Our History

The success of MBELDEF can be largely attributed to the efforts of two extraordinary men who were instrumental in its development and expansion: Parren J. Mitchell and Anthony W. Robinson. Both men were graduates of Morgan State University in Baltimore, a leading HBCU with its own rich heritage in civil rights activism. Both men have dedicated their lives to fighting racial discrimination.

From the very beginning of the drive to end race discrimination in business, programs intended to assist minority-owned businesses came under relentless legal attack.

In 1980, in response to the Fulliove v. Klutznick lawsuit and President Ronald Reagan’s plans to dilute the 8(a) program, Mr. Mitchell launched the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (MBELDEF).

He went on to chair the organization during its formative years. Since its founding, MBELDEF has set the highest standards for legal advocacy on behalf of minority business owners and entrepreneurs. It was initially ably led by Rotan Lee, who filed MBELDEF’s first lawsuit.

In 1983, Mr. Mitchell sought out Anthony W. Robinson, to be MBELDEF’s first full-time president. Mr. Robinson, also a graduate of Morgan State University, was a civil rights lawyer practicing in Baltimore and a protégé and supporter of Mr. Mitchell. He shared the Congressman’s vision of improving our nation for all people through the pursuit of minority business development and racial economic justice.

Mr. Robinson led MBELDEF through the tumultuous years after the Supreme Court’s cases in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. and Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, when minority business programs were under attack across the nation. Mr. Robinson’s leadership of MBELDEF’s excellent legal and policy staff during that “Mend It Don’t End It” period was pivotal in sustaining MBE programs at the federal, state and local level. Mr. Robinson remained MBELDEF’s President and leader for four decades and continues to serve as a member of MBELDEF’s Board of Directors.

Our founder, Mr. Mitchell, also known as “the Godfather of Minority Enterprise,” learned from his experiences that diverse business owners needed their own legal advocate uniquely attuned to their needs. Ending racial economic discrimination and eliminating the racial wealth gap will require expert and sustained legal advocacy. MBELDEF was intended to be a Department of Justice just for MBEs, erected to ensure fairness, access to resources and opportunity for all business owners to truly have a free marketplace.

In March of 2024, Don Roberts, CEO of Caracal Products and Services, became the most recent Chairman of MBELDEF’s Board of Directors. Mr. Roberts, following in the footsteps of the visionary leaders before him, has stepped up to lead MBELDEF at a moment when extremist legal organizations across the nation are seeking to undo all the progress the nation has made toward diversity and economic opportunity.

Undaunted, Mr. Roberts is leading MBELDEF in its most ambitious capital campaign ever and in so doing has launched the next phase of MBELDEF’s efforts to help minority-owned businesses thrive and thus close the racial wealth gap and strengthen our democracy. Today, MBELDEF continues on the path Mr. Mitchell blazed, providing advocacy, education, and standing as a guardian for all diverse enterprises.

Our Founder

Parren J. Mitchell - Founder - Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund - MBELDEF

Parren J. Mitchell


Parren J. Mitchell was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 29, 1922, to a family deeply engaged in activism within the city. He joined the United States Army’s 92nd Infantry Division and received the Purple Heart while serving as a commissioned officer during World War II.

After the war, Mr. Mitchell attended Morgan State University graduating with honors in 1950. Upon graduation, he was active in the fight for civil rights and desegregation in Baltimore. Nevertheless, segregation nearly ended Mr. Mitchell’s dream of attending the University of Maryland Graduate School.

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However, with the support of the Maryland NAACP and counsel from Thurgood Marshall, Mr. Mitchell successfully challenged the racially discriminatory admissions policies of the University of Maryland and earned his master’s degree in sociology. Upon graduation, he returned to teach at his alma mater, Morgan State.

As Mr. Mitchell’s career progressed, he selected work that allowed him to have the greatest impact in his Baltimore community and led several important civil rights and social justice organizations. He became more widely-known within Baltimore after helping to mediate the uprisings that took place after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther, King Jr.

In 1970, Mr. Mitchell became the first African American elected to Congress from Maryland, serving from 1971 – 1987. Because he believed that ending racial economic discrimination was the next phase of the civil rights movement, Mr. Mitchell chose to serve on committees that most impacted the economy and the small business community. In 1977, he authored an amendment to the $4 billion Public Works Bill that became the first federal MBE program.

Mr. Mitchell was effective precisely because he never stopped fighting racism and injustice. He once said: “If you believe in fighting racism, you make a commitment for the rest of your life. There’s no getting off that train. You can’t say I’ve put five years in fighting racism and now I’m finished. No, you are not finished. Our job is to fight it every day, to continue to shove it down and when it rises up to shove it down even harder.”

Mr. Mitchell passed away on May 28, 2007, but his tireless commitment to the victims of racial discrimination animates MBELDEF to this day.

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By supporting MBELDEF, you directly contribute to creating a more inclusive business environment and driving positive change for underrepresented communities.

Steven Sims, a current Board Member, received both his BA and MS from Columbia University. He is a nationally recognized advocate for minority businesses and, among other roles, served as Vice President for Programs, Field Operations, and Government Relations for the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) where his responsibilities included the development, coordination, and implementation of programs and projects, and, where necessary, he provided technical assistance/training to the National Office as well as its Regional Councils.

He also created and led the NMSDC Government Relations Office in Washington DC. Over many years working with MBELDEF, he and Tony Robinson, were able to create synergy between the two organizations which resulted in the protection and support for minority business development around the country. Mr. Sims also has a wealth of experience stemming from important positions in several public, private, and nonprofit entities and institutions.

Nicholas Perkins, past Chairman of the Board and current Board Member, holds an undergraduate degree from Fayetteville State University and an MBA from Howard University. He is nationally recognized for his dynamic and visionary entrepreneurial leadership and has received many awards and accolades.

The son of a single mother, Perkins was only 24 years old when he founded Perkins Management Services which specializes in providing contract food service management to colleges, universities, hospitals, and the Department of Defense. At 40, Perkin’s acquired Fuddrucker’s restaurant chain, becoming the first African American to own a nationwide burger franchise.

Perkins is passionate about civil rights and is a Trustee of the National Urban League and a proud member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

Sarah von der Lippe, the pro-bono Chief Legal Counsel, holds an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and a law degree from Harvard University. Ms. von der Lippe is herself a small business owner, having founded a solo civil rights legal practice devoted to defending and promoting the success of minority businesses across the nation. She is widely recognized as one of the foremost experts on the law and policy related to MBEs.

For most of the past two decades, Ms. von der Lippe has acted as the Chief Legal Counsel to MBELDEF on a completely pro-bono basis and has assisted Mr. Robinson in every aspect of operating MBELDEF as an unfunded but agile and effective legal watchdog organization.

Monique Young, who currently acts as MBELDEF’s Chief Accounting Officer and Development Strategist has a BS in Accounting from Shaw University, MBA from Strayer University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Walden University. She enjoys working with numbers, administration, and strategy.

In addition, she is a minority business owner as co-owner of One Accord Services a licensed General Contractor, and a Drywall and Metal Framing Subcontractor based in Raleigh North Carolina. Ms. Young is currently preparing to apply to law school in her (nonexistent) free time so that she can be the vanguard of the next generation of MBELDEF legal watchdogs.

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If you're interested in donating and would like to send a check,

Send your check to:
Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund (MBELDEF)
P.O. Box 15323
Washington, D.C. 20003