"Principles only mean something
if you stick by them in inconvenient times"
Alphonso David was born in Silver Spring, Maryland and raised in Liberia in West Africa. In 1977, his father was elected Mayor of Monrovia, the capital city, and his great-uncle William Tolbert was the President of Liberia. In 1980, during a military coup, Tolbert was assassinated and David’s father was incarcerated. His family lived under house arrest for 18 months beginning when he was 9 years old and subsequently sought political asylum in the United States.
David is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park and Temple University School of Law. While at Temple, he was a member of the National Trial Team and was Executive Editor of the Political and Civil Rights Law Review. He received honors all three years at Temple Law School including winning the 1998 Tournament of Champions for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, the 1999 Barrister’s Award for Outstanding Oral Advocate and the 2000 Victor A. Jaczun Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy.
David has experience in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, as well as academia.
David has spent more than 12 years in the public sector working both in the judicial and executive branches of government. He began his legal career as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Clifford Scott Green in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where he researched and drafted opinions involving a variety of legal issues, including labor and employment, immigration, habeas corpus, insurance coverage, securities, and contracts.
In the executive branch, he has held several positions. In 2007, David served as Deputy Commissioner and Special Counselor at the New York State Division of Human Rights, where he managed legal, policy and operational issues affecting the agency. He created strategic plans and systems to successfully process more than 6,000 cases within statutory guidelines and restructured several departments to improve performance.
From 2008 to 2010, he served as Special Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights for the Office of the New York State Attorney General, where he managed up to a dozen Assistant Attorneys General on a variety of investigations and affirmative litigation, including employment and housing discrimination, fair lending, reproductive rights, and anti-bias claims. He secured remarkable results for New Yorkers through court judgements and settlements, including more than $23 million dollars in damages for immigrants who had been defrauded and assurances from every major pharmacy chain store to provide critical language access services to customers.
In 2011, David joined New York’s Governor’s Office and served for four years as the Deputy Secretary and Counsel for Civil Rights, the first position of its kind in the state. In this capacity, he was responsible for a full range of legal, policy, legislative, and operational matters affecting civil rights and labor throughout the state. In 2015, he was appointed Counsel to the Governor for New York State and became the first Black man and first openly LGBTQ person to hold that position in the state’s 400-year history. For four years, as chief counsel and principal legal advisor, he oversaw all significant legal and policy deliberations affecting New York State, including evaluating proposed legislation, implementing laws and policies, and formulating the state’s posture in both affirmative and defensive litigation.
During his tenure in the Governor’s Office, David was instrumental in drafting and advancing landmark legislation including the Marriage Equality Act, which removed legal barriers allowing same-sex couples to marry, the Workers Compensation Reform Act, which modernized key components of the program to ensure greater accountability and functionality, the Paid Family Leave Act, which ensures individuals receive paid leave to care for a sick family members, and the Minority and Women Business Program, which significantly expanded contracting opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses throughout the state. He also worked on various critical pieces of criminal justice reforms including solitary confinement litigation and legislation to curtail the use of isolation cells and practices, raise the age legislation to stop the practice of generally treating minors as adults for criminal prosecution, executive action to restore voting rights to parolees, and a re-entry state program to provide employment opportunities to formerly incarcerated individuals.
David has functioned both as a lawyer and a manager in the private sector.
From 2001 to 2003, he worked as a litigation associate at the law firm Blank Rome LLP, where he litigated cases in federal and state courts representing clients in complex contractual disputes, insurance coverage, white-collar criminal defense and constitutional challenges. He managed all aspects of trial practice. David has also managed two companies including the Canyon at Peace Park, a venture capital-funded entity providing evidence-based addiction treatment, education and counseling services.
Currently, as President & CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum, David is focused on reimagining what diversity, equity, inclusion, and opportunity looks like in global workspaces and marketplaces, as well as achieving the notion of economic justice for the Black diaspora globally. The Global Black Economic Forum engages business executives, policy makers, entrepreneurs, activists, and consumers globally on thought leadership; corporate and entrepreneurial career development; and advancing social and economic justice for marginalized communities across the globe. The Forum pursues these goals through an innovative multi-faceted approach, including a strategic consulting practice that partners with major corporations on leadership, skill building and diversity solutions; serving as a convener of key leaders at major conferences and summits; a non-profit foundation dedicated to social and economic justice policy; and an emerging technology platform focused on redefining equality and equity.
David has also worked in the not-for-profit sector, both leading and working within institutions. From 2003 to 2007, he worked as a staff attorney at the Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he litigated precedent-setting civil rights cases across the nation affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals as well as those living with HIV. He handled both affirmative and defensive matters relating to marriage, parenting rights, discrimination in schools, and access to health care. Of note, he was part of the legal team that litigated the Hernandez v. Robles case seeking the right to marry for same-sex couples under the New York State and United States Constitutions.
From 2019 to 2021, David served as President of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ organization. He was the first Black person and first person of color to serve as President in the organization’s 40-year history. In this role, he boldly led the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic and maintained the organization’s health and strength in the face of severe challenges; obtaining the largest grant in the organization’s history and raising more funding than any other President in HRC’s history. David also created and expanded groundbreaking programming for marginalized communities such as the transgender justice initiative (a multipronged initiative focused on addressing a variety of issues faced by the transgender community), an impact litigation program to advance the rights of LGBTQ people utilizing our justice systems, and the HIV & Health Equity Program to address the disproportionally high rates of HIV among black and brown communities in the United States.
For more than a decade, David has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law. He began his work in academia with Fordham University Law School and most recently with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, teaching both “Constitutional Law: Sexuality and the Law” and “Family Law.”