By Gloria Dulan-Wilson
Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Project wrapped last week on Thursday, January 15th - the actual birth date of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But the effects certainly didn't end there. In fact, The Wall Street Project really is the gift that keeps on giving. Which is why it's difficult to sum it up in sound bytes, or articles of 800 neat little words or less.
It won't be summarized in an elevator conversation, and it certainly won't be captured with just a photo and some descriptive words naming some of the key panelists below. And, in order to do justice for those of you who weren't able to attend, as well as for those who worked so hard to produce this information rich conference, there is only the New York Times reportage version.
|Rev. Jesse Jackson Addresses the HipHop Summit at the 2015 Wall Street Project|
This is the 18th year of the Wall Street Project, and I've been covering it for 19 years - that is, since Rev. Jackson made the announcement that he was going to take on Wall Street, economic parity and investments as a civil right. His premise, that Black people had gained the right to vote, but were not represented on Wall Street, nor were they (we) knowledgeable about how it operated, dates back to when David Dinkins was mayor of New York City. During that time he, along with the late Jim Bell of 1199, tried to get the city to develop a program similar to that to begin empowering Black New Yorkers in investing in their city. Unfortunately the proposition fell on deaf ears.
Fortunately, Rev. Jackson is not the type to throw his hands up and walk away when something doesn't go his way. He continued to move forward, and, in 1992, announced his intentions of formulating the Wall Street Project. During the first seven or so years, the Project was actually held in Wall Street - prior to 911 - which then caused it to be relocated further north at the Sheraton Hotel, where it's been held ever since (with on exception, when it was held at the Roosevelt Hotel). Each and every year Rev. Jackson and his team has managed to exceed expectations, and surpass their previous conference in providing information that has both opened doors and minds of those who started out as skeptics, or just had a scatalogical knowledge of investment and economics.
I like to call it the money conference - cause at the end of the day - it's really "All about the Benjamins." And I also think, when you're talking to the lay population, it's what they truly understand. Most, when you speak of investments, financing, economic development get a blank look on their faces, and kind of zone out - thinking it has nothing to do with them. This is why this particular article is going to be nothing short of an eye opener when they find out that the HipHop Generation has been holding a HipHop Summit at the Wall Street Project for the past five years, thanks to Rev. Jackson, and have truly begun to establish themselves in the heady realm of high finance - from a legitimate level. The topic, appropriately was THE BUSINESS OF HIP HOP - WHAT CAN HIP HOP DO?
The panel, hosted by Jineea Butler (HipHop Union), and moderated by Shawn Granberry (Watch Now Networks) was empaneled with none other than Freeway Rick Ross, Ed Lover (Hip Hop TV LLC), P. Frank Williams (Prophet From It Entertainment), Tony Neal (The Core DJs), focused on empowerment and ownership. I will personally say that if anyone knows about self-empowerment, it's the HipHop generation. They are so far the only group of African Americans who have truly pulled themselves up by their boot straps - when you consider they are truly the product of deprivation.
|Jineea Butler Hosts HipHop Summit at 2015 Wall Street Project|
During their formative years, and under the dominance of the repuglycon party, there was a deliberate elimination of key core elements of education in the school system in Black communities. Funds were deliberately diverted from Art and Music programs, math and science programs were defunded, and schools were allowed to decay. Instead of the desired result of Black students rolling over and playing dead; or self destructing, they began to formulate their own genre of music, their own artistic expressions, their own style of clothing, their own nomenclature and language - which we now know as HipHop - in other words, our Black youth took the lemons and made lemonade, lemon merengue pie, lemon smoothies, and to top it all off, got a corner on the lemon market so they could squeeze it themselves. The result - more millionaires have come out of the HipHop generation than all the previous generations of Blacks combined. And they did it under their own ingenuity and steam. - their own creativity - which, by the way is a a direct extension of their African ancestry - something that did not go unnoticed by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (Young, Gifted & Black Conference at the CBC), or Rev. Jesse Jackson. (HipHop Summit). The beginnings in the Bronx spread rapidly throughout the US, and now has international currency throughout Africa and the Caribbean - as well as Japan and other third world countries that closely align themselves with Black culture. Now that's power!
