Charles Smith, former NY Knicks; Mike Bantom, NBA Sr. VP Player Dev.; Natara Holloway, NFL Dir. of Corp. Dev.; Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.; Tanya Horowitz, Financial Assets Manager; Kris Jenkins, Defensive Lineman, NY Jets; and Joe Briggs, NFLPA Manager of Gov. Relations & Public Policy Council (Photo by Margot Jordan)

*The show must go on and it did!  Neither snow, hail or sleet could keep or deter some 1,000 concerned activists from attending the Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project and the Citizenship Education Fund summit held January 11 to 14 at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, 811 Seventh Avenue at 53rd Street in New York City.

Hosted by The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder, Rainbow PUSH, and one of the nation’s most influential business proponents, civil rights activists and religious leaders, the 14th annual economic summit addressed the economic disparities facing American families today and the tools needed to restore financial stability going forward.

Themed “A More Perfect Union: Time to Rebuild America,” the summit focused on disturbing trends in our nation, in particular, job creation, home and church foreclosures, criminal justice reform, educational and economic opportunity, women and wealth, international affairs and labor and civil rights. The issue is not a black and white one,” says Rev. Jackson. “It’s an issue of civility. We’re fighting for open access to job opportunity, healthcare and our civil rights.”

The Summit kicked off with Senator Charles E. Schumer (D – N.Y.) asking the question: “What are we doing to help those without jobs?”  He added, “the middle class is decreasing and this will be the first generation that will not fare better than the generation prior.”

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Lalah Hathaway, Rev. Al Sharpton, Santita Jackson, Jonathan Jackson (Photo by Ronnie Wright)

The Wall Street Project Economic Summit has long assisted African Americans on Wall Street to be included in the deal-making process.  “We would not be here today if it were not for you.” James Reynolds, Jr. CEO of Loop Capital Markets said.  “This generation is thankful for Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.  It’s great to know we have you (Rev. Jackson) fighting for us, he added.”

New York City Comptroller John Liu – opening up the process of issuing city bonds to include minority firms, not just the same “big” firms who previously received all the business — applauded Loop Capital for winning a $1b bond issuance in an open, transparent, bid process.

Others attending the kick off festivities included Minister Michael Mabuyakhulu, South Africa, Sen. Bill Perkins, Rev. Al Sharpton, former Mayor of Mount Vernon, NY, Ernest Davis, and Charles Smith, former player for the NY Knicks.  Also in attendance was Joe Briggs, who, at the time was NFLPA Manager of Gov. Relations & Public Policy Council. Briggs is now a professor at Georgetown University. Soul singer Lalah Hathaway topped off the inspirational opening night festivities with a special musical performance.

Highlights of the Summit included:  One Thousand Churches Connected (OTCC) Minister’s Luncheon with keynote speaker Bishop Paul Morton, International Presiding Bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International; Business Opportunities in Africa: A focus on the Diaspora And Foreign Investors with Minister Michael Mabuyakhulu, South Africa; Gospel Concert hosted by Skip Dillard of WBLS, honoring The Reverend Timothy Wright with a featured performance by Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Moses Tyson, Jr., Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson, Timiney Figueroa-Caton and Anaysha Figueroa.

Another high point conference was the Digitizing Wall Street: Tech Growth and Financial Investment Bit by Bit.  Also the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucus Leadership Session in which leaders discussed the state of our economy, finance reform, and how to create jobs and expand small business development.  The Hip Hop Union was attended by more than 300 students who gathered to hear youth-driven motivation from second generation Hip Hop protégés: Daniel “Diggie” Simmons, Justin Combs and Jam Master Jay Jr.

George Gresham, president 1199 SEIU, Danny Glover, actor and social activist, and Marc H. Morial, president and CEO, National Urban League, addressed the “New” Civil Rights Agenda and the devastating affects unemployment has on the African American community and the U.S.

“We must respect the voice of the working people.  The wealthy can’t stay wealthy without the help of the working people.  We shouldn’t be so willing to accept what we get as working people,” remarked Gresham.  Glover said the U.S. economy, which is based on a democracy, currently “provides for an economy system set at the increasing profits of others.  We must create meaningful work that gives value to workers lives.  We must create opportunities.”

Congresswoman Yvette Clark and inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant led the discussion on Women and Wealth and provided expert advice to women seeking greater knowledge and insight for establishing sound financial plans during tough economic times.  “Women are the backbone of our society; but have all too often not received the recognition they so rightly deserve,” remarked Rev. Jackson.

Throughout the Summit, Rev. Jackson wore his pride on his sleeve and rightfully so as this was a very successful conference especially in light of the inclement weather.  “We must have access to capital, jobs and opportunity,” said Rev. Jackson, who noted companies that created the economic crisis got bailed out and now they are being hired by the government as the top lead managers in IPOs.

“It’s not an even playing field.  Take a look at the sports industry where the playing field is level.  When the rules are public, the goals are clear and the playing field is even, we all win.  It becomes a fair game.   Nobody knew how good baseball, basketball, football, golf or tennis could be, until everybody could play.   We all became better once the doors of inclusion opened to include all talented players.  We need to do the same in business.”

Rev. Jackson stated that 49% of Americans are in poverty and 59 million Americans have NO healthcare.  “We must put a face on those who are unemployed.  We intend to do that as we have established a place for Americans to send their resume and we will register them with congress.”   He asked Americas to forward their resume to: r[email protected]

“This year’s Summit accomplished a great deal.  We’ve come so far, but we still have far to go.  Today, on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 81st Birthday, he would be profoundly disturbed at the prevailing winds and trends of our nation.  I was with him at the staff meeting on his last birthday on January 15, 1968.  He would be pleased at the new levels of social interaction between the races.  He would be pleased by the right to vote.”

The 14th Annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit remains a voice in the fight for economic justice, racial equality, and the fight for jobs and health care for all Americans.  Distinguished officials honored during the summit included: Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, (D-NY); Ruben Diaz, Jr., Bronx Borough President; Bill Lynch, Former Deputy Mayor of New York; Harriet R. Michel, Recent Past President, National Minority Supplier Developmental Council (NMSDC); New York State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli; Congresswoman Nydia Valazquez (D – NY); Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D – CA); and The Reverend Timothy Wright (deceased), founder of Grace Tabernacle Christian Center, Brooklyn, NY.

audrey bernard

Audrey J. Bernard

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.