The Black Agenda
Bold Solutions for a Broken System
Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman is the co-founder of the only non-profit organization addressing the pipeline and pathway problem for Black women in fields of economics, finance, and policy. In her upcoming book The Black Agenda, Opoku-Agyeman features Black voices across economics, education, health, climate, and technology, all speaking to the question “What’s next?” as it pertains to centering Black people in policy matters in our country. As we collectively reckon with the aftermath of the pandemic, and finally begin to face the deep-rootedness of racism in this country, her work is empowering, exciting, and indispensable for the new world we’re building.
“The Black Agenda is urgent . . . [A] moral calling to help us learn, reflect, and be motivated toward specific action.”— Chelsea Clinton
Black Americans not only experienced a disproportionate burden of illness from the pandemic—their financial burden was greater, too. Black women were more likely to be worried about money or fired from their jobs, and Black-owned businesses were more likely to get hit by closures. How we rebuild from this crisis is absolutely crucial for our economic futures, says researcher, writer, and activist Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman. “If we want to achieve an inclusive economy that works for all, Black women must have visibility in all things from money to policy to economics. ” In The Black Agenda—the first book of its kind—Opoku-Agyeman brings together exclusively Black scholars and experts for a policy-oriented approach in the fight for racial justice in America. The book has already received early praise from the likes of New York Times bestselling authors and highly sought-after experts, such as Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, who writes, “This book will challenge what you think is possible by igniting long overdue conversations around how to enact lasting and meaningful change rooted in racial justice.” Chelsea Clinton declares, “The Black Agenda is urgent. It’s urgent that white people recognize that centering, listening to, and being led by the voices in this book are the start to investing in societal solutions.”
Opoku-Agyeman is the co-founder and CEO of The Sadie Collective, a non-profit providing Black women, students, and professionals the resources they need to succeed in the fields of qualitative sciences. There, she works tirelessly to dismantle the inequitable power structures that have made economics an “ol’ boys club” for too long. Every year, the organization hosts a sold-out conference in Washington D.C.: an annual gathering that marks the only times in history where Black women in economics and related fields have convened. To date, the Collective has drawn wide support from leaders in economics, policy, and industry, including Janet Yellen, the first female Chair of the Federal Reserve. Opoku-Agyeman also often speaks on the role that social justice and anti-Black racism will play in paving the way for the next generation of scientists and change-makers. As an alumna of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, one of the top producers of Black scientists in the country, Opoku-Agyeman understands the experience on a deeply personal level. She is also the brainchild and co-founder of the #BlackBirdersWeek, a global campaign highighting Black nature enthusiasts and scientists, and her talks within the broader science community emphasize the structural underpinnings of academic institutions and scientific disciplines.
Opoku-Agyeman’s work has been featured in The Economist, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Forbes, and Newsweek. In 2019, she co-authored a viral New York Times op-ed with Dr. Lisa Cook, a former White House aide for President Barack Obama who later became a member of the Biden-Harris transition team, that focused on the underrepresentation of Black women in economics and related fields. Her expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion within academia and the workplace is highly sought after by companies and campuses across the country, and she has given talks to organizations such as the Ford Foundation, Harvard University, and The Chicago Federal Reserve Bank. In 2020, Opoku-Agyeman became the youngest recipient for the CEDAW Women’s Rights Award by the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. Previous awardees include Vice President Kamala Harris and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Opoku-Agyeman is currently a doctoral student studying Public Policy and Economics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as well as an alum of UMBC where she received her B.A. in Mathematics and a minor in Economics.
“Anna was fantastic. Her contributions to the conversation on inclusive hybrid work were so important and vital. We cannot express our extreme gratitude to Anna enough. Thank you to Lavin for all of your help in coordinating her speaking engagement with us.”Stanford
Before the 2008 financial downturn, Black and brown communities were experiencing early signs of declining employment and housing devastation. The trend was noticed by and reported on by minority economists, but unfortunately, their calls for alarm were largely ignored. What followed was a decade-long recession that not only cost millions of people their financial stability for generations, but made it even harder to achieve an inclusive economy for all. Black women were hit the hardest, losing the highest share of jobs compared to other women.
Sadly, we haven’t learned from the lessons of the Great Recession, says Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman—an emerging researcher on diversity, equity, and inclusion in both academic and corporate spaces. “COVID-19 is a new crisis but the way in which it ravages our economic and public health systems are key signalers of the deficiencies in how we have handled the economy and our society’s preexisting conditions.” Underpaid even before the pandemic, Black women are once again bearing the brunt of this economic crisis, revealing an ugly truth: when race and gender intersect, structural inequalities compound—inequalities that would be best addressed through recentering economic policy on Black women.
In this exhilarating, forward-thinking talk, Opoku-Agyeman introduces us to the concept of “Black Women Best” (coined by Janelle Jones, the Managing Policy Director of Groundwork Collaborative). It’s the idea that when Black women, the most marginalized group in the economy, have access to financial freedom and economic opportunity, the system will finally be working for all. Passionate, honest, and funny, Opoku-Agyeman shows us how we can put this idea into practice, and in the process, outlines what the next steps in our pandemic response must be in order to lift ourselves out of economic ruin.