Rev. Jackson recognized that many of those in the HipHop generation - especially now that the meanstream was trying to do business with them - were falling prey to lack of understanding of how to keep the money they made and make that money work for them and their families. He also recognized the fact that they are perhaps the largest consumers of the technology and social media, but had no stake in it, and reaped no benefits from it - millions and millions spent routinely on the latest set of headphones, smart phones - profits flowing through them to Silicon Valley and other entities.
Rev. Jackson stated: "We're the same people. It's like taking dough (to make bread) and putting some of it in a shoe and some of it in a box. It may take a different form or shape, but it's still the same dough. The one thing worse than not having power, is to have it and misdirect it. Slavery was a bad system by itself; but the other thing worse than slavery is to adjust to it. The other thing even worse is to convince yourself that it's not so bad after all." Audience applauded He continued: "I remember when I first went to jail for using the public library in South Carolina, our own people protested. They said 'you don't need no library to read no book.' They had adjusted to not having access, and considered that ti was not so bad after all."
As usual, Rev. Jackson led the Summit Conferees in a mantra: "Black life matters. Information matters. Without information, Black life loses its power."
"I was in Ferguson a few weeks ago, and Black there are 80% of the town. We've got power. But, only 6% of them voted, so we've dropped our power." When rev. Jackson said they needed to register to vote, one of the youth said "to hell with voting. We're past all that! We want to bust them down." So when I said would you like to be on the jury to convict the cop who shot Mike Brown? He said yes. When I told him only registered voters could be on the jury, he had no idea. He didn't know. He had the power of the vote and didn't know. He just didn't know his power - Black life matters - Information matters. Without information, Black life loses its power."
P. Frank Williams summed his focus up in three words: "Ownership, ownership, ownership. The producer of Unsung, talked about the fact that HipHop was an art form not owned by the people, but by those who don't want to pay us to have ownership. Some of the economic control over our own company has passed into the hands of others. So he's gone from being the slave to being the plantation owner. He formed HipHop TV - the first 24 hour over the top TV format - "It's important to own it!" he asserted. "I come from a Black Panther mentality. Whic means we didn't march in the streets, we have to take control - Ownership! Ownership! Ownership!"
|P. FRANK WILLIAMS HIP HOP TV|
Rick Ross went from $125.00 and turned it into $3 million a day. But went to prison for it. While incarcerated, he states, "I taught myself to read and write. I defended myself and got an acquittal, but still had 9 more years to serve. So I began to study how it was that I made the $3million dollars a day in the first place. Was it a fluke? I began reading and studying every financial guru there was until I understood everything there was to know about money. Now I go to schools and teach other kids what I know."
|FREEWAY RICK ROSS|
Ed Lover made it clear that he did not come from a deprived childhood. "I had both my parents, I had a solid background from the middle class Queens. Now he's the VP of HipHop TV - many people had wanted him to go back to MTV - but he related how, when how callously he was ejected from Power 105, even though he had worked hard to make it a household name. "HR walked me out of the building, and basically said get the "f" out - it's all about ownership and nothing else matters. We have to create ownership, and teach our children not to just have a good job where other people are owners, we have to be totally focused on our own. We are the biggest consumers in the world! I'm all about supporting Chris Rock's TOP FIVE (the movie) - but the same guy (at SONY) was talking bad about Barack Obama!!"
|ED LOVER VP HIP HOP TV|
Mims was the first to declare that he was a citizen of HipHop. His success came about in 2007 when I released THIS IS WHY I'M HOT. Huge record, I guess - I grossed $16 million my first year. I'm from Washington Heights (my old neighborhood), with no money in my pocket. Why my career was so significant as opposed to other artists, is because I actually used technology, because there were no open doors for me; there were no label that were willing to sign me. There weren't A&Rs looking to bring me on the roster, and I wouldn't take no for an answer. So as an artist I utilized the technology and certain websites. I am a part of the new regime of HipHop which is to be your own boss. Subsequently, I did sign to a major label, and every thing went down hill from there, but prior to that I learned a lot as an artist and a businessman. So I'm just here to represent HipHop as an artist and as a businessman as well."
