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Cynthia McKinney - Atlanta, GA

Submitted by Kenny Ruffin - Columbus, OH

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Ms. McKinney is one of those "old school " social activists that sorely seems absent today.

In the fight against bigotry, we stand together, and we must. In the fight against injustice, we stand together, and we must. In the fight against intimidation, we stand together, and we must. After all, a government that launches wars to steal another person's birthright will do anything to all of us."

Cynthia McKinney has made a career of speaking her mind and challenging authority. She began on day one of her political life and hasn’t looked back. With her opinions, actions, and even her sense of style, McKinney has inspired both admiration and controversy.

During her second term, her district was re-drawn and re-numbered the 4th district. McKinney protested the new boundaries, but was still reelected to the seat. She was a supporter of a Palestinian State in Israel-occupied territory, and sparked controversy by criticizing American policy in the Middle East. After 9/11, McKinney suggested the President had received warnings. The criticism she received as a result, combined with being targeted by the pro-Israel lobby, contributed to her defeat in the 2002 election; however, she ran for the seat again and was re-elected in 2004.

McKinney was a vocal critic of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. When Nancy Pelosi encouraged a boycott of a Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate Hurricane Katrina, Cynthia chose instead to participate and submitted her own report to the Congressional Record. She continued her criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the matter and its failure to secure a way back home for Katrina survivors. Cynthia pressed for government transparency and accountability and introduced legislation to release the documents related to the murders of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tupac Shakur. She was the first Member of Congress to file articles of impeachment against George Bush and she voted against every war funding bill put before her. Cynthia was forced out of Congress once more in 2007 when she was targeted for defeat, again, by donations from pro-Israel contributors that flooded into her opponent's campaign coffers.

Cynthia McKinney has never been afraid to speak her mind, and stand up for what she believes in. Late in 2007, she left the Democratic Party to take her energy and ideas to the whole country by becoming a Green Party Presidential Candidate. Cynthia won the Green Party nomination for U.S. President and in 2008 ran for President.

In December 2008, Cynthia made international headlines when the Free Gaza boat she was aboard was rammed by the Israeli military as she was attempting to deliver medical supplies to the people of Gaza during Israel's Operation Cast Lead. Cynthia and her fellow humanitarian activists, rescued by Lebanon, never made it to Gaza. In 2009, Cynthia attempted to reach Gaza again, this time armed with crayons, coloring books, and school supplies for the children. She and her fellow human rights workers became the Free Gaza 21 after their boat was overtaken in international waters by the Israeli military and they were kidnapped to Israel. Cynthia spent seven days in an Israeli prison. And again, Cynthia did not make it into Gaza. Finally, Cynthia entered Gaza by land in July 2009 with George Galloway's 250-volunteer-strong Viva Palestina, USA.

And as a rider and a member of the support team, Cynthia recently completed a cross-country bicycle ride with five other Bike4Peace 2010 cyclists who started in California and ended in Washington, D.C., speaking to the American people about the possibility of more peaceful U.S. policies if enough of us are willing to participate in our own positive, personal transformations.

Cynthia had not been on a bicycle in twenty years and faced many personal obstacles along the way. However, she met this challenge with her usual good humor and determination and by the last day of the ride was able to complete over 60 miles on her bicycle. In August 2011, Cynthia completed a very successful 21-city peace tour in the United States, educating urban communities in order to promote a more peaceful U.S. foreign policy.

In 2009, Cynthia conceived of DIGNITY as an international activist peace organization to assert respect for human rights by taking direct action for peace. It was under this banner that Cynthia took three DIGNITY delegations to Libya, including one delegation of journalists during the U.S./NATO/Israel aggression against the Arab Jamahiriya state.

Since 2005, Cynthia became a supporter and follower of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s efforts to “criminalize war.” She has appeared in Kuala Lumpur several times, declaring that city the Peace Capital of the World. She recently reported on her experience in Libya in the “Arab Uprising” Conference organized by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation and served as an official observer at the historic Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal that, on 22 November 2011, found former President George W. Bush and former Prime Minister Tony Blair guilty of the crime of aggression and other crimes against the state and people of Iraq.

Cynthia speaks out everywhere she goes against war and injustice while contemplating a return to elected office.

This story was submitted as part of Oxam America's International Women's Day initiative to honor women working to right the wrongs of poverty and hunger. Honorees are selected independently by Oxfam supporters. Selection does not imply endorsement or other support from Oxfam America.


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