The Wall Street Project: What Does It Mean For You?

How Jesse Jackson's focus on the financial markets could make a difference

are you trying to achieve? It seems like he’s trying to engage the Fortune 100 firms in providing some economic resources that would provide a resolution to economic problems in the inner city. And that’s very important because the inner city suffers from a lack of adequate capital and credit, “says Alexis. “But it’s too early now and it’s a broad front he’s approaching. He’s going to be in for a hard fight.”

Yet Ernest Green, managing director of public finance for Lehman Brothers in Washington, D.C., and one of the highest-ranking African Americans on Wall Street (see “The Top 25 Blacks on Wall Street,” October 1996), believes the Wall Street Project has already been a success. “That the Rev. Jackson has shined a spotlight on this area will have an enormous impact. Jackson brings attention and focus to any issue that he decides to examine,” says Green. “Given the relatively small numbers of people of color that have participated in Wall Street and its subsidiary businesses, anyone that can get Greenspan, the president of the Stock Exchange and the president of the United States together deserves a great deal of applause.”

And Green believes the strategy of promoting conscientious stockholders among African Americans is a tactic with an im-mense upside.

“That’s one definitive way to have an impact on capital markets. Stockholders are individuals that companies respond to. This is a way to expand consumer involvement. And as the Rev. Jackson tries to expand the market, it will allow greater opportunities for African American professionals on the asset side of business to get involved. I think if we examine this not in a snapshot, but several months down the line, we’ll have built up some powerful momentum.”

John Rogers, president of Ariel Capital Management, attended both of Jackson’s conferences. He also feels the project has been a catalyst for a dialogue in corporate boardrooms across America. “The Rev. Jackson can now go to the board meetings and talk about this issue directly with board members and CEOs. I also think he’ll be in a great position to highlight the successful partnership between minority and majority companies.”

Jackson’s current rallying cry is against the proposed merger of WorldCom Inc. and MCI Communications Corp. The $37 billion purchase of MCI by WorldCom would be the largest merger in U.S. history. Jackson’s group purchased 30 shares of WorldCom and recently petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to oppose the merger on the grounds that the growing consolidation in telecommunications is shutting out minorities.

“We will challenge that merger until we can manage a reasonable portion of that money,” Jackson says. “We’re going to battle with them because as investors, partners and stockholders we can challenge them at FCC hearings, we can challenge them before Congress, and we can challenge them in the marketplace with alternative services.”

Kweisi Mfume championed the notion of economic reciprocity when he took the helm of the NAACP in 1996. His own efforts at grading the lodging and telecommunications industries thus far have

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