Then and Now ~Amplifying the voices of marginalized communities
The process of moving forward is often enhanced by looking back, taking stock and drawing upon historical lessons to inform the future path. Change is a continuum that is reflected in lingering patterns and practices. Here we share snippets of McKinney & Associates engagement that speak to the unending march toward justice.
Stand for Freedom
When a wave of states with high concentrations of Black and Latino voters passed voter suppression laws after the historic election of America’s first Black president, the NAACP sounded the alarm. The nation’s oldest civil rights organization boldly announced they would lead a national march and petition the United Nations on International Human Rights Day. Most of the voter suppression laws were crafted by the Koch Brothers-financed American Legislative Exchange Council and championed by their cadre of conservative legislators across the country.
We partnered with the NAACP in an intense six-week campaign, Stand for Freedom, devising a strategic communications initiative that emphasized the role of the Koch Brothers and ALEC and the rollout of a national report on voter suppression, Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America. McKinney generated placements in influential media outlets that helped sound the alarm and fueled the NAACP’s initiative against voter suppression. The public furor was paired with a massive voter registration effort which brought one million new voters to the polls in 2012, and breathed new energy into the movement for voter empowerment. Our multi-tiered communications campaign won the notice of the DC Metro Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators which awarded Stand for Freedom its 2012 Silver Inkwell prize.
Meanwhile, we beg the question: Where is voter empowerment today?
International Conference on Health in the Diaspora
McKinney provided communications support to renowned health equity scholar Thomas LaVeist who spearheaded the International Conference on Health in the Diaspora in 2012. The initiative linked the health trajectory of Blacks in the United States with people of African descent across the Americas. In a search for solutions, the conference drew health workers, scholars and activists to Baltimore for a conclave that traced the patterns and realities of health to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Paradoxical questions probed the uneven health outcomes between African Americans and their counterparts in Latin America and Canada. Blacks in the United States fare worse. The conference laid a body of research on centuries of challenges and crises facing people of the African Diaspora that has only begun to be explored.
Florida Voter Disenfranchisement
McKinney served as the agency of record for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 1999 to 2004. Following the tumultuous 2000 presidential election, the Commission, then chaired by historian and social justice champion Mary Frances Berry, fielded hundreds of complaints from voters across the country. But the biggest outcry came from Florida where the disputed election, stalled by a razor-slim margin of 537 votes, hung the presidency in the balance and carried the argument to the Supreme Court of the United States. McKinney supported Commission Chair Berry in planning and reporting on the public investigation that produced three days of hearings in Miami and Tallahassee in 2001. The Commission collected 30 hours of testimony from more than 100 witnesses and reviewed more than 118,000 pages of pertinent documents. The Commission issued an extensive report in June 2001, Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election which Team McKinney rolled out to the public. This landmark probe trained a spotlight on the gross failures of the nation’s election system ranging from suppression of black voters, to purges of untold numbers of Blacks identified as “felons” to the integrity of the polling place. The ghosts of Florida’s 2000 election continue to haunt our electoral system today.