In the wake of this generation’s most sophisticated attack on civil rights, Council to fight for economic opportunity, civil and human rights
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sixty years following Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, leaders from 13 of the nation’s preeminent civil and human rights organizations announce the formation of the Council for Economic Opportunity & Social Justice. The number 13 symbolizes the 13th amendment passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, abolishing slavery in the United States, and reinforces the magnitude of the work ahead. Slavery has been abolished but the vestiges remain.
When Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech the wage gap between Black and White people in the United States was 8 to 1. Today it is 12 to 1. The fundamental right to vote is being diluted and remains under constant threat. The rights of women and LGBTQ people are under attack with a disproportionate impact on people of color. The efforts to level the playing field for racial minorities in business and investments are being threatened in legislative houses and courts across the country.
Convened by the Global Black Economic Forum, the Council for Economic Opportunity and Social Justice brings together several organizations and leaders in the economic and social justice arena in a concentrated effort to collaborate, advocate and advance economic opportunity and social justice for all members of the Black Diaspora. The participants of the council are:
The Council will focus on three main areas: economic opportunity, civic engagement, and civil rights and human rights. The Council plans to engage on and respond to the coordinated attacks on economic opportunity and freedom for Black communities, bolster public awareness regarding the attacks on our rights through education campaigns, and develop guidance for organizational responses to the attacks on our collective rights. Black communities across the globe are in a state of emergency and this moment requires courageous leadership.
“Heading into the 2024 campaign, we are facing the most coordinated and sophisticated attack on our rights that we’ve faced in our lifetimes,” said Alphonso David, President and CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum. “From a far-right Supreme Court to an ‘anti-woke’ movement across the states. In the past, the progressive movement has achieved meaningful and groundbreaking successes, but in many cases taking a ‘go it alone’ approach. Given the severity of attacks, we cannot ‘go it alone.’ To combat these threats, we are joining forces to create a coalition for coordinated efforts that is focused on economic opportunity.”
“At a moment in history when extremist groups feel emboldened to undo the progress we've made in civil rights and justice, we need a well-organized and prepared frontline defense dedicated to championing our hard-fought progress,” said Reverend Al Sharpton, Founder and President of the National Action Network. “This is a state of emergency. From classrooms to boardrooms to courtrooms and beyond, decades of advancement are being threatened and erased before our very eyes. Last month on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, hundreds of leaders across racial, cultural and generational lines joined us not to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, but to recommit to continuing Dr. King's dream. This moment calls for us to fight like it is 1963, and that's what the Council for Economic Opportunity and Social Justice is built to do."
"As the nation faces a fierce backlash against racial justice and inclusion, it's more important than ever that we mobilize to defend civil and human rights against the rising tide of extremism and authoritarianism," said National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial. “The leaders and organizations involved in this historic collaboration represent the experience, the expertise, the passion, and the determination to overcome this moment of crisis and lead the nation forward as an egalitarian, multicultural democracy. I'm proud to be a part of it.”
“The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) is proud to partner with the Global Economic Forum to advance the economic development of Black women and their families. The expanding wealth gap between Black women and their counterparts makes this a continuous civil rights issue. Historically and systematically, due to racism, Black women, and Black people overall, have been denied access to loans and the power structure that fosters wealth. Collectively, NCNW and Global Black Economic Forum are committed to ensuring that the financial literacy of our people continues in the work we will do over the course of the year,” said NCNW President/CEO Shavon Arline-Bradley.
"For over 47 years, the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation has been building and strengthening Black civic engagement and voter empowerment to ensure our communities have a voice and a seat at the table in our democracy,"said Melanie L. Campbell, President & CEO of the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation. "Today, the very fabric of our democracy is at risk. Specifically, attacks against the economic rights of Black and other diverse communities are escalating at an alarming rate in too many states across the nation. We join the Council for Economic Opportunity & Social Justice with fierce determination, ready to boldly stand together and fight back against the attacks on racial justice and economic equality in this time of grave risk."
“When it comes to fighting for Black people's economic opportunity and social justice, our work must be intersectional,” said Monica Simpson, Executive Director of Sister Song. “As a Reproductive Justice organization we fight for the human right to bodily autonomy, to have or not have children, and to parent our children in safe and sustainable communities. This work demands that we build our collective power to create a world where Black people can thrive. We’re honored to be a part of this council and are ready to get to work alongside our partners to fight for liberation and justice for our communities.”
“The U.S. Black Chamber, Inc. (USBC) is proud to join with critical stakeholders in the Council for Economic Opportunity and Social Justice as we collectively work to advance economic prosperity and social justice for our diasporic community,” said the USBC’s President & CEO Ron Busby, Sr. “We stand at an inflection point in our history where we are fighting to protect progress made in civil rights and economic growth afforded by decades of just legal precedent and political mobilization. No more is this fight more pronounced than the contemporary legal battles aiming to dismantle and undermine the African diasporic achievement in business and commerce, including critical federal programs like the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development program. In our quest to safeguard the rights of global Black citizens and uplift our most vulnerable, we stand ready, willing, and able to work with the Council for Economic Opportunity and Social Justice in advocating for and championing issues and opportunities that will collectively move us forward and not backward.”
“The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is deeply committed to protecting the civil rights of Black communities and ensuring that their voices, votes, and power are fully felt,” said Damon T. Hewitt, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Through our stewardship of the national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition, we collaborate year-round with over 300 local, state, and national partners to foster broader civic engagement and protect the sacred right to vote. And through our other litigation, policy, and advocacy efforts, we work to ensure that civil and human rights are defended in every sphere of life—from schools and homes to workplaces and the internet. We are proud to be a founding member of the Council for Economic Opportunity & Social Justice. This critical moment calls for courageous leadership, and the Lawyers’ Committee looks forward to working with our allies as we fight side by side for the future we deserve.”
“The time is now for us to deeply align ourselves across issues and movements and implement proactive strategies and solutions that center Black people,” said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of The National LGBTQ Task Force. “It has been proven that when we focus on those with the greatest barriers to economic security, health and wellness and participation in civic life, we create solutions that benefit us all. The Task Force is excited and honored to be a part of this effort at this critical time.”
“The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s leading Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, is proud to join the Global Black Economic Forum Council to advance economic opportunity and social justice for all Black people, especially those of us living at the intersection of racial and sexual minority stigma, bias, and discrimination. The harsh reality is that workplace, employment, and social discrimination have especially grisly consequences in the Black LGBTQ+/SGL community, and coalitions such as this need to prioritize leveraging the contributions of and responding to the often overlooked needs of Black LGBTQ+ and same-gender loving people,” said Dr. David J. Johns, Ph.D., Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition.
“Our communities have been under economic attack, voting rights attacks and attacks on our human rights,” said Andrea Hailey, Chief Executive Officer of Vote.org. “I'm grateful to join a coalition of fierce leaders and advocates to fight for a better, bigger and healthier democracy that prioritizes and protects access to the ballot box for all.”