By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
Yes, I know today is January 15, the actual birth date of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And a great many of us, including yours truly, are paying tribute to him today and throughout the weekend, and on his holiday for his accomplishments and sacrifices. He was truly a remarkable man who loved his family, and made great sacrifices for us all - including having his life cut short in service to the principles of economic parity for all people.
And this is why I am thanking Jesse Jackson, for having the vision, dedication, determination, insight, hutzpah, fortitude - you name it, to bring that to fruition in the form of the Wall Street Project.
I remember when he first announced that he was going to launch the project. I remember the skepticism when he said that the biggest barrier to equality was the economic barrier, and that Blacks were not represented in Wall Street where most of the economic wealth was concentrated. What!??! Hadn't we already overcome. You know those white folks down there aren't going to let Blacks into the board rooms and on the bidding floors of Wall Street.
But here we are nearly 15 years later. The numbers this year were smaller - partly because of predictions of massive snow storms; partly because there are those - white and Black - still trying to recover from the most pervasive economic down turn in the 21st century. But still, enough people turned out, and those who did were regaled with the finest minds, not only from Wall Street, but from Africa, and other parts of the world, looking to band together to do well by doing good.
The workshop on Affordable Housing - and whether or not the current foreclosure prevention programs really hurt or helped Americans was a total eye opener. The program currently being supported by the Feds does not seem to be living up to its promise. However, there are several private investors who came to the Wall Street Project ready to help families save their homes, with no cut throat strings; no dragging out the process; no pointing fingers of blame. Who could have put that together, but the Rev. Jesse Jackson?
It was Reverend Jackson who informed us that many of our Black churches are in serious financial conditions, and are likewise about to be foreclosed upon. That it is now time to turn the attention to the fact that the pervasive foreclosures are about to eviscerate our entire neighborhood. It is time to learn what to do, do it, and do it together.
The forum on the HIP-HOP generation and wealth creation and wealth retention featured a friend I had not seen since he left office as Mayor of "Money Earnin", Mount Vernon (NY), The Honorable Ernest Davis. Or Amsterdam News great, Herb Boyd, who just penned his new book, We Shall Overcome: History of Civil Rights in America (where does Herb find the time to get it all done?).
The panel also featured Rosa Clemente, the former vice presidential candidate who ran with Cynthia McKinney in the 2008 Presidential Election Campaign. Her clarity and insights were amazing and refreshing. She proudly acknowledged that she was a Black woman, as opposed to being a Latina, and her origins, like the rest of us, was Africa, the Mother Land. Where else would we have had the opportunity to be exposed to this brilliant woman? Who but Rev. Jackson would have thought enough to have her participate in such an epoch-making panel.
And who, but Rev. Jackson would realize the need for Hip Hop artists to not only make millions, but to know how to sustain it, maintain it, invest it, understand it. The Rev has offered to take them to Wall Street to learn where the money goes, how it's invested, and how to be sure they themselves don't get ripped off. "If you only talk among yourselves, you have no way of getting new and essential information. Its a one-sided conversation," he asserted throughout the program.
For the January 11 kick off reception, he brought Lalah Hathaway, the daughter of the great Donny Hathaway, to perform. As he stated, "Laila Hathaway could not help having a fabulous voice, it's in her DNA; just like we cannot help being successes as a people - it's in our DNA."
It was Rev. Jackson who brought the clergy together from all over the US for a luncheon to address the problems of church foreclosures, and prevailed upon the foreclosure prevention panelists from the previous day to remain the next day, as his guest, to meet with the ministers to begin resolving these problems.
And it was Rev. Jackson who featured Hezekiah Walker to perform at his first annual Rev. Timothy Wright Gospel Fest, which was held at the Sheraton Hotel. Along with Walker were gospel artist from across the country, keeping the tradition of praise and worship alive.
The fate of Black people does not just rest with what happens here in the US, but is inexorably tied forever to what happens in Africa, our Mother Land, and point of origin as well. Rev. Jackson convened a panel to deal with the future of investing and doing business with Africa, including panelists from South Africa, as well as local businesses that have formed successful linkages between the 6th Diaspora (US Blacks) and Africa. You can't allow yourselves to be lulled into a false sense of knowledge based on what the headlines say. It really does require the ongoing communication and consolidation of efforts to make sure that Africa does not undergo pervasive recolonization. Africa has more mineral wealth per square inch than the rest of the world; they do not have control of it; neither do we. What can be done to make sure those profits go to the people who need them the most?
