by j. derek penn

Racial injustice isn’t anything new to our country, and all too often, when it seems we’ve gotten over one hurdle in making strides to eliminate racial inequality, another hurdle pops up. Author Derek Penn’s Diary of a Black Man on Wall Street: From Youngstown, Ohio, to the Big Apple couldn’t have come at a better time.

As a kid growing up in the sixties, Penn watched his dad toil in the blast furnaces of Youngstown, Ohio’s Republic Steel. “Dad, I want to do what you do when I grow up!” he remembers telling him. Without hesitation, his father said, “I’m doing this so you never have to think of a job like this. Don’t you ever lower your ambition to working in a hellhole like this!” Penn admired his father, who worked two jobs and put himself through school to earn his undergraduate degree. But when his father was told he could not accept the prestigious scholarship he had qualified for because it had been intended for a white person, Penn believes he was never the same again.

Penn’s story of determination is peppered with his own racial struggles and triumphs, from his elementary and middle school years, to his acceptance at Duke University, where he excelled in athletics as one of the university’s standout players, to his tryout for the NFL, to his acceptance into Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and his eventual 34 year success on Wall Street. 

As the nation challenges its history of systematic inequality there is still great hope. And it is the author’s hope that his book will inspire even one person of color to charge on in whatever endeavor they are pursuing, while also educating the majority about the oppression Black Americans endure. We must keep persevering and strategically fighting, and in the words of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, “Keep hope alive.”


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