Interview with Sabrina Wu and Yichen Feng, Co-Directors and Co-Founders of LUNAR Fund

Jen: How was the Lunar Fund created?

Yichen and Sabrina: We created LUNAR as a community building and investment vehicle for Asian American solidarity and participation in the movement for Black and Indigenous-led liberation. During these times of escalated violence against both Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Black communities, LUNAR is organizing Asian Americans with wealth to demonstrate solidarity–through moving capital–with Black and Indigenous communities that have been most impacted by white supremacy in the US.

We founded LUNAR in response to 3 calls we heard from Asian American and other BIPOC leaders around what’s needed to sustain the racial justice movement-building we saw in 2020:

1) A call for Asian American community. As the uprisings for racial justice kicked off across the country in response to police violence against Black folks, many of our own Asian American friends and family reached out to talk about how to get involved and activated. 

2) A call for solidarity. Racial justice movements have been calling on white folks and non-Black POC to take a stronger stand in solidarity with the movement for Black lives, to reflect on the ways we have been complicit in anti-Black racism, and to use our power and privilege in service of Black liberation. Movement leaders lifted up a specific need to organize and grow the political and resource base of progressive Asian Americans – especially a younger generation with wealth. 

3) A call for resources. Black and Indigenous movement leaders have clearly articulated demands to mobilize greater resources towards racial justice and liberation, especially long term movement infrastructure and greater community ownership of land and other assets.  

As two Asian American capital managers working in sectors that rarely collaborate (private equity and philanthropy), we came together to unlock largely untapped capital and resources in service of racial justice movements.

Jen: How do you describe the kind of non-financial returns the fund offers?

Yichen and Sabrina: LUNAR Fund’s investment thesis draws from the applied practice of solidarity through our giving circles and centers authenticity and alignment between financial and non-financial resources in achieving a just future. 

Our Thesis:

Organizing + Political Education + Collective Action through Capital Deployment = 

New Collective Consciousness, Cross-Cultural Power-Building, & Reimagined Social Relations

The non-financial returns of our process include movement building through multiple levers: 1) narrative change between Asian and Black and Indigenous communities driven by community, not mainstream media; 2) political education through grassroots organizing in giving circles and community conversations; 3) Socializing a future where BIPOC communities work together to dismantle white supremacy 

Jen: How do you address racial justice, income inequality, and/or gender justice through your products and services?

Yichen and Sabrina: LUNAR’s mission is to build cross-racial solidarity between Asian American and Black and Indigenous communities, in support of a larger vision of racial justice. We do this through organizing Asian Americans around racial justice, moving resources from Asian American communities towards Black and Indigenous communities, and shifting power dynamics present in typical fund structures. As the Fund Founders and Directors, we cede decision-making power over investments and funding decisions to the community. In the giving circle, we curate and facilitate a 6-month journey where our members collectively decide how to move their pooled funds at the end of the program. The larger $20M integrated capital fund will be governed by an advisory group of Black and Indigenous movement leaders who come from and represent the communities to whom we move resources.

Sogorea Te’ Land Trust Founders Corrina Gould and Johnella LaRose at the blessing of the first land returned. Photo Credit: Holly Sheehan

Jen: Can you share with us an example of an investment?  

Yichen and Sabrina: In our first circle, we moved $50,000 to the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust and $50,000 to the Black Cultural Zone (“BCZ”) in Oakland, CA as grants. We had invited BCZ’s CEO Carolyn “CJ” Johnson and Tommy Wong of Good Good Eatz to come speak to our circle about their collaborations around their experiences as two movement leaders from both the Black and Asian communities on how they have worked individually and together to build unity across cultures in many forms. Through that panel, our circle was able to hear about both of their backgrounds and partnership over the last 20+ years, uplifting cultural unity in Oakland starting from the East Side Arts Alliance in the early 2000s. It was incredible to see the deep history and commitment to place both leaders exhibited and what ultimately evolved into their current work on the BCZ today. The circle members were so inspired they ultimately moved half of the pooled funds to this project at the end of the program. After we moved the initial grant, Sabrina and I have been in close dialogue with both groups to see how other forms of capital could accelerate or grow various projects BCZ is holding, for example the Akoma Market. This is in preparation for the larger LUNAR fund to resource and explore various times of loan guarantees, low interest loans, and other forms of capital that can meet our community’s needs. Often the amount of funding required is smaller than a typical institution would underwrite and we see LUNAR fitting a catalytic need for community led projects.

Jen: How are your investment funds catalytic in a way that is different from other funds?

Yichen and Sabrina: As mentioned above, a large goal of LUNAR is to shift traditional power dynamics such that that Black and Indigenous leaders have decision-making power over investments that flow to their communities. This means that LUNAR will likely invest in entities that may be deemed “risky” by mainstream markets or even by philanthropy. We take a trust-based, relational approach to funding, leaning on authentic relationship to guide how capital flows. We are committed to providing capital in the forms and on the terms that work best for community and our racial justice goals, not what works best for investors. So far, LUNAR has made 4 investments, in the form of grants, to Black and Indigenous community-based organizations that are building alternative economies and community-owned land assets. These organizations are transformational in the ways they are creating new models of economic development and land ownership and sovereignty. We anticipate that future investments will go towards a diverse range of entities (for profit and non-profit) who are similarly creating a new just economy based on cooperation, community ownership, and radical reparations. We also provide co-investment opportunities and bring in impact curious investors to build the ecosystem.

Jen: How do you define success for your fund? 

Yichen and Sabrina: We measure success by the breadth and depth of our ever-growing LUNAR community of Asian American donors, investors, and community members, and Black and Indigenous movement leaders. We measure success by the trust that is built, the on-going financial and non-financial commitments our members and constituents continue to make in service of cross-racial solidarity, our ability to meet our fund development targets for our LUNAR giving circles and the $20M integrated capital fund, and the deployment of capital in ways that build authentic relationships, develop community capacity and infrastructure, and imagine creative “deal structures” that center the needs of Black and Indigenous communities.

Investment Thesis/What is your rationale for your approach to investing? We are a Solidarity Fund and believe the practice of solidarity between Asian American and Black and Indigenous communities will be the mechanism by which we achieve collective liberation towards a just society.

Geography: United States

Year Founded: LUNAR started in 2021 with a grassroots giving circle which is phase 1 of the LUNAR Fund, to be founded in 2022!

# of Investments: 4

# of Investors: 60+ (donors, funders, supporters, investors)

Funds Raised: $500,000 since inception


What’s on Yichen and Sabrina’s Minds?

Book: Yell-Oh Girls! By Vickie Nam

Song: Etta James and Sugar Pie DeSanto: In the Basement