Leading the Charge in Response to the Latest Fearless Fund Decision

Tynesia Boyea
4 min readJun 21, 2024


When I heard the news that the 11th Circuit had ruled against the Fearless Fund, telling them to halt their funding to support Black female founders until the legal action against them is resolved, the Time cover of a Black mother holding her child came to mind. This cover came out in the weeks following George Floyd’s murder, which showed an image of a mother with a pained face, the colors vibrant, while she was clutching an outline of her child to her breast. And yet, we did not see her child. All we saw was white space, stark in contrast to the richness of her skin.

Her child was erased. It didn’t matter how tightly she held him. It didn’t matter how much she loved her. There was nothing that mother could do to protect them from the network of systems destined to strip her of her most prized possession.

When I think back to that time not too long ago when we were bombarded daily with the Black and brown bodies murdered at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve, I remember how grateful I was for that picture because it captured what I could not always put into words. It captured my FEAR.

The fear that is the undercurrent of so many families across the country. Fear of losing our lives. Fear of losing our rights. Fear of losing our opportunities.

Now we have one more fear to add to the list: Fear of being sued.

On the surface, the fear of being sued seems so small in light of the other fears that communities of color across this nation have had to swallow just to fight for their right to survive. And yet, the fear of being sued has proven in practice to tighten our lips and purse strings faster than you can say systemic racism.

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action, every day it seems like there’s a new lawsuit against a justice or sustainability initiative. In fact, there have been over 50 anti-DEI federal cases alone. If you manage and mitigate risk in your organization, you are not wrong to be afraid. Committing to justice and sustainability investments will put you in the crosshairs of the Edward Blums and Stephen Millers of the world.

During this time of uncertainty, I’m once again reminded of the Underground Railroad. The people who worked for the Underground Railroad had a passion for justice and drive to end the practice of slavery — a drive so strong that they risked their lives and jeopardized their own freedom to help enslaved people escape from bondage and keep them safe along the route.

The Underground Railroad was able to free so many people because its members remained committed to the long term fight. What started as supporting individual enslaved Americans, resulted in freeing ALL enslaved Americans. Which led to a fight for civil rights.

We are currently in the midst of the next phase of this fight for civil rights. Others would paint this as a fight between red and blue, right and left, but that is not what we are fighting for. We are fighting for our collective freedom. Philanthropies have continuously expressed their freedom of speech by investing in people and communities historically and currently marginalized. Now that fundamental freedom is under attack.

The good news is that the Fearless Fund decision is not the sole authority on our right to freedom of speech. Other cases have been brought in different jurisdictions, and the courts have dismissed the claims outright. For example, last month, Hello Alice, which helps small businesses grow, had a very similar case against them dismissed, which claimed their grant program supporting Black-owned businesses violated civil rights laws. If you look at the sum total of anti-DEI lawsuits, more are being dismissed than those that are allowed to proceed.

Which means that if we persist, we will win. But what that will require is bold action to lead the charge. If you need a master class in leading the charge, look no further than the Fearless Fund itself. The founders have been fighting in public for the rights of everyone in this room, and in their words, they have been FEARLESS.

Their attorney, Alphonso David, co-counsel to the Fearless Fund, announced that they are calling for the President to issue an Executive Order to protect “the right to fund marginalized groups”, and they are also urging Congress to pass a law backing up the proposed order. They’re urging everyone to contact their representatives and make this an opportunity to demonstrate the strength and breadth of our community.

We owe these brave women and their team our gratitude for being fearless. In our current context, being fearless is not the absence of fear. It is the presence of bold action in spite of fear.

No matter where you sit, what’s most important is that you continue to fight knowing that there is a community of people like you doing the same. People say that there is an anti-DEI backlash. However, the real backlash is against centuries of racism that have perpetuated the inequities we experience today. The real grassroots movement understands that these inequities must be solved. If we don’t back down and don’t allow ourselves to be afraid of a few well-funded actors, together we can be fearless, and we can finally be free.

This piece was edited from a keynote address at this year’s Confluence Philanthropy Advisors Forum.



Tynesia Boyea

People grower, resource magnet, and translator committed to values-driven entrepreneurship. Read more at www.tyboyea.com.