African American activist Jesse Jackson has turned his attention to the fact that Silicon Valley is still a "white male bastion" and he is spending money to change that.
Jackson's non profit Rainbow/Push Coalition invested $51,000 in 51 companies last month, buying $1,000 worth of shares in each. The companies range from Apple Computer to Yahoo.
Secondly, Jackson is raising money to open an office in Silicon Valley for his Rainbow/Push Coalition. He said: "From there staffers will do research on the companies and negotiate with the companies."
"As stockholders, we can say okay Mr. Chairman, who is on our board? Who are our top 200 employees and who is managing our pension funds," Jackson said. "While the picket line will always have its place, access to the shareholder's meeting is a far more important tool."
The office will specialise in research and education. The research will provide detailed information on local companies to make clear those that are not engaged in reciprocal trade with black and brown communities. Jackson said: "If negotiation works, there will be reconciliation. If it fails, the Rainbow/Push Coalition will call for demonstrations."
"We don't want to slow down Silicon valley. We want to enhance it. We want them to expand the market and include us, because inclusion leads to growth," Jackson said.
Butch Wing, California coordinator of Jackson's coalition, said it hopes to raise $500,000 from foundations and contributions from members and corporations, to launch the Silicon Valley office. Rainbow/Push's stock purchase selections were driven by a desire to buy shares in a cross section of the tech industry, Wing said.
Coming on the heels of Jackson's two recent visits to the valley, software industry giant Symantec announced the appointment of the only African American executive running a top Silicon Valley company. John Thompson, one of IBM's most senior executives, was named chairman and chief executive on 15 April.
"It is impossible to forget that I am African American, but I don't think about it when I do my job," Thompson said.
Four years ago, Jackson launched what he describes as the fourth stage of the civil rights struggle, seeking economic inclusion in the marketplace. He has opened offices in: New York, called the Wall Street Project; Detroit, Michigan, for the automobile industry; and Chicago, Illinois, the midwest centre of commerce.
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