With banks, businesses, and homeowners hanging by a thread from last year’s credit crisis, the 2009 12th annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit has quite a challenge to surmount. The Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a social and civil rights organization, has created a conference that it hopes will set a course for those suffering from the fallout.
“The economic downturn has been double trouble for black Americans,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “They already were at the bottom of every category, such as access to capital and life expectancy. The consequences of the economy are serious for most Americans but disastrous for African Americans.”
The theme for this year’s summit is “Fallout From the Bailout: A New Day in Washington,” and to that end, organizers plan to take to task the U.S. Treasury Department for its $700 billion bail out of Wall Street.
The conference, which runs Jan. 13-16 at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, will include several panel discussions on the ongoing economic crisis, a breakfast discussion on access to capital, workshops offering solutions to the foreclosure crisis, and wealth building sessions for women and women-owned businesses. There will also be a regulatory roundtable and a job fair.
The conference will also address workforce and supplier diversity, and discuss whether the opportunities for small businesses still exist.
“[In these times] it matters less whether you are a woman or a minority. What matters: What is your unit contributing to the bottom line of the company? Companies are looking at the profitable units and they are looking to trim expenses,” says Terri Austin, chief diversity officer at American International Group Inc., and a panelist on a session addressing the impact of the economic crisis on diversity. “Companies have to look at diversity as contributing to the bottom line. Having a diverse workforce leads to innovation.”
The Wall Street Project seeks to “promote access to capital for minority businesses, better hiring and promotion practices, appointment of larger numbers of minorities to corporate boards, and increased business and cooperation between majority and minority-owned companies,” according to the Rainbow PUSH coalition. Jackson created the Wall Street Project on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday 12 years ago to promote racial equality and economic justice.