|MIMS - CITIZEN OF HIP HOP|
Tony Neal of the Core DJs Worldwide/ He has been very instrumental in helping me move the HipHop Union with the artists, and move it with the Dj's around the country. Tony has the network; he's his own brand; he brings a lot to the table. "Back in 2004, I worked in radio in Clear Channel forever. I understand what Ed meant when he said that once they feel they're done with you, it's a wrap. Basically, I was in a situation with another organization, and didn't like the way things were going." He continues that since everything, HipHop, started with a DJ, he wanted to unionize the DJs because he didn't like the way DJs were being treated. He started with 600 DJs called Core DJ Worldwide - core meaning the center of HipHop - which today has one of the longest running conferences that we do twice a year, is one of the longest running conferences in HipHop. We honor our men. I made sure I recognize all who came before me that I watched, that taught me. On the technology side Mims was one of the first artists that we worked with, and I just grew this business, and I tried to make something that I owned. When you grow your own business you can't get fired from something that you own. Make sure that what you do benefits you and benefits what you own. Can't get away from what they own, they're always going to be there, but if you're going to work with them, make sure it benefits what you own, what you put out there for yourself as well. And so me doing mixes on XM I make sure it benefit what I own already." Tony Neal is also included in the Power 30 for the second year in a row.
|TONY NEAL FOUNDER OF CORE DJS|
Moderator - CEO of Watch Now Network Shawn Granberry "When I was a student at UC Berkley, I majored in African American studies, and did a focus on the economic history of African Americans. After slavery, one of the first plans plotted out for the direction of our people was from Booker T. Washington. And the first thing he said was before we march, before we strike, before we do anything, we'd better build an economic base. Because if you work for the people you're striking against, you're lost before you start. He believed that we needed to train everyone in how to be self sufficient - whether it be plumbers, carpenters, those who wanted to push and drive and build industries. The point is exactly what Ed, P. Frank and the whole panel said, it was ownership. As long as you worked for someone, your job could be gone tomorrow. The gave a great example. I'm from corporate America too. One day they told me to beat it. No reason, no advances, no nothing. Luckily I had very good lawyers. One thing I studied at UC Berkley was modeled by some of the greatest minds on the world - it was actually started by Rev. Jackson. He was working with his initiative to build diversity in Silicon Valley - Basically the Rainbow/PUSH team was beating down doors saying 'Hey! you know there's none of us working here - there's no one on any of the boards, the VC (venture capital) funds have no one, basically; where are we - how are we represented in this industry?
|SHAWN GRANBERRY OF WATCH NOW NETWORKS|
Granberry continued, "What I studied was what kind of companies do we need to create that gives us the opportunity to use what we have? So I designed WATCHNOW NETWORK as a technology company. Very few African Americans that participate in technology." Some of the numbers he presented: Less than 1% of the companies funded by VCs are led by African Americans - I mean even as a partner. Not just, 'I'm the head CEO-guy - one of the founders. So less than 1% are funded to African American start ups - that means we don't exist! We really don't exist when it comes to technology. Yeah, we Tweet all the time, we're on FaceBook all the time, we're Instagramming all the time - NO OWNERSHIP! Not even the janitor in these companies (are Black). That's what Rev. Jackson is talking about. WE HAVE TO BE INCLUDED IN THINGS WE PARTICIPATE IN. What I studied was "how do we create companies and use the power that we have as a people to build a company?"
So Mr. Granberry's solution with Watchnow Network was to build a company with over the top networks. Over the top means that the content is broadcast directly to your smart device. Videos being watch over the phone is a way to broadcast. He made the analogy that we are in the same place today that Bob Johnson, founder of BET was 30 years ago - but at a much higher lever. Like Johnson was at the right place at the right time, with the beginning of the cable industry, we are likewise poised for similar greatness - the cable industry is changing to an over the top format. Cable providers realize they can no longer charge high monthly rates for people to watch content anymore, because young people watch it on their phones. Now with set top devices you can watch it on a screen directly in front of you - what you want, when you want, how you want to watch it for $10.00 a month.
