March on Washington Misses Huge Opportunity
By Mike Green
The March on Washington missed a huge opportunity to catalyze a 21st century movement on economic inclusion.
Al Sharpton gave the keynote address on Aug. 24, during the 50-year commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington. His leadership, along with Civil Rights era icons, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman John Lewis and so many others, is much appreciated. The work of the supporters of the Civil Rights Movement, from known heroes and those unsung, established the platforms upon which we all stand today. And that’s why it’s so disappointing that tens of thousands who attended the remembrance this past weekend never heard about what happened in Tacoma, Washington the week before. It was a tremendous opportunity missed.
What Happened in Tacoma?
Al Herron is a black particle physicist in the Seattle-Tacoma region with a passion for STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math). He formed a consulting company, Puget Sound Nexus (PSNXS) and produced the region’s first Puget Sound Region Economic Solutions Summit, which convened at the William Factory Business Incubator in Tacoma, Washington on Aug. 16, 2013.
Al worked with me through my organization, Saving America’s Black Boys (SABB) and The America21 Project (an organization I co-founded), to design an agenda that would attract a cross section of local economic and community development stakeholders. In the aftermath of President Obama’s clarion call for convening of business leaders, elected officials, clergy, entertainers, athletes and other concerned community leaders and influencers, Tacoma is the first place in the nation to pull together such a gathering around the issue of economic inclusion in answer to the president’s call.
The result was awe-inspiring.
Al’s team worked hard on short deadlines to ensure a high-impact stage was set
The attendees spanned across the spectrum of K-12 and higher education, small business and corporate, entrepreneurship, economic development, policymaking, finance, philanthropy, civil rights organizations, elected and appointed state and city leaders, and even an elite pro athlete.
The economic imperative of Inclusive Competitiveness was unknown to every attendee yet hit with such clarity that immediate collaborations were formed during the day-long summit.
Action-oriented solutions toward establishing inclusive economic frameworks that connect to the local innovation ecosystem are under development today.
Clover Park Technical College, the City of Tacoma, Urban League, Morgan Stanley, and other stakeholders are engaged in the beginning stages of strategic planning with Al Herron and PS Nexus to establish a pipeline of entrepreneurial talent from the education sector that connects with a local startup innovation culture comprised of activities, mentoring and capital resources all revolving around Tacoma’s business incubator.
Tacoma and DC
By the time Al Sharpton had spoken last weekend, more than 2,800 miles away Al Herron had already taken exponential steps toward accelerating the economic environment in Tacoma toward the economic vision of Inclusive Competitiveness.
This economic vision for a 21st century multicultural America is the brainchild of Johnathan Holifield, Esq., who holds the distinction of also being the nation’s only Vice President of Inclusive Competitiveness, a position he holds at NorTech, a prestigious tech-based economic development powerhouse in Cleveland that covers 21 counties in Northeast Ohio.
America’s 21st Century Economic Vision
Johnathan was the keynote speaker at the Puget Sound Region Economic Solutions Summit. And he brought the house down. The most notable feedback was the constant refrain of awe, expressed in myriad ways. These local leaders, all of whom have significant experience and depth of knowledge across a broad landscape, had never heard the data, research and total package of information as it was presented at this summit. That’s consistent with a dearth of this new tech-based economic knowledge in black communities, churches, colleges and universities, as well as business sectors across the national landscape. Even the revered Congressional Black Caucus lags behind understanding this emerging national economic vision.
Although much of the information presented during the summit established an understanding of dire urgent circumstances, the audience was visibly energized by the clear vision presented by Johnathan, with specific steps that can be taken to engage disconnected communities in a new economy with entrepreneurial opportunities for wealth creation and job growth.
Missing Element in March on Washington 2013
That energy, fueled by a clear vision for America’s disconnected communities to fully engage in the knowledge-based, tech-driven globally competitive innovation economy, was the key element missing in the March on Washington last weekend.
After 50 years of protest and complaints about lack of jobs and economic opportunity, the vision of Inclusive Competitiveness has emerged as the energizing force that unified the audience in Tacoma and could have also electrified the crowds in D.C. to start a 21st century economic movement toward developing inclusive economic frameworks across America.
Tacoma Answers Obama’s Call
Tacoma was the first to respond to President Obama’s plea to the nation on July 19 to convene, connect and convey a message to African American males that we value their talent, skills and creativity enough to invest in developing inclusive economic frameworks that produce a pipeline to productivity through which they can access opportunity. Those pipelines are for all our youth to prepare and be equipped to compete in a global landscape of opportunity.
Tacoma’s immediate response to President Obama, and the collaboration of Urban League, NAACP, Tacoma’s Black Collective, The City of Tacoma and Clover Park Technical College, is largely due to catalytic work by Al Herron and his team at PS Nexus. But most assuredly, this summit would never have happened were it not for the willing spirit and desire of passionate leaders in the region who believe this is one of the most important investments of their time and focus.
Tacoma was first. Which city will be next?
Contact me today. Let’s get this movement started.