One of the co-founders of Atlanta-based venture capital firm Fearless Fund, Ayana Parsons, has stepped down as chief operating officer. This news comes as the company is battling a lawsuit and dealing with general backlash from many more conservatively minded entities that take umbrage with the company’s corporate diversity programs.

Parsons confirmed in a statement that she has stepped down and will be stepping away entirely from the Fearless Fund, which she herself co-founded in 2019. Alongside other co-founder Arian Simone, Parsons sought to found the Fearless Fund in an effort to combat the wide racial disparity when it came to acquiring funding for businesses owned by women of color in the Atlanta area. Now, it would seem, in a truly tragic turn of events, that those very efforts have earned her ire from some locals and resulted in her having to step away amidst controversy. 

For her part, Parsons said her decision was unrelated to the lawsuit Fearless Fund is currently fighting in court, which was brought on by a conservative group targeting a grant program for Black women entrepreneurs run by the company. 

Parsons said in a post on her LinkedIn page, “I remain steadfast in my support of the Fearless Fund and committed to the advancement of women and people of color. The best way I can do that is to boldly focus on new strategies and tactics. Because if the courts are going to sideline our best practices, we need to design and implement alternatives. We must innovate.”

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Despite Parsons’ own claims to the contrary, the timing of the announcement, coming just three weeks after a federal appeals court panel ordered the suspension of the grant program for the duration of the lawsuit, is hard to ignore. The lawsuit itself was filed last year by the American Alliance for Equal Rights, a group led by Edward Blum. This activist group is unabashedly conservative in its political leanings and stakes and is also responsible for the Supreme Court case that ended affirmative action in college admissions. 

Since its inception in 2019, the Fearless Fund has invested nearly $27 million in over forty different businesses, all of which are led by women of color. This was done in conjunction with backing from high-profile companies like J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, and Mastercard, all in an effort to make up for the disparity that Parsons and her co-founder witnessed first-hand. Prominent companies that the Fearless Fund has played a role in assisting are the restaurant chain Slutty Vegan and Thirteen Lune, a specifically tailored e-commerce platform that promotes beauty brands created by people of color, both of which have been extremely successful. 

Simone, the current Fearless Fund CEO, has said that the lawsuit and negative press coverage from certain news channels have made it incredibly difficult to raise proper funding for any projects in the interim.

Blum and his company have actively hindered many of the Fearless Foundation’s biggest projects by specifically targeting the Strivers Grant Contest, which awards $20,000 to businesses run by Black women. In Monday’s statement, Simone said Parsons had “poured tireless hours into advising many of our portfolio companies. We are sad to see her go and wish her only the best in her new endeavors.”