"So," he continues, "that is the new broadcast model. So now, we fit in an arena where the broadcast model is changing, just like 30 years ago. We should create a company that reflects the changing times, that broadcasts directly to smart devices. So our flagship product is HIP HOP TV. And I chose that for one reason: HipHop we create the culture - we create the culture! And it's broadcast around the world by other people. And other people make the money! So on the street corner, when those two guys decided to sell 5X Tee shirts - a lot of people are buying 5X Tee Shirts around the world. Billions of dollars are generated from a decision made by a kid in Harlem who decided "I'm going to wear a 5X Tee Shirt." or "I'm going to wear corn rows." What ever that decision is, that generates revenue around the world that we create. That our kids create! So why not turn that into a business model? So that's what I did, and my team has done with Watch Now Network. So when Rev. Jackson talks about the kids in Nigeria being overshadowed by the incidence in France, we can do the Nigeria story and downplay the French story! We make the decision. It's not Viacom or Comcast, CNN, when we control the network ownership, it's a different model. That is the power of what we're talking about. We have power as a people, we just have to study. In fact, we have to go backwards. We have to go back to what Booker T said: Build your economic base first before you pick up picket signs. Have your own job first before you ask somebody else for a job. Because the recent studies show that most African American executives - and we had some of the top African American executives at this conference today - the top in the whole country - they can't even speak up, because they face what we all face at work - they will lose their jobs if they do. They work for people, and the work for people that don't look like them. The higher up they are as executives, they work for people that's not them. So now with new technology, things are changing."
Granberry held a webinar on The Redirect Power that African Americans have - the power of Black Twitter. There are people on Twitter that can destroy your career - Black Twitter people - in our model we like that FaceBook and Twitter are big, because now we can redirect traffic to where we want it to. So a guy can tweet and say go see the rest of it on HipHop TV. Use our power to build our own companies. How can we use our power to build companies. And technology allows us to do it - the playing field is really being leveled. When they talk about venture capital, and there's no diversity in venture capital - we got money - we got money too. We need to start setting up our own VCs. We've got some African American people with deep pockets! And they don't participate in VC funds. It's just started. Nas has a fund, Carmello has a fund - we need to start teaching our high net worth individuals to participate. Oprah has one. And I will give an example: One app sold earlier this year for $19 billion! The founder of the company was on food stamps - he walked away with $6.5 billion dollars in his pocket. The secretary that had 1% in the company walked away with $160 million!! We got to realize what these numbers are! And we need to participate in these kinds of businesses - so this is about the business of HipHop. The topic is What Can HipHop Do?"
P. Frank Williams was the first to respond to what HipHop can do in terms of economics: "Everybody today has been trying to figure out how can African Americans take hold of the technology movement and try to not so much be a victim, but owners. I believe HipHop is currency. I've seen kids that own their own clothing labels, their own shows. Think about your entrepreneurship rather than just getting a job. For me, personally, I work in content, and I produce a lot of stuff, and 90% of it I don't own - because I'm just like you, I've got bills, I got kids, I've got things I've got to do. But now I have my own production company where people pay me to produce stuff because I worked and now I've become an owner. *The elephant in the room is that a lot of times Black people don't want to invest in Black people. If we have a Black company who is thinking about working with us, and they decide to go into partnership with them, they may go with an Asian company instead. Our people don't invest each other."
*Of course this understatement has been echoed over and over again, at least within the last 50 years - it wasn't always that way -and one wonders what happened during the 60's and beyond to change that. Black people used to work together, throw in with each other on projects - lend each other money (and pay it back), share with each other. The only major factor that was introduced over the last 50 years that could have had such a devastating affect on our trust in each other was drugs - and the way it changed our personalities and our approach to each other. The concept of us not sticking together was a foreign one until then. Now it's become the rule, as opposed to the exception (GDW).
We need to dispel these myths about content and quality, We need to do good business and we need to do it to the level that somebody like myself who can put it on television can do a good job. And with HipHop TV we're taking that same level of quality that you would normally see, and now we're doing it for ourselves and we will be able to control that."
Williams gave an example of having worked on a documentary on the Black Panthers for a meanstream media system. He had done all the research, interviews in the field, and had put together a credible documentary, only to have the executive say: "Well these guys were just a bunch of angry young people. But Black people wouldn't say that the Black Panthers were a bunch of young angry people. They were people trying to defend their rights and take care of their community. But in that particular situation, I didn't have the power to control the final words that came on television. I was just in the field. And I sat there at my desk, and the weird thing that came into my head - I knew Tupac, and heard Pac say to me: 'you let some white boy tell you about the content about the Black Panthers? What are you doing? So today, my message to you who has put all that work in the field that I'm running into the 'big house' and you know, I built this place! All you going to have to get out, and we're taking over!"
