Leila McDowell is a communications strategist who works exclusively on social change issues.
Leila McDowell has a BFA, in Communications, Film & TV production from New York University.
McDowell-Head is a former member of the Black Panther Party and a direct ideological descendant of Americans like A. Philip Randolph, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and Eugene V. Debs, who were uncompromising in standing up for workers’ rights.
From 1980 to 1989 Leila McDowell was a broadcast reporter for CNN, WPIX-TV, NPR, ABC affiliates and others.
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. Alice Palmer's IOJ duties were to include co-ordinating the activities of IOJ chapters in the US, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean..
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.
The IOJ was a Soviet front operation, based in Prague until its expulsion by the Czech government in 1995.
Black Press Institute
From January 1989 to January 1990, McDowell was Senior Account Executive for Fenton Communications where she managed the accounts of the firm’s two largest clients: The Republic of Angola and the Republic of Jamaica. She also served select short term clients including the Rainbow Coalition and TransAfrica.
- Performed standard public relations duties including coordinating press conferences, briefings and interviews, organizing regional media tours, developing press kits, organizing computerized press lists, drafting and placing newspaper op-ed articles, producing and transmitting radio feeds and public service announcements, generating specialized story placements, monitoring and analyzing media trends and stories, developing targeted outreach campaigns to African American, Hispanic, Asian American and other specialized media.
McKinney and McDowell Associates
- the nation’s capital’s only African American woman owned firm expressly dedicated to serving the social change community.
Clients included Amnesty International, South African President Nelson Mandela, Republic of Mozambique, Haiti President Jean Bertrand Aristide, Lani Guinier, TransAfrica, the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, the Communications Workers of America, Annie E Casey Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the NAACP-LDF, the American Cancer Society and other organizations and individuals dedicated to progressive policies.
McKinney & McDowell Associates, grew from operating in a church basement with one client to a major firm successful in helping its clients impact the national discourse and change national perception and policy.
Hunger strike for Haiti
In the early 1990s Randall Robinson strategised with radical publicists Gwen McKinney and Leila McDowell to embarass 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.
- 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.
- 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...
- Registering more than 2 million new low-income voters in 26 states for this year's presidential election is the primary objective of the Community Voting Project (CVP), a national coalition aimed at mobilizing the collective voting power of low-income Americans.
- Currently, there are more than 23 million adult Americans who live in poverty, many of whom vote infrequently or not at all. As such, they do not have a say in decisions made by politicians, according to Leila McDowell-Head, spokesperson for the Center for Community Change, the agency spearheading the CVP.
At the Center for Community Change McDowell initiated the Creative Collective, a coalition of progressive artists including Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Danny Glover, Morgan Freeman, Edwidge Danticatt, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee to support CCC work through popular culture.
From January 2006 to December 2008, Leila McDowell-Head worked on behalf of the Justice at Smithfield campaign, representing workers in Tar Heel, North Carolina who have been fighting to join together in a union since 1994.
McDowell-Head has served as the communications coordinator of the Smithfield campaign for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
During the campaign McDowell-Head:
- Developed and implemented successful communications strategy for a public campaign on Smithfield Foods that achieved its goal of securing a fair process for union elections at the world’s largest pork processing plant.
- Earned media included NY Times, Washington Post, Nightline, CNN, ABC World News Tonight, Good Morning America, Wall Street Journal, AP, Los Angeles Times, PBS, widespread regional/local media, over 50 blogs. Designed and oversaw production of paid media campaign with complimentary earned media. Online strategies included search advertising, viral marketing, use of social networking sites, strong You Tube presence, eactivism. Worked with broad coalition of allies including civil rights, faith, immigrant rights, labor organizations; regional and national legislators and select authors and actors.
In the late 2000s Leila McDowell also worked as a media consultant for the Venezuelan embassy.
- “I work with (embassy personnel) on trying to get information out to the American people about what’s really going on in Venezuela, because there’s so many inaccuracies out there,”
In 2007 Leila McDowell wrote on U.S. Today;
- Contrary to the inference that Chavez is a wannabe dictator, Venezuela has a vibrant democracy. There have been 11 elections under Chavez's administration, all of which were determined to be free and fair by numerous respected international observers. Chavez's gracious acceptance of the rejection of his proposal is a tribute once again to Venezuela's democratic process.
- What is perhaps more telling were some of its other constitutional changes that expanded both societal and economic democracy.
- These would have reduced the work week, expanded Social Security, banned discrimination against gays and lesbians, created a right to free education — including a university education — and mandated that prisons focus on rehabilitation. These reforms would have advanced the economic democracy that the Venezuelan government has initiated by sharing the nation's wealth with the formerly disenfranchised.
- With growing poverty, unemployment, dislocation and hunger in the USA, there is actually a lot that the U.S. government could learn from Venezuela about economic and political democracy.
Worked for Al Gore
- About McDowell
- Peoples Daily World Dec 24 1986 p 11
- Peoples Daily World Dec 24 1986 p 10
- IOJ 10th Conference participants list 1986
- Yearbook on International Communist Affairs 1991 p 437
- Black Press Institute Letterhead October 5 1987
- Washington Post June 23 1994
- Economic Opportunitu Report Feb 2 2004