The Wall Street Project: The Continuing Conversation for Parity
© 2005 DiversityInc.com®
January 10, 2006
"Get Informed. Get Inspired. Get Involved." These short credo-like statements were ubiquitous on the hotel lobby floor, as bulletins and posters displayed the phrases at the Ninth Annual Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Project Summit, being held through tomorrow in New York City.
Started by the Rev. Jesse Jackson nearly a decade ago, and supported by such luminaries as Sanford Weil, chairman of Citigroup (No. 3 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list); Bruce Gordon, CEO and president of the NAACP; and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Wall Street Project's objective is to "promote inclusion, opportunity and economic growth for people of color."
The Wall Street Project has led the discussion on parity for people of color. Boasting some of the nation's most powerful executives and leaders year after year, the conference has become a nationally recognized forum for networking and learning directly from people of expertise in every area of the corporate world on how to bridge the gap that exists for people of color on opportunities to access wealth.
The conference began on Sunday night with a heartfelt discourse on the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast states (Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The discussion centered on the necessity of including the hurricane evacuees in the rebuilding process, as well as strategizing on ways to provide creative means for evacuees to earn income.
Using that engaging discussion as an impetus for the conference, yesterday began with a breakfast summit moderated by Jackson. He focused on a recent census survey of the top 20 states with highest black population and their respective public funds. States such as New York and Illinois showed a disproportionate percentage of blacks managing public funds, even though more than 25 percent of the populations in those states are comprised of people of color. Jackson used these disparaging numbers to exemplify the need for everyone to unite under one vision.
He urged the audience, saying, "We need to fight the fight. It is better to fight the right fight and lose than to fight the wrong fight and win. This is a fight for equality and parity."
Numerous concurrent sessions ranged from various topics such as closing the pension gap for people of color to a political roundtable regarding the voting disconnect in this generation to retaining women- and minority-owned law firms. The political roundtable was highlighted by a lively debate on whether apathy and a disconnect in politics exists in the younger generation of voters. Many of the panelists argued that this younger generation not only recognized the significance that voting played in the civil-rights movement, many young black voters are taking ownership of their voting rights. Panelist Kevin Powell, an activist, poet and journalist, stated, "It's great to see on a national level a push for voting by Diddy and Russell Simmons, but there needs to be a greater association between the national and the local scale. That has already been happening through student activism."
Other sessions, such as retaining women- and minority-owned law firms, discussed the challenges those firms face when attempting to procure bigger clients. Moderated by Stacey Gray, founder of her own law firm, several of the panelists argued that law firms owned by people of color and women had unique capabilities to handle cases and clients. Kwarma Vanderpuye, a partner at the McMillan Firm, pointed out, "We are capable of sustaining and connecting at a large level. We are able."