Public affairs expert and human rights advocate Lamell McMorris has been appointed chairman of the National Diversity Advisory Council of the American Red Cross.
McMorris is the founder and CEO of Perennial, a Washington, D.C.-based family of businesses. A Chicago native, he also has served as a member of the Elmhurst College Board of Trustees since 2009.
Based on the principle that diversity and inclusion are achieved by aligning diversity efforts with organizational business objectives, the National Diversity Advisory Council, or NDAC, advises Red Cross leadership on relevant issues and assists the organization through critical analysis and recommendations on various diversity initiatives, identification of best practices and progress assessment reports. McMorris will begin fulfilling his one-year term immediately.
He was recommended for the post by Floyd W. Pitts, Red Cross senior vice president and chief diversity officer, and the appointment was approved by the organization’