Gwen McKinney

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Gwen McKinney

Gwen McKinney is President of McKinney & Associates Inc. (formerly known as McKinney & McDowell Associates), a firm she established in November 1990. McKinney & Associates is the first African-American and woman-owned public relations firms in the nation's capital that expressly focuses on social marketing. Skillful in strategic media planning around national public policy issues, Ms. McKinney has etched out a niche in advocacy public relations. The firm's clients include the nation's leading civil rights and social justice organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Service Employees International Union, National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, United States Commission on Civil Rights, Metropolitan Washington Council/AFL-CIO, TransAfrica Forum and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington. The firm also provides regular public relations and strategic counsel to attorneys representing death row defendants as part of the firm's ongoing commitment to a fair administration of the criminal justice system[1].

Early career

Formerly a reporter with the Philadelphia Tribune, Ms. McKinney began her career in journalism in the late 1970s covering local and national issues affecting minority and low-income communities. She was columnist and Capitol Hill correspondent for several newspapers including the St. Louis American, Buffalo Challenger, San Francisco Sun Reporter and Jackson (Mississippi) Advocate. Ms. McKinney's articles also have been syndicated in weekly newspapers across the country by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the umbrella organization for over 200 weekly newspapers. She also has written for Essence magazine, the nation's preeminent African-American women's magazine, and Black Enterprise. She has provided strategic planning and public relations counsel to coalitions working on issues ranging from teen pregnancy and adult literacy to tobacco control and health disparities in communities of color[2].

Soviet front-International Organization of Journalists

Alice Palmer, editor of the Black Press Review was elected International Organization of Journalists vice president for North America at the organization's 10th Congress, October 20-23 1986, in Prague Czechoslovakia. She also traveled to the Soviet Union and Bulgaria during the same trip[3]. Alice Palmer's IOJ duties were to include coordinating the activities of IOJ chapters in the US, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.[4].

Other U.S. attendees included Jan Carew of Black Press Institute, Simon Gerson and Jose Soler of the U.S. branch of IOJ and Gwen McKinney and Leila McDowell of the National Alliance of Third World Journalists[5].

The IOJ was a Soviet front operation, based in Prague until its expulsion by the Czech government in 1995.[6]

Black Press Institute

In 1987 Gwen McKinney was on the Board of Directors of the Black Press Institute[7].

Working for Elanor Holmes Norton

Ms. McKinney was press secretary for Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton during her successful election campaign to the U.S. Congress between June and September of 1990. She assisted in crisis management, advertising, and general public relations[8].

Hunger strike for Haiti

In the early 1990s Randall Robinson strategized with radical publicists Gwen McKinney and Leila McDowell to embarrass the Clinton Administration into pressuring Haiti's military rulers into re-instating that country's deposed Marxist President Jean-Bernard Aristide.

The trio hit on the idea of a hunger-strike[9].

Gwen McKinney and Leila McDowell had one basic question about the hunger strike: Would it play in the press?
It was early December, and the partners in a public relations firm were having lunch with Randall Robinson, executive director of the lobbying group TransAfrica. Robinson was determined to force a change in U.S. policy toward Haitian refugees, and after finishing their salads, the three chewed over the notion of a hunger strike.
Perhaps celebrities had to be involved. "The question was, would Randall's hunger strike alone be enough to gain attention?" McDowell recalls.

After 27 well publicized days, the White House caved to media pressure and Haiti's military dictators were forced to re-install Aristide[10].

Randall Robinson conducted a dangerous but successful hunger strike that changed the Clinton Administration's policy on Haiti. PR for the fasting activist was handled by the DC firm of McKinney & McDowell, whose other clients include President Aristide...

"Socialist Feminists: Who Are We Now?"

The Democratic Socialists of America Feminist Commission held a conference entitled "Socialist Feminists: Who Are We Now?" January 8-10 1993 in Washington, D.C. The conference was designed to help set a socialist feminist agenda for the Clinton era.

Over 100 people attended the opening-night plenary, which featured Heidi Hartmann of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, NOW president Patricia Ireland, D.C. activist Gwen McKinney, and Kay Ostberg of the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

Saturday afternoon's session was entitled "Breaking Bread: Can We Be Part of a Multiracial Women's Movement?" Speakers included Juanita Webster, of DSA's African American Commission and the Feminist Commission;Tomasa Gonzalez, of DSA's Latino/a Commission and the Feminist Commission; and Cindy Deitch of the Feminist Commission.[11]

International activism

Gwen McKinney provided public relations counsel to a delegation led by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights to the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in August 2001.

Gwen McKinney has participated in journalism fact-finding tours and conferences in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. In 1995, she provided public relations coordination for a delegation of women organized by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law at the United Nations Conference for Women in Beijing.

Ms. McKinney was co-founder and national co-coordinator of the National Alliance of Third World Journalists, a membership organization of U.S. journalists and media professionals. In the 1980s She founded and directed a special project, the Namibia Information Service that was supported by the United Nations. It focused on disseminating news to the U.S. media and non-governmental organizations on developments in Namibia during the period before the United Nations-supervised elections and independence.[12].


  3. Peoples Daily World Dec 24 1986 p 11
  4. Peoples Daily World Dec 24 1986 p 10
  5. IOJ 10th Conference participants list 1986
  6. Yearbook on International Communist Affairs 1991 p 437
  7. Black Press Institute Letterhead October 5 1987
  9. Washington Post June 23 1994
  11. Dem. Left, Jan./Feb. 1993. page 8