It was the Rev. Jackson who put together the Women's Summit and brought three powerful Congresswomen together: Nydia Velazquez (D - Brooklyn, NY), Maxine Waters (D - California) and Yvette D. Clarke (D - Brooklyn, NY)
Now I'm not saying that the brother did all this single-handedly -- he has excellent staff members, including the irrepressible Andrew Carr, who works tirelessly to "make it so". But none of this would have even gotten off the ground had it not been for the fact that Rev. Jackson takes the time, the interest, the energy, the insight to make it happen.
One of conference goers remarked that Jesse was the last of the remaining civil rights leaders alive. That's partly true. There are still some, like Ms. Clara Luper in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who at 93 has more than served her time and deserves a good rest(I had to mention her, she was my mentor during my sit-in Civil Rights days as a kid in OKC). But Jesse, who was also a kid then, is the only one from that era who is an active and effective activist, to my knowledge.
If there are others that I have overlooked, please feel free to email me. I don't think we give nearly enough recognition to our brothers and sisters who laid their lives on the line so many of us can live where we want to live, vote, eat what and where we want to eat; send our children to the schools of our choice; have a decent job; get a decent education. There are many who are pre-baby boomers, who are sitting silently on the sidelines, thinking they have been forgotten. There are also many who lost their lives for something as simple, yet as powerful, as a paper ballot, the right to drink from a water fountain, the right to use a toilet in a public facility; the right to eat at a lunch counter, or ride a bus.
When the Rev. Jackson was growing up (as our kids say, "Black in the day"), you'd never have seen his image on television, let alone at the Sheraton Hotel (and if at the Sheraton, he most likely would have been a janitor or an elevator operator back in the day).
That the brother devoted his entire career to Black people, and is still going strong is a testimony to his love for us (did I already say that? Well it bears repeating, because there are some who just don't get it!).
Jesse Jackson, his family, especially Jonathan and his dynamic wife Jackie, are in the fray making it happen. Not just for show, but they are working behind the scenes - meeting, haranguing, negotiating, researching, communicating, trying to provide us with the information we need to get ourselves out of this pit.
We need to begin reciprocating and passing this information along, sharing it with each other; putting it into action. It's time to cut the 80/20 principle, where 80% of the people benefit from the work that 20% do, and make a paradigm shift that says we are all in this together.
Dr. King's Dream Speech was made in Tennessee just before he was assassinated. He was addressing men and women about moving from poverty to prosperity; for the right to work to be paid a just and equal wage. Better known as economic parity.
We are now at the point where we deserve so much more. We also have to be about forming our own businesses, corporation, partnerships; inventions, limited liability corporation. We are now at the point where we must show that in the 21st century, where President Obama's YES WE CAN can now become YES WE WILL, and later YES WE DID.
If you are not familiar with or aware of the Rainbow/Push Wall Street Project, log on to www.rainbowpushwallstreet.org. Or Google it. In this day and age of computers, cell phones iPads/iPhones/ etc., we have no excuse not have as much of our programs, organizations and interests out there as the mainstream does. We ought to have T-shirts and caps that say THANK YOU Rev. JESSE JACKSON. We ought to have Rainbow/Push Wall Street Mugs, watch bands, sneakers. Just like we we know and honor JZ. Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and the rest, put Rev. Jackson, Al Sharpton, Len Jeffries, and the rest up there in our pantheon of Black celebrities.
Let's deal with the fact that this brother, the Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson, is still standing after all he's been through; that individually and collectively he is standing for us.
Now is the time to reciprocate. Now also is the time to study, learn, replicate, and spread the Jackson Method of Excellence and Economic Development throughout the Black Community.
It's nice to have dinners in Honor of Dr. King. I will try to attend and cover them all. But I would much rather see us begin to put our funds together, in the way the Black United Fund of New York (BUFNY) did, so that we can underwrite our own programs, build houses, provide scholarships; start our own credit unions so that we can have resources other than redlining banks.
So while we honor Dr. King, remember his protege is still out there trying to make that dream come true. And we need to be out there with him. Start planning now to be here for the 15th Anniversary of the Rainbow/Push Wall Street Project conference in 2012 - the second week in January, at the Sheraton Hotel, New York City, NY. If you do it right, you can book your reservations with Rainbow/Push now, and pay for it on a monthly basis, so that all you have to do is show up.
See you in 2012 -- by the way, they're active throughout the year, so you might want to sign up to be a part of the ongoing process, as well.
Stay Blessed &