.

– Marc Philpart, Executive Director, California Black Freedom Fund