Marlene Paez Dukes
Presenting on July’s theme of Equality will be artist/activist/cultural producer/marketing maven Elijah McKinnon! Elijah is the Founder and Creative Director of the independent consultancy People Who Care, “a collective of queer, femme and people of color specializing in campaign development & management, brand strategy and cultural productions for non-profits and grassroots initiatives.”
Since we can never just wait until that one CreativeMornings Friday each month, we asked Elijah a few questions prior to their talk! Check out their answers below, and join us next Friday, July 28th, at Savage Smyth!
How does Chicago influence you or your work?
I’m deeply inspired by Chicago’s rich cultural landscape and the cities commitment to exuding resilience. There is so much history rooted in the working class that motivates me to constantly push a little harder. Hanging out on rooftops in the West Loop and taking in the skyline also brings a ton of joy to me and my creative process.
List three words that begin with the letter “E” to describe yourself/your personality.
Explicit. Empathetic. Encouraging.
What are the top three places you find inspiration or energy?
On the Airplane. Out in nature. In my dreams.
What was your #1 takeaway from your time in commercial brand strategy?
Less is more.
Where did the idea for People Who Care come from?
Like many other people, a majority of my concepts and strategies are created from a void. I founded People Who Care in response to non-profit organizations and grassroots initiatives constant lack of diversity. The idea actually began as an inappropriate statement made by a former colleague when I asked him why there were no people of color working on an initiative that directly targeted and impacted the black community. He smiled and told me not to worry because the team that was recruited consisted of “people who cared” about the cause. I resigned from the company about a month later and started People Who Care. It was supposed to be this subversive freelance project that quickly evolved into a consultancy powered by queers, femmes, and people of color that specialize in creative direction, cultural productions, brand strategy, and community organizing exclusively for nonprofits and grassroots initiatives.
What is one important thing you’ve learned from the work People Who Care has done?
Treat people with integrity, compassion, and respect, but most importantly listen to them when they share the moments and experiences that bring them joy!
How do you make time for all your commitments and responsibilities?
Can I get back to you on this? Smile. Because I’d be lying if I said that it’s simple balancing multiple hats with varying levels of responsibilities. My parents passed away at a very young age which presented me with many learning experiences and challenging obstacles to overcome. As I’ve matured, I have learned how to ask for help, cultivate joy and the difference between no(!) and no, thank you! People also fail to remember that I am just one small component of many moving pieces in the projects that I begin or am affiliated with. I’m very fortunate to work with many amazing folks that empower one another to ask for what we need and want; whether it be space, fresh fruit, a nap or window seat on the next plane leaving Chicago.
As someone who is deeply involved in social justice/activist work, can you share one way you avoid ‘activist burnout’?
Good question! Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve quite mastered how to avoid burning out. As a person who lives within the framework of multiple marginalized identities, I don’t really have the opportunity or luxury to think about those types of things. At the end of the day, I’m human. Just like everyone else in the world I’m trying to drink enough water, get enough sleep, text my lovers and friends back in a timely manner while also seeking liberation for myself and the people I share identities with — some days are brighter than others.