Spreading the Teachings of Digital Opportunities for African-Americans

CHICAGO, Jan. 16, 2007 – Rev. Jesse Jackson, the longtime U.S. civil-rights leader, and founding president and CEO of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, joined Microsoft employees Monday at the company’s Day of Inclusion, a time to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and to celebrate Microsoft’s commitment to diversity as a business imperative. In the United States, Monday was observed as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday marking the slain civil-rights leader’s birthday.

Bruce Montgomery, director of community development, Black Data Processors Association, Chicago Chapter (left); Rev. Jesse Jackson; Mike Porter, general manager, Microsoft SMS&P (Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners), Chicago

“Dr. King spoke about economic development as a means to achieving full equality in American society,” Jackson said in a statement prior to his speech, which was broadcast live via webcast from Microsoft’s Chicago office to thousands of Microsoft employees around the world. “It’s time for African-Americans to stake our claim in the technology industry by becoming the creators and retailers of the very products we consume.”

An on-demand webcast of Jackson’s 30-minute speech is available to the public.

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition, headquartered in Chicago, is a progressive organization dedicated to protecting, defending and expanding civil rights, to improve economic and educational opportunity for all. “Whenever the playing field is even, and the rules are public, and the goals are clear, we can accept the outcome,” Jackson said.

Jackson was joined at the event by Bruce Montgomery, director of community development at the Chicago chapter of the Black Data Processors Association (BDPA). Microsoft is a longtime national sponsor of the BDPA, and last year sponsored the 2006 BDPA Education Banquet, generating funding to support Chicago-area African-American youth to participate in a national computer programming competition. The Chicago youth team won the 2006 national competition.

The Microsoft Day of Inclusion is part of the company’s commitment to creating more opportunities for African Americans to advance even further in the technology industry. “We are honored to have Rev. Jackson stand with us in our dedication to creating digital opportunities for African Americans and other minorities,” said Shelley Stern Grach, community affairs director at Microsoft Chicago, who also serves on the BDPA Corporate Committee with Montgomery. “We invite other technology corporations to join us in partnering with African American community organizations to create digital opportunities that all can partake in.”

King united people from all walks of life, inspiring others to change their communities through diversity and inclusion. In his address Monday, Jackson underscored the importance of keeping Dr. King’s dream alive, and called on corporations to embrace diversity and the positive impact it has on a company’s bottom line.

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