- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2001

CHICAGO The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson needs no pulpit to shepherd the masses, just a willing audience, a little room to dance and a few sports metaphors to drive home the point.
During an exclusive 90-minute interview with the civil rights leader at his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters on Chicago's South Side, Mr. Jackson in the wake of revelations that he fathered an illegitimate child said he has no intention of dwelling on the past.
"I am a motivator, a visionary, and I am trying to raise a higher chin bar for everyone. We can't stop serving, but we can continue to give of ourselves such as we can," said the formidable force who anchors Chicago's black community. "I don't seek to be agreed with, so much as to be understood."
Mr. Jackson alone is as animated as Mr. Jackson on the throne, given to wild hand gestures, animated faces and an occasional undefined dance step as an exclamation point. He eschews chairs, preferring to stand, stomp and speak, not necessarily in that order.
There were pockets of national outrage after the New York tabloids reported he had cheated on his wife of 38 years, Jacqueline, and had fathered a daughter, now 20 months old, during an affair with a Rainbow/PUSH Coalition employee, Karin Stanford.
He told the world that he was "truly sorry," adding that this was "no time for evasions, denials or alibis. No doubt many close friends and supporters will be disappointed in me. I ask for their forgiveness, understanding and prayers."
Miss Stanford, 39, has since returned to California, where she now lives with her daughter, but still works for the coalition as a research consultant.
In acknowledging the liaison, Mr. Jackson said in a statement he was "born of these circumstances, and I know the importance of growing up in a nurturing, supportive and protected environment. So I am determined to give my daughter and her mother the privacy they both deserve."
The relationship is not something Mr. Jackson will now discuss.
But his work is fair game. Last week in the Spartan, poorly heated office of the coalition's chief financial officer, he peppered his answers with references to his own leadership style, his growing concerns about the future, his disappointments and the goals he hopes to achieve.
He also made it clear he loves the spotlight.
"If you go to the Rose Bowl, there's 100,000 people in the stands, millions at home, and all eyes are on the one with the ball," the 6-foot-3-inch former star high school athlete said as he moved slowly across the office as if preparing to dive into the end zone.
"I want the ball and a chance to score, even if you have to be tackled in the mud," he said. "I'd rather have dirty hands and a clean heart. I can't help people who are trapped in the mud."
Mr. Jackson's latest pursuit is Wall Street, where he feels minorities have not gotten a fair shake. He spices his speech with terms like "market initiative" and "cultural blindness."
He reasons: Give qualified minorities a shot at franchises, at taking care of the black and brown markets.
"I say to these companies, 'You have something we want,' which is business ownership, and we have something they want, which is talent and market."
Mr. Jackson's efforts are aimed, he says, at bridge-building. It has made him into a professional activist, a man whose career has been built on fostering deals and trades and agreements.
"Instead of thinking about black-white issues, let's talk profit and loss," he said, closing his eyes as if waiting for his next rush of words. "Let's talk market, money, location."
Mr. Jackson minus the fervent racial angle is believable as a focused money merchant among the poor, who, he stresses, are mostly white.
"Race has become a diversion because most poor people are white," he said. "I've become a target in trying to put these communities together because the assumption is that if blacks get into business, whites lose and that's not true."
The longtime black leader believes that his effort will continue to bear fruit, and he is not shy about describing himself as an integral part of that move a bridge-builder by definition, the unofficial spokesman for former President Bill Clinton's "new market initiative."
His adherence to the mainstream civil rights plan has been steadfast over his adult life of activism, which began when he was a student at North Carolina A&T; in 1960.
He referred to the plan as a "four movement symphony."
"It was one, to end slavery; two, end segregation; three, ensure the right to vote; and four, access to capital," he said, and that's where he is now, incessantly speaking of this latest passion.
"I understand the vision," he said, referring to a continued increase of business and employment growth in depressed areas, both rural and urban. "We just didn't understand how good business could be until everyone could play.
"When the walls come down, we replace them with bridges because too few people are recycling too much money and leaving too many people out," he said, with a toe tap in cadence with some unseen band.
If the 59-year-old Mr. Jackson suffered any chinks in his armor because of fathering an out-of-wedlock child, they aren't visible around his home base of Chicago, where he founded the nonprofit PUSH in 1971 and later combined it with another self-founded group, the National Rainbow Coalition.
Mr. Jackson, considered to be America's most visible and vocal black spokesman, was greeted with a standing ovation last week at St. Sabina Church in Chicago's South Side. The frenzied congregation cheered when a pastor promised that the media "will not hang this man out to dry."
The institutional nature of the black leader seems invulnerable when talking with both friend and foe around this town.
The two-time Democratic presidential candidate is ubiquitous and amorphous here. The fact that a considerable amount of his money has gone to Miss Stanford $3,000 a month out of his own pocket is mostly unquestioned.
A short, self-imposed hiatus that began in January upon the revelation of the out-of-wedlock baby was broken by his local followers, said friend Cliff Kelley, a prominent radio talk-show host here. Mr. Jackson had spent time inside his two-story South Side home with his family, doing "lots of thinking, lots of praying, reflecting" about the matter.
"People were upset that he wasn't going to Florida for the rally," Mr. Kelley said in a booming broadcast timbre. Mr. Jackson canceled an appearance at a demonstration to show support for a lawsuit filed in behalf of black voters who claim they were "disenfranchised" in the Nov. 7 elections.
"There was a rally at PUSH headquarters, standing room only, for him to come back," Mr. Kelley said. "They did not want him to take time off. What he is doing is too important."
Others are not so impressed, even insulted by his apparent Teflon integrity, and several black newspapers around the region have disparaged Mr. Jackson.
"The shame of Jesse Jackson," cried out the headline to an editorial in the African Spectrum, a newspaper that caters to the sizable Ghanaian community.
Hurley Green, publisher of the conservative Chicago Independent Bulletin, used to attend the traditional Saturday service at PUSH headquarters, but no more; he's tired of Jesse Jackson.
"The white people have put him in the media; he's on the covers of our Sunday newspapers for three straight weeks," Mr. Green said. "They've built him into a giant, but he's just rehashing the things he did years ago."
Mr. Jackson's personal invincibility was summed up by a seasoned Chicago political opponent who betrayed a grudging respect for the icon's power: "Would people talk about Al Capone?"

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