The civil rights leader was greeted warmly in New York as he presided over the annual meeting on the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition's Wall Street Project, which Jackson started four years ago as a way of getting more minority involvement in the financial industry.
The 59-year-old civil rights leader, speaking at a New York conference promoting diversity in the workplace, made no reference to last week's news that he fathered a daughter outside his marriage. But he did express his frustration with the media attention.
"Our paparazzi friends, please sit down," Jackson said, speaking to a small crush of photographers whose flash bulbs popped in front of his podium. "Give us all a break."
It was one of Jackson's first public appearances since he acknowledged an affair with a former Washington aide of the civil rights group.
Jackson, who had considered a temporary exit from public life after the scandal, urged corporate leaders and several hundred mainly African-American audience members to recognize the potential of minority businesses and communities.
"Wall Street barriers limit growth. Rainbow represents growth," Jackson said. "We didn't know how good baseball could be until everybody could play. And we don't know how good business could be."
Jackson, who has been a powerful force in the Democratic Party and run twice for the Democratic presidential nomination, voiced his disapproval of the Republican presidential victory.
"Our democratic birthright was taken in broad daylight," he said. "We have the queasy, uneasy feeling the state machinery and the Supreme Court combined to turn democracy topsy-turvy. The winner became the loser. The loser became the winner."
Jackson, who made a brief plea for electoral reform, was joined by top brass from computer maker Hewlett-Packard Co., investment house Goldman Sachs Group Inc.; retailer Kmart Corp., phone company Verizon Communications and insurer MetLife Inc. at the conference.
Robert Pittman, president of the newly merged media giant AOL Time Warner Inc. and a 25-year friend of Jackson's, announced a program with Rainbow/PUSH and other partners aimed at matching minority entrepreneurs with venture capitalists.
"What richer resource do we have than our diverse human capital?" Pittman asked during his presentation.
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