The Rev. Jesse Jackson is headed to the city for the 21st annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit, Feb. 8 through Feb. 9, at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. This year’s theme is 50 Years After the Assassination of Dr. King: The Struggle Continues for Freedom, Equity and Inclusion in Corporate America. This year’s event will feature sessions on private equity investments, board diversity, minority procurement and other business opportunities, life after pro-sports and new technology.
In an interview, Jackson discussed why this year’s summit is so important. During his recent State of the Union address, Trump touted lowering the Black unemployment rate; however, numbers show that Black people still have higher rates of unemployment as compared to white people.
“At the summit we will be addressing Black unemployment,” Jackson said. “Trump has been hostile when it comes to poor people. He’s been talking about reducing the unemployment rate—that happened under Obama. As the recovery continues we need to urge investment in our own institutions like radio stations and banks.”
In a recent column, Jackson noted that Black communities across the country are dealing with unemployment at 20 percent and poverty at 40 percent, and conditions are worse for young African-American men.
Jackson was pleased with the announcement that Apple, Inc. will spend $30 billion over five years on domestic jobs and projects, including manufacturing and data centers. He added that more corporations also need to give Blacks a seat at the table when it comes to executive boards.
“Our top concern is that there is only a handful of Blacks on boards,” he said. “We need more people of color on corporate boards, especially in Silicon Valley. Companies like Apple must to a better job when it comes to diversity.”
In November, Jackson announced that he was battling Parkinson’s disease. He made the announcement after seeing a doctor about symptoms he could no longer ignore. When asked about his health, Jackson said he was doing fine.
“I’m doing good,” he said. “I need a lot of prayer, but I will be all right.”
The Wall Street Project’s Economic Summit is scheduled to bring entrepreneurs, corporate executives and the nation’s leading policymakers together to increase business and employment opportunities for African-Americans, women and other people of color. “We’re looking to expand upon past progress and discuss ways to increase opportunities for minorities and women,” said Jackson. “There is still much more work to be done in terms of our freedom, equity, diversity and inclusion, particularly in today’s political climate.”
Speakers at the summit include City Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Sen. Jesse Hamilton, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Tonya Lewis Lee. The Wall Street Project Gala Fundraiser will take place Friday, Feb. 9, and will feature performances by Audrey DuBois Harris and Avery Sunshine. This year’s honorees are Flint, Mich., Mayor Karen Weaver, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, former Minister of State at the Presidency of the Republic of Ghana Akwasi Oppong-Fosu and Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal.
CYRIL JOSH BARKER