Tuesday, hundreds of black professionals converged on the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel for day one of the 18th Annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project Economic Summit. Taking place this week, January 13-15, attendees marched toward the goal of diversified economic inclusion, empowerment, and knowledge. The summit’s tagline, “Where Wall Street, Main Street & Silicon Valley Converge” literally came alive on multiple floors. While one focused fully on the annual Wall Street Project Youth Summit, the third floor began its day with a one on one chat between Rainbow PUSH’s Founder and President, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich. The intimate discussion detailed the outlook behind Intel’s recent landmark announcement establishing a $300 million diversity investment fund. “Today, Intel has defined unequivocally and measurably what it means to ‘do better,”’ said Rev. Jackson. “They are definitively answering the question, ‘Where do we as tech companies and an industry want to be?’”
During the conversation with Jackson, Krzanich candidly and comfortably discussed race, even explaining why some companies still don’t acknowledge Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a holiday. “Microinequity,” he said, defining the oversight. “When you don’t see your ignorance to the issue. Not having the King holiday as a paid holiday like Christmas is sending a small message to African American employees that it‘s not too important. The small things add up.”
Perfectly timed to follow the talk with Intel was “The Urban Tech Boom.” Moderated by Silicon Harlem Founders, Bruce Lincoln and Clayton Banks, the panel focused on the growing faces of African Americans in the technology field and the need to collaborate with other like minds and faces.
But one of the most anticipated events of the day was Black Enterprise’s 40 Best Companies for Diversity luncheon. The crowded room of power people attended to support BE’s eighth year of an epic annual effort to reach out to more than 1,000 companies and highlight those that make the inclusion of minorities and women a top priority.
Jackson’s opening remarks at the luncheon set the tone for why black professionals in the workforce have always been instrumental to American society. “We fought to end slavery and it made America better. We fought to end slavery and it benefited those we fought to bring those walls down,” he said. “We built the whole South and pulled the cotton curtain down.”
Black Enterprise President and CEO Earl Graves Jr. took to the podium, thanked content and research staff and attributed the partnership with PUSH to remembering Jackson’s words. “He stressed we have to work together,” Graves said. “I want to thank him for more than 50 years of advocacy.”
Graves went on to name each of the 40 companies on BE’s annual diversity list, with representatives accepting their award to rousing support and applause.