Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once stated, “A second evil which plagues the modern world is that of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, it projects its nagging, prehensile tentacles in lands and villages all over the world.”
It was a realization spawned by a conversation with the first African-born Ghanaian Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, one that helped Dr. King determine that a global vision would be central to the civil rights work he was leading in the United States. His vision was prescient.
For far too long, Black communities have been hit the hardest globally by any economic downturn — and moving forward will require a fundamental transformation in how we think about economic justice. In 2023, the Global Black Economic Forum will continue to advance this discussion, interrogating the importance of economic justice across the diaspora and convening leaders for discussions around the impact of climate change, food insecurity, and the present-day effects of colonization.
Economic justice means creating an opportunity economy where everyone has a fair shot at competing. It means treating Black workers with the dignity we deserve because there is no economy without us and our contributions. And in 2023, I’m confident that we can make substantive progress toward economic justice around the world.
While there are many priorities for the year (and years) ahead, let me highlight three that are top of mind as we start the New Year.
First, we must double down on infrastructure development. Infrastructure development is critical for building an opportunity foundation that can support economic success globally. As the world grows more digitally connected, this must include investing in universal digital access.
To ensure these investments are inclusive, physical infrastructure advancements must be coupled with investments that spur digital skill-building and adoption in Black communities. Adapting to climate change should be another priority. Stronger storms and more extreme temperatures are already devastating developing economies–shouldering them with a disproportionate burden relative to their contributions to the climate crisis. To build an equitable foundation for the future, we must invest in the long-term climate resilience of these communities.
Second, we must pursue a global commitment for consistent and increased funding for families. This will require an investment in the institutions that most impact families — from support for quality education and childcare to affordable housing providing everyone with a safe and stable place to sleep each night. Funding for families should also include access to affordable healthcare. A global commitment to equity in Black health can become a global commitment to equity for Black wealth.
Third, we must continue the support of direct and unrestricted investment in community organizations focused on the Black community. The fight for equity and equal treatment will always take place on the community level—and there is inadequate funding for organizations that work directly with Black communities. We need sustained philanthropic efforts that support Black-led initiatives in Black communities worldwide.
Centuries of colonization and systemic inequality have impeded our communities from living with the financial freedom and dignity we deserve. The Global Black Economic Forum is following the vision of MLK and prioritizing the fight for economic justice. Together, we can coalesce around a movement for economic justice—a movement dedicated to building power and equity by acquiring the resources our communities deserve.
Alphonso David is President & CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum. He previously served as chief counsel to the Governor of New York and has served as an adjunct professor of law at Fordham University Law School and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.