Women Leaders Shine at ESSENCE Fest's Global Black Economic Forum Summit

July 5, 2023 : The Global Black Economic Forum (GBEF) Summit took place during the ESSENCE Festival of Culture, bringing together world leaders, business executives, and community advocates to discuss strategies for promoting wealth and equality for Black individuals worldwide. Alphonso David, President and CEO of GBEF, opened the summit by emphasizing the attendees’ responsibility in advocating for progress.

A panel featuring Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of any African country, and United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield was held during the summit. David commended their groundbreaking achievements and recognized Sirleaf’s role as a peacemaker. The panelists discussed their dreams for women, with Sirleaf expressing her desire for women to rule the world, which garnered applause from the audience. Greenfield emphasized her dream of achieving full and equal participation, equal pay, job opportunities, and leadership roles for women.

David announced a donation of $300,000 over three years from GBEF and ESSENCE Ventures to support the Ellen Sirleaf Johnson Foundation, which focuses on nurturing women leaders in Africa. Several panels were conducted addressing philanthropy, healthcare, banking failures, and corporate board inequity. Debra Lee, a prominent business leader, discussed the potential for Black individuals to generate wealth through board service and shared her motivation following the killing of George Floyd.

The summit’s highlight was a fireside chat with Vice President Kamala Harris, who addressed the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down Affirmative Action based on race. Harris expressed disappointment in the court’s lack of understanding regarding equal opportunity. She also discussed her efforts to increase investment in Africa and her commitment to reshaping the relationship between the United States and the African continent.

The one-day summit on June 29 catalyzed further discussions during the ESSENCE Fest weekend at the GBEF HQ stage in New Orleans. Conversations covered various topics, including wealth building, retirement planning, and the “war on woke,” featuring notable guests like Wyclef Jean, Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, and Black mayors from across the country.