Freeway Rick Ross was short, sweet and to the point: "I go out and speak to a lot of kids in ghettos around the country, and I understand the power that HipHop has. Just the other day I was with an artist who just recently got out of prison, and they called him Little Bootsie or Bootsie BadAss. And I left him and went to Columbus, OH and spoke at a school. And while I was at that school the kids had saw me and Bootsie on the pictures. A couple of kids came up to me and said 'man, I idolize Bootsie. And what I learned from that is that our HipHop artists can either build our community up, or tear us down, because a lot of our kids are getting their information from these artists or from the media. So, I believe that if we teach our HipHop artists how to give uplifting messages, or motivational messages, or economical messages, then it can really help our community."
Ed Lover: HipHop can do a lot, and I want to piggy-back off of what Rick just said - I want to speak about the power to turn things around - we've been talking about technology and the fact that we don't have any currency with the Venture Capitalists. But a lot of things start at the grass roots. A lot of us in this room are parents. I think it falls on you - you have to get your kid involved in technology at an early age. You have to make sure that your kids get the proper education in order to fight for these jobs, when these jobs come up in the technological world and in the economic world. I think we have to start teaching our kids about economics at a very, very early age. My parents didn't teach me anything about economics because they didn't know anything about economics. Because they didn't have anybody to teach them about economics. We know that we don't come from generational wealth. We have to now start in the years that we're facing now to build generational wealth. We have a small percentage of African Americans in this country that are going to have generational wealth, and those are the ones that we're always on social network and talking about, instead of paying attention to our own stuff and teaching our kids. And IT STARTS WITH YOU!
WHAT HIPHOP CAN DO IS CHANGE YOUR LIFE; WHAT HIPHOP CAN DO IS MAKE YOU FEEL A CERTAIN WAY. We all remember how we felt, and how proud to be Black we were when Public Enemy was reigning supreme on your radio. When we had X-Klan, and Queen Latifah said U.N.I.T.Y.! It is by design that you don't hear positive music on the radio anymore. It's by design! As soon as somebody says something crazy that you guys don't like, we get out there and picket for a couple of days, and then they get on and the CEO or the program director makes a formal announcement that 'we're going to change the way we do things. And then they do it for two weeks and go right back to the regular b.s. that you've been listening to before. Music touches these kids hearts. Think about how you felt growing up and how much music meant to you! All they're being fed is negativity - and when they're being fed negativity, they walk out with a negative state of mind, and they go out there and they commit crimes. And the same companies that are putting out the negative music are the same companies that have money invested in privatized prisons. So it's designed to lock your children up!
So it has to start with you. They're not going to do it, they never did it! We're only 13% of the population, they don't care about us!. We have to care about us, so it starts with each and every person in this room!" Ed Lover followed up by saying that we can't necessarily change the children's mind about who they listen to (since it never worked when parents tried that in the past), but to demand a balance when it comes to the types of music that gets airplay. Have as many positive, uplifting artists as there are negative ones - so kids hear both sides of the musical spectrum. We have the power to make them put positive artists on the radio because there are conscious artists out there. "They're just not getting play, and they're not getting play on the radio by design! HipHop can galvanize a community of people to make a change in this world. I AM HIPHOP!!"
|L-R: FREEWAY RICK ROSS AND ED LOVER|
He further stated that we have to get our kids to think about technology in the form of development and investment - not just a form of communication. It's not about the next hot boodie model on Instagram. I was just in the other room listening to Steve Ballmer (CEO Microsoft) who owns the Clippers, and bought it for $2 Billion flat! Flat out! $2 Billion? All right here! boom! I don't know no Black person that can buy a team for $2 billion. And he was talking about the importance of his education in economics. Without that economic background, he wouldn't have been able to get to where he was in order to get to that generational wealth. His kids will never want for anything! Ever! We all want that in our lives. We don't want to sit there and talk about what Jay got and what Beyonce` got - putting up dumb pictures 'ooh I wish I had a love like that - please! please! And then your kid is bringing you "Fs" and "Ds" and you don't think that it's important to get him (or her) to be economically sound. What y'all don't understand is that Jay didn't make his money off of music. He made his billions when he got the power he has to evoke change. Somebody said 'you can change people's minds about what they wear." He finally figured out that he influenced culture, got with some smart people who helped him - they asked him: "Do you want to be hood rich; or do you want to be rich rich? He decided that he wanted the generational wealth; so he cut all the fat and now he's on Forbes' list. But every kid out there who wants to be a rapper thinks Jay-Z made his money off rap, but it didn't happen that way!"
