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NBAF stands with the Fearless Fund and continues our commitment to support Black artists

April 18, 2023 at 12:39 pm EDT

By Stephanie Owens - NBAF Executive Director

June 28, 2024

As the Executive Director of the National Black Arts Festival (NBAF) and on behalf of our entire team, I write to you today with a heavy heart and a profound sense of disappointment. The recent decision by a Federal Appeals court to suspend a grant program for Black women business owners spearheaded by the Fearless Fund venture capital firm hits very close to home.

This decision, along with recent nationwide movements to overhaul the long-fought-for DEI initiatives, strikes at the very core of NBAF’s mission.  Recognized as the oldest multi-disciplinary arts non-profit in the nation dedicated to promoting equity and access for Black artists, we utilize our own grant making programs to empower artists of African descent that have been historically underfunded and under-resourced.

Over NBAF’s 36 years of providing arts programming, we have witnessed first-hand the resilience and determination required for Black artists to navigate the evolving arts funding landscape. Lack of equitable access to resources and opportunities undergird practices of exclusion that negatively affect Black artists and arts organizations.

It was only four years ago that Atlanta activist and non-profit Executive, Heather Infantry, discovered that a local community foundation gave exactly $0 out of $580,000 to Black arts nonprofits, and had a well-documented 27-year history of primarily making grants to only white-led organizations. While mainstream grant-making organizations may not have called out their funding priorities explicitly, they have been pointedly exclusive in their funding for years.

“The Fearless Fund’s grant-making program is a vital initiative designed to address the systemic barriers that Black women entrepreneurs have historically encountered,” says Christopher Bruce, Esq., Senior Advisor of Strategic Partnerships for Southern Collective, and Policy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “These barriers include limited access to capital, resources, and networks that are essential for business success. By specifically targeting Black woman-owned businesses, Fearless Fund is not only fostering diversity but also driving meaningful economic progress.”

“The court ruling,” Bruce continues, “while a setback, does not diminish the legitimacy or necessity of Fearless Fund’s efforts. It is imperative to remember that our legal system is an evolving entity, and such decisions are part of a larger dialogue about equity and justice. Fearless Fund’s commitment to supporting Black women entrepreneurs is more important now than ever before.”

While we had hoped for a different outcome, we are steadfast in our commitment to not let this political regression deter us from fighting for equity. We refuse to be sidelined in the pursuit of our mission and will continue to advocate tirelessly for the financial support that our community deserves as we continue our work to uplift and amplify Black culture. Despite these recent setbacks, NBAF and others in the arts and grant-making community remain unshaken in our resolve to continue to support Black artists with much-needed resources. Our organization will redouble its efforts to create opportunities, foster collaboration, and dismantle barriers that hinder the advancement of Black artists.

NBAF as an organization highlights Black art and artists but also builds the necessary community of support to help Black artists and arts organizations thrive into the future. Particularly, we work to address Georgia's last-place ranking in national arts funding which disproportionately affects Black artists. NBAF invests over $600,000 annually in the Black arts community via public art programs, in-school youth arts education, artistic grants, and professional development training.

We call upon our allies and supporters to join us in this crucial endeavor, as we work together to build a future where equity and inclusion are not just ideals, but lived realities for all that do not ebb and flow based on ever-changing political whims.

Now is the time to make your voice heard.  Donate to your local African American grant-making organizations and nonprofits so that they may continue their work. Reach out to your local legislators and let them know how you feel on these issues.

Do not be silent as a small cadre of voices steal the access and opportunities from future generations of Black students, artists, homeowners, entrepreneurs, etc., that our community has fought so long and hard to secure.

Stand up and make your voices heard and join us in this vital mission to make a lasting positive impact on the civic and cultural fabric of tomorrow.

Stephanie Owens
Executive Director

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