By Gloria Dulan-Wilson ~

   It's hard to believe that fifteen years have passed since the First Wall Street Project opened in New York City. It was 1997, at at that time we actually were on Wall Street, with many of the events happening either in board rooms, on the trading room floors, or at the World Trade Center.

I can remember sitting in the top of the World Trade Center at one of the luncheons, in a facility where the ceilings were arched, and so low that you had to bend to be in there, and you could not see the speakers because the columns blocked your view.

They've come a long way from those early days of trying to make Black people more financially literate, investment action oriented, and move away from the mentality of a consumer to that of a producer. It's important that I say this, and that you grasp this and how significant it is that Rev. Jackson saw, and understood early on - before the economic downturn, before the mortgage crises, before the rampant foreclosures - he understood the devastation of not having economic parity for Black people -whether here in the US, or Africa, the Caribbean, or anywhere else we reside.

His mission has been to provide us with as much education, exposure, opportunity and understanding of what Wall Street was about, and what it meant to us, who had been psychologically, physically, emotionally and economically kept out of the loop. The realm of investment, the marketplace, and the high stakes of finance had been relegated to the realm of whites and high rolling Blacks, the few who were allowed behind the "green" door. The rest of us were either part of conspicuous consumption, or the welfare state (at least that is where we were pushed).

When Rev. Jackson first enunciated plans to study Wall Street as a means of breaking down the next barrier of racism, many of his peers in the "movement" thought he had lost it. Others thought he had joined the ranks of the "capitalist pigs." Interesting, since we all need and want money how many of us tried to pick the idea apart as though it was some kind of pariah.

However, we who have given up more free labor on this planet than any other group of people in the world, and have not been compensated for our efforts - for the blood, sweat, tears and lives that went into building this nation - including the hallowed hall of Wall Street, Dow Jones, Broad Street and the other denizens of the almighty dollar. We, more than anyone, need to learn to work smarter, not harder, how to invest in growth funds, how to plan for longevity and retirement, how to make wise deals and purchases. When you think about it, the investment they made in bringing us here from Africa has paid off for everyone but us - big time.

Now it's time to learn how not to make the mistakes that the "smartest guys in the house" made, which caused the economic mess we're in right now, while at the same time begin to develop our own autonomous investment and banking systems, as have other groups, so that we too can underwrite our children's education, purchase our own homes, build quality communities - in other words, call the shots.

The most interesting thing about this is the irony that we live in New York City, the financial capital of the world. Yet we know nothing about it. The major industries in New York are FIRE - Finance, Insurance, Real Estate - yet they are not taught in any of our schools in a meaningful way. Neither we nor our children have ever been exposed to the inner workings of Wall Street. We know it's there, but except for the few Black proteges, we are more likely to see African Americans as security guards and custodians, than having a pivotal role in the high end banking, finance and investment arenas. The schools in New York may teach you how to count money, but they don't teach you how to use, invest, expand it. Why is that?

Last year, the Rainbow Push Coalition quietly celebrated its 40th Anniversary on December 25, 2011. The great thing is that they are as relevant and active today as they were when they were first formed. In October 2011, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. celebrated his 70th Birthday anniversary. And like these stellar programs he's created, he keeps getting better with age. There are few out there who can match his stride, his energy and his dedication to Black people. In celebrating these milestones, we are all winners as well, because he has taken the time to provide us with a blue print that we can follow out of this mess we're in - if we would but follow it (see gloriadulanwilson.blogspot.com - January 15, 2011).

The theme of the 2012 Wall Street Project is "Bringing Everyone to the Table." The Economic Summit this year will be lead by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and Terry J. Lundgren, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Macy's Inc. It will feature such panels as: Wall Street Project Career Development; Retooling and Retraining Break Out Sessions; The Women's Luncheon; The Minister's Prayer Breakfast and Roundtable. Among the presenters will be John Grant, Author, Career Coach and Speaker; Staci Grant, President C&G Enterprises; Pat Thomas Motivational Speaker and career coach. There will be other speakers and surprise guests as the conference gets underway.

Rev. Jackson indicated, in a recent teleconference, that the possibility of putting together a mutual bank or credit union similar to the Black United Fund of New York, to make it possible for Black investors to underwrite their own programs, has been a consideration for quite some time. "I am quite familiar with the program and the principles established by the late Walter Bremond, and think it would be a powerful tool for Black Economic Development. It would be an natural resource builder for programs that are underserved or poorly underwritten by mainstream finance or charitable organizations." New York's Black United Fund, which was established by Kermit Eady, at its zenith raised more than $111 million a year, which was then put back into the Black community in the form of affordable housing, business incubator programs, scholarships, and business start up loans. (Many will remember it was destroyed by then persecutor Elliot Spitzer in his bid for the gubernatorial nomination - but that's another story for another day).

The most salient points of Rev. Jackson's teleconference was the fact that South Carolina continues to be the bastion of racism and abuse, despite the progress made under Dr. King to destroy many of the negative institutions. The new version of the prison industrial complex is proliferating there, where factories are actually being established within the prison walls, and those who are incarcerated are forced to work for pennies a day. Apparently there are also investors who are underwriting this heinous program in order to save money. If not curtailed, it will be a means of undermining President Obama's move to bring businesses home to make jobs available for Americans who have been out of work since the onset of the economic downturn. How to handle this will be one of the main focal points of this year's Wall Street Project.

Also of concern are our voting rights, which are being target of attack in South Carolina and Arizona. Republicans are pushing these laws in states across the country claiming they are needed to "deter voting fraud", but offer no evidence of its existence. In fact, the laws will disproportionately impact African Americans, Latinos and poor people — who are less likely to have a driver’s license. In South Carolina, the Dept. Of Justice concluded minority voters would be 20 percent more likely to be disenfranchised than white voters (excerpted from Rev. Jackson's weekly report).

He will also focus on foreclosures, building and developing decent affordable housing, home ownership, and quality of life issues. Stated Reverend Jackson: "Banks got bailed out; people got locked out." Millions of homes have been lost from the Black community - the largest land grab rip off in history. His 2011 panel dealt with more humane ways to help families in distress than the methods used by recalcitrant banks and lending institutions, who claim to not want their homes, but proceed to foreclose and take them anyway. This year's housing panel is set to take it to the next level. If you happen to have been a victim of these scams, you'll want to be there as well.

If you haven't attended any of the Wall Street Projects over the past 15 years, make this the time that you break that pattern. Make a paradigm shift. There are a great many contacts to be made, a lot to be learned - networking with peers, as well as establishing new contacts, and expanding those you already have. Come for the seminars - they're priceless! Your input is as valuable as the panel of experts sitting on the dias. With so many opportunities for innovation, you may well walk away with a solution to problems you considered impossible; or you just might make a connection that you thought not possible.

And lest you thought he has overlooked brothers and sisters in Africa, he's just returned from Johannesburg and Bloemfontein South Africa to join other leaders across the globe in paying tribute to the ANC and the people of South Africa. "This is not just an ANC celebration, but one for the entire continent and, indeed, for peace and freedom loving people around the globe. I look forward to giving a report to the American public upon my return," he stated.

Make no mistake about it, Reverend Jackson is “Bringing Everyone to the Table” in a way that has never been done before. We can be either at the table or on the sideline. As President Barack Obama said (sang) at the Apollo: "Let's Stay Together!" It's the only way we'll survive. It's the only way we will win. It's the only way we'll Succeed.

Here's a little history for those who are not familiar with how the organization began: In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. appointed Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. to serve as the first director of Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, IL. In 1971, three years after King's assassination in Memphis, TN, Rev. Jackson founded Operation P.U.S.H (People United to Save Humanity in Chicago to continue Dr. King's mission. In 1972, the idea of the "Black Expo" (Black Business Exposition) was developed to "expose" African-American businesses.

In 1984, the National Rainbow Coalition was formed in Washington, DC following Reverend Jackson's first presidential campaign. Rainbow's focus was to unite progressive people, historically locked out of the mainstream of American politics, into a "coalition of conscience," dedicated to making America more inclusive. The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquarted in Chicago, IL at 930 E 50th St., can be reached by calling (773) 373-3366.

For information on this years 15th Annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project, visit www.rainbowpush.org. Rainbow PUSH Coalition ✆ publicservices@rainbowpush.org via bounce.bluestatedigital.com The 15th Annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project is being held on January 25 to the 27, and the Sheraton Towers Hotel, 53rd Street and 7th Avenue, New York, New York. See you there.

Stay Blessed &
Gloria Dulan-Wilson

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