Ed Lover strongly recommends that we teach our children about the importance of learning about economics and technology in order to build generational wealth that can be passed down to the next generation of children. His grandfather who was a share cropper had nothing to pass down to his mother; his mother had nothing to pass down to him; but he's working on changing that formulation with Watch Now TV. He closed by saying you're not going to building it just by working for a company - you have to be an entrepreneur and own your own. "So, I'm tired of working for other people, and I'm quite sure that everybody in here is tired about working for somebody also. It's all about what you learn, and what you teach your kids - that what's HipHop can do for you. The next level of this is generational wealth through economics and technology, and the only way we're going to get that is, when your kid comes home, that grade ain't good enough - you got to do better! What did Dr. King say? The next movement is economic! So you have to teach your kids. And this is what Rev. Jackson is doing with Intel (who just pledged $300 million in funds for Black employment and training at their more than 700 affiliates world wide) - we're standing in line for sneakers, yet Mike don't put nothing back in the hood. We have all these companies in here with all this disposable money they want to share with us, because they want to do this and they want to do that. And we can't let it get into the wrong hands because we know that then it won't get to us. We know that. You got to teach your kids the importance of economic independence, how to save money now and become economically sound. Make them learn coding - all these games they play - put them in a position where they're creating the video games. And that's the only way we're going to get ahead. That's what HipHop can do for you."
Mims: One of the things that I've learned is that your network defines your net worth. It's our business to surround ourselves with people who are actually looking to benefit in life. I think a lot of times we get held back in business and life because we place ourselves in the wrong position, around the wrong people, under the wrong circumstances. I understood the voices that were missing when I entered the business. I understood where the technology was going - back in 2007, I was told no in reference to releasing a record by every single company that you could imagine told me no at the time. So I said I won't accept that. Tony Neal even said that before he created Core DJs - I was one of the first artists to be a part of that movement - and I put myself in the right atmosphere, around the right people." He used the example of a friend of his from Philadelphia involved in Real Estate Development, who was able to drop everything and fly with him to Dubai at the drop of a hat after having purchase his own ticket the same day of the flight. "I am not just a product of my neighborhood - but so much more than that. So I believe that your net worth is defined by who you network with."
Tony Neal: As with Ed Lover, HipHop kind of saved my life as well. I'm from the mid-West - Milwaukee, Wisconsin and at age 11 or 12 I was running with a lot of gangs - you put out what you give back. When I was younger, I saw the effects it had on other people coming up - whether they wanted to belonged to it, or just claimed it, didn't know what to do with it - just to be a part of something because a lot of fathers weren't around. I guess that also stems from losing my son in 2002. When you put stuff out into the air it comes back on you. There are so many people who can teach positive things. There are so many people who can get rich by buying their own products. It's an organization that didn't start off as a street gang - but something that was trying to help; and lo and behold it turned into something else. They now have collective economics and put into it the best quality because that's what they want to get out of it.
Cloves C. Campbell, Jr, Chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and honorary co-chair of the Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Project pledged to bring the considerable support of Black newspapers behind the progress and activities of the HipHop Summit and the artists as they move forward. Stating that, by and large, the meanstream media primarily focuses on the negative aspects, "We will publicize the positive things you're doing so that there is a balance in the media. We are here for you.
|CLOVES C. CAMPBELL CHAIR NNPA|
HipHop is coming into its own in a major way and is taking those with it that have been an integral part through the years, and simultaneously reaching out to youth to make sure they continue to have a stake in what's going on. More than any other movement, the HipHop generations' impact on Black culture, here and world wide, has opened doors and leveled the playing field economically, socially, technologically and educationally - with a promise of more yet to be.
Stay Blessed &
NOTE: All Photos by Gloria Dulan-Wilson except Shawn Granberry