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On the eve of Juneteenth, CGI and the Future In Color Institute bring leaders together to drive action on Black wealth and opportunity

11 Minute Read
  • Leaders across the NGO, government, financial, academic, and other sectors showcased specific opportunities to invest in and support Black businesses, institutions, and communities. 
  • Future In Color Institute to launch a new report evaluating progress and challenges in Project GDPx Road To 2050™ – A New Wealth Projection. 

NEW YORK, NY – Black wealth creation is critical to the success of the U.S. economy, leaders across the private and public sectors agreed in an event held on the eve of Juneteenth, a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. Co-hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and the Future in Color Institute (FIC) the event brought together leaders from civil society, the financial sector, and government to assess what’s working in the effort to reduce the racial wealth gap. 

From L to R: Milan Bhatt, Senior Manager of Economic Inclusion, Clinton Global Initiative; Alexis Holmes, Director, White House Black America Initiative; Lekiesha French Merritt, Founder, Future In Color Institute; Sean Hardy, Co-founder, Future in Color Institute; Samantha Abrams, Founder and CEO, Color Lens Consulting

“I’m very intentional with using the word ‘wealth.’ We can create businesses. We can create jobs. We can create global businesses,” said Alexis Holmes, Director of the White House Initiative for Black Americans. “I think it’s important that we as leaders are intentional about that, but also in pushing for financial education so we can begin to lay that foundation [for genuine wealth creation].”   

According to a report by Prosperity Now, if the status quo is maintained, Global Black wealth will reach net zero by the year 2053. At the same time, data from the United Nations indicates that one in every four people globally will be of African descent by 2050. And by 2045, current racial and ethnic minorities will collectively represent a new demographic majority in the United States, further underscoring the importance of economic inclusion for historically underinvested groups like Black communities.  

Leaders discussed specific strategies embraced by federal, state, and local governments; venture capital firms; community-based financial institutions, and more that can enhance economic prosperity and wealth across Black communities. 

In an opening fireside chat with New York Amsterdam News Publisher Elinor Tatum, Holmes emphasized the initiative’s efforts to create meaningful economic progress for Black families, educators, and entrepreneurs through intentional collaboration with other agencies across the White House. The initiative leads a Power Up Series, for example, which goes directly into Black communities across the country, to facilitate roundtables and networking opportunities. 

Tatum emphasized the importance of data – and how easily data can be manipulated to oppress Black people and restrict them from economic opportunity. She referenced her own recent experience of being denied a loan as a Black business owner. 

“One of the things I’ve seen with data is that it depends on who’s distilling that data and who we have as those experts that are looking at that data,” Tatum said. “If someone wants to give you a loan, they’ll give it to you. And if someone doesn’t want to give you a loan, they won’t give it to you. And they will use that data against you.” 

Having difficult conversations that directly address the various structural barriers that have long affected Black people is critical to addressing the problem, Holmes said.   

“We can fight, and we can build at the same time,” Holmes stated. 

Using Data to Evaluate Success and Chart a Path Forward 

Data is what motivated Lekiesha French Merrit, founder of the Future in Color (FIC) Institute, to act. While she was encouraged by the prospect of a new majority, she realized that investments and policies would be key to ensure that Black people also achieved increased production – not just increased consumer activity. 

“We saw that as an opportunity. I didn’t want to stay grounded in the deficits, because there was also so much data also coming out about 2053,” French Merrit proclaimed. “I couldn’t believe that, still don’t believe it, didn’t want to accept it – and we don’t have to.” 

Merrit aimed to create an economic roadmap that quantified Black people’s economic contribution on a regional level across sectors. 

FIC’s upcoming GDPx™ Report, which will be accompanied by GDPx™ Report Cards, will examine the Black community’s global historic contributions; current contribution levels; and future projections. 

“When we think about 2050, it’s really important as we think about investments… that we make sure that we’re centering the voice of the Black owners and creators and innovators,” French Merrit said. 

Progress by the CGI Community  

In remarks opening the event, CGI’s Senior Manager of Economic Inclusion Milan Bhatt stressed CGI’s commitment to improving economic opportunity for Black communities. 

“Our economic inclusion work at the Clinton Global Initiative was driven in many ways by the racial and economic inequalities that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bhatt said. “And it continues to be top priority at CGI for us to do everything we can – through our partnerships and beyond – to advance racial justice and equality.” 

At the event, leaders reported progress on CGI commitments that address Black wealth, including: 

  • Operation HOPE, which launched a five-year commitment to expand upon its One Million Black Businesses Initiative at CGI 2023, has already recruited multiple Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs) and other institutions to grow the next generation of young adult Black business owners; 
  • CAMEO Network has trained and supported 370 mission-based lending institutions as part of their CGI 2022 Commitment to establish a National Academy that provides training and professional development to Community Development Financial Institutions that serve low-income and BIPOC small businesses, helping them receive equitable access to capital and financial resources; 
  • Everest Group, which has met the goals of its Commitment from CGI 2022 by bringing together a network of employers resulting in 420,000 job placements from an inclusive talent pool, focused on historically excluded communities.