At the recent Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project Economic Summit, hundreds of experts from Wall Street, corporate America, sports, hip-hop, the religious community and Africa came together to address how to fight racial and economic injustices in corporate America. There were titans of tech and powerful politicians, investors and inventors, sports legends and music stars – from opera to hip hop – foreign ambassadors and big city mayors, shameful statistics and news to keep hope alive.
The three-day summit, which advocates that the resources and board rooms of Wall Street and Silicon Valley be opened to Black businesses and other minority groups that have been locked out, started with news that the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s hard work is paying off. It was announced that Apple is including African-American, Latino and disabled veteran-owned financial services firms in a whopping $10 billion to $12 billion debt offering.
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., who founded the Wall Street Project with the Citizens Education Fund, praised the Apple deal, saying that Apple is continuing to show “tremendous leadership” in the movement to “democratize capital.” Since Rainbow PUSH intensified its campaign in 2014 to open up and diversify Silicon Valley, Apple has included African-American, Latino and diverse firms as underwriters in three consecutive debt offerings.
Loop Capital, Ramirez & Co., Castle Oak and Drexel Hamilton are part of the Apple offering. James Reynolds Jr., Chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Loop Capital, participated in the Wall Street Project Economic Summit. “When there is inclusion, there is growth; and where there is growth, everybody wins,” Rev. Jackson said. “It is just good business.”
Despite the good news out of Silicon Valley, Rev. Jackson cautioned, “We have a long way to go.”
“We brag about the new smart devices that we use, but Facebook does not have one African American or Latino on its board,” he said. “Twitter does not have one. Our communities are barren, because we don’t have access to capital. When they lock us out, it’s like a one-eyed quarterback. They only see half the field.”
Slowly, the whole field is coming into view. Over the past year, with constant pressure from the Coalition’s PUSHTech2020 initiative, nine debt deals in the tech world have broken the color line in what Chicago-based investor, philanthropist and longtime summit supporter John W. Rogers Jr. has called “a Jackie Robinson moment.”
Microsoft Chairman John W. Thompson, a graduate of Florida A&M, was honored at the summit’s gala dinner and joined Rev. Jackson in a “fireside chat” about Thompson’s climb from IBM salesman to tech titan.
Sheila C. Johnson, founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, and Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente, were also honored at the gala, which ended with a performance by Philip Bailey, lead singer and original member of Earth, Wind & Fire.
Johnson garnered rousing applause when she was keynote speaker at the “Making of A Titan” luncheon. After BET, she founded a line of luxury hotels and resorts, and has even more properties being planned.
There were panels on financial education, reconnecting and sustaining the relationship between Wall Street and historically black colleges and universities, panels featuring urban mayors and policy leaders. During his panel, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan thanked Rev. Jackson for helping to secure $2 billion in federal funds for blight removal and neighborhood reconstruction in more than a dozen states. There were sessions on healthcare disparities, the business of hip-hop, and two panels about the vast resources and business opportunities for African Americans in Africa.
In the end, Maxine Leftwich of Chicago, head of the Wall Street Project 2016 Planning and Advisory Committee, was pleased and looks forward to the 2017 Economic Summit in New York. “As the former Partner and CEO of LS Financial Group Inc., I am acutely aware that diversity and inclusion continue to be elusive on Wall Street and throughout corporate America,” Leftwich said. “This is an issue for which I have much passion, and I appreciate the passion and dedication demonstrated by the team that worked on this year’s Wall Street Project Economic Summit. I am especially grateful for the support of Chicago members John W. Rogers Jr., Chairman, CEO and Chief Investment Officer of Ariel Investments, and Lucille Dobbins, CPA, who is Partner in Goodall, Kenner & Associates, P.C.”