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

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

met with mixed results. “Efforts underway by the Wall Street Project, the NAACP and the National Urban League should suggest to people that this isn’t happening by accident,” says Mfume. “It’s a deliberate effort to create a
circular flow of capital. And that the Wall Street Project is focusing their efforts through the stock option to get information and force change is significant.”

Realizing that smaller investors may feel dismayed at the notion of holding multibillion dollar conglomerates accountable for their actions, Mfume suggests the small to moderate investor consider banding together with other shareholders and voting in the form of a proxy. “If you have a thousand people across the country and each has 10 shares of stock in a given company, you’re now able to challenge things that happen inside of that company,” Mfume says. “We have to start thinking about economic coalitions within our own community–not just racial coalitions. As long as it’s separate and apart we’ll have a few millionaires. But together we’ll have much more economic power.”

Mfume and Jackson aren’t the only ones pushing the effort to get more African Americans involved in the stock market. The Coalition of Black Investors, a Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based group is just one of several organizations hoping to promote investment opportunities in the black community. COBI sponsored its first Black Investors Conference in September, inviting African Americans to “seize the power” of investing. Scheduled workshops included sessions lead by financial analysts and portfolio managers, in addition to primers on stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate. Jackson was also scheduled to give a keynote address.

Jackson says it’s critical that African Americans be knowledgeable, active participants in the stock market. “Imagine a fish trying to live in a world without water–that’s what it’s like to live under a system like capitalism without capital. You’re just living off the ‘ism,’” says Jackson, now clearly hitting his stride despite the early hour. “It’s like trying to live off gravy without the meat. And without the meat, gravy is just greasy water,” he says with the hint of a smile in his voice. “Can I get an amen?”

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