Leila McDowell, Eisenhower Foundation

Leila McDowell

Leila McDowell is a journalist, progressive communications strategist and political adviser and activist. She is the National Communications Strategist for Reverend William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign. Leila embraces journalism as a critical part of democracy and a vital key to informing the nation with facts and truth. She has worked with Sirius XM, NPR, AP, CNN, Inner City Broadcasting, the ABC affiliate in Harrisburg, Pa and WPIX-TV in New York, she serves as chief DC correspondent for the independent international television network Arise TV which broadcasts in London and throughout Africa and is also a radio personality on Radio One’s Magic 95.9 in Baltimore. She is also currently on the air with I Heart Radio. Leila has covered numerous international stories including being embedded during the war with the Sahara based guerrilla group fighting Morocco and extensively covering the Palestinian Israeli conflict. She has interviewed controversial figures from the late Fidel Castro to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

In addition to journalism, Leila served as VP for Communications with the NAACP under then President Ben Jealous, and has been a communications strategist or VP with nonprofits ranging from immigrant rights and civil rights groups to the political PAC Emily’s List. She formed the nation’s first African American woman owned PR firm with former reporter Gwen McKinney dedicated solely to social change clients (now McKinney Associates). She worked for Nelson Mandela, and several other heads of state as well as with many civil rights and progressive U.S. groups.

She is the co-founder of the National Alliance of Third World Journalists, an organization formed in the 1980’s to bring information about African liberation movements and countries or movements often vilified by the U.S. government during the cold war. During that time, for example, the African National Congress headed by Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist group by the U.S.

Leila has been an activist since she joined the Black Panther Party as one of its youngest members while she was in high school.

Panel Information

Saturday, September 4

3:15 PM EST

Introduction of Artists, Stars & Transforming American Culture to Heal our Nation’s Racial and Economic Divide

Over 50 years ago, the Kerner Commission was convened by President Lyndon Johnson after protests and rebellions in over 150 American cities in the nineteen sixties. The Commission concluded that the cause of the disorders was “white racism.” In the words of the Commission, “It is time to make good the promises of American democracy to all citizens – urban and rural, white and black, Spanish surname, American Indian and every minority group.” America has still not made good the promise of democracy and, in many ways, has gone backwards when it comes to racial injustice, economic inequality and poverty. Over those 50 years we have assembled considerable evidence on what works – yet we have not implemented all of those policies because we still don't have what the Kerner Commission called “new will” from the American public. How can celebrities and social media influencers use their growing power to help create that new will to implement the change we need to heal our nation.

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