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March 1, 2001

Jackson: Apartheid Persists

By Sanford Wexler

Also in this article

  • Jackson: Apartheid Persists

It does not at all affect somebody trying to be part of an LBO or an underwriter.'

Jackson on his Extra-Marital Scandal

Four years ago the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson turned a dream into a reality: He launched his Wall Street Project. The economic and politicial goal: jobs and investment opportunities for minorities in the financial community. Jackson, who has been at the center of controversy recently, has close ties with financial titans including Big Board Chairman Richard Grasso and Citigroup's Sanford Weill. Sanford Wexler spoke with the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson for Traders Magazine.

Traders: Describe the Wall Street Project.

Jackson: The Wall Street Project is the fourth stage in the civil rights struggle. The first was the ending of legal slavery and Wall Street was a factor there. The second was the ending of legal segregation. The third was giving all Americans the right to vote. The fourth is access to capital, technology, and industry.

You could conceivably have an end to slavery, end segregation, have the right to vote - and starve. Today, with the exception of the Johnson Publishing Company, African-Americans do not own a single downtown building in America. That's classic economic apartheid. As we sought to come out of slavery and end segregation and got the right to vote, so we are seeking to get access to capital and credit.

We have set up offices in the financial centers - Wall Street in New York, South Street in Chicago, Silicon Valley, 9th Street in Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta. The whole point is that the [Wall Street Project] has bought stock in 50 corporations for the purpose of doing the research on the make-up of their board of directors. We are doing [other] research on these corporations. They have been one-way traders. We want a balance of trade. If you trade with us we want to be part of the board of directors, the management team, the employment, the vendors, the legal team. We want to be trading partners vertically and horizontally. When they have leveraged buy-outs, we will use our consumer leverage to challenge them.

Traders: There are a number of minority-owned firms now on the Street.

Jackson: These are [minority firms] who couldn't get a return call [in the past]. They were qualified and had worked in the major finance houses. If you talk with John Utendahl [Utendahl Capital Partners], Chris Williams [Williams Capital], Ron Blaylock [Blaylock & Partners], they will tell you that there are advantages of doing business with them...We think the opportunity for growth is the greatest incentive for doing more business [with minorities].

Traders: Minorities have made headway in law and medicine, what about Wall Street?

Jackson: Lawyers and doctors have been more insistent to break the lock-out than [Wall Street]. They tend to be sole practitioners. You tend to do business with people you know and like. The American Bar Association and the American Medical Association has been an organized force. Wall Street entrepreneurs historically have not been.

Traders: What about the Securities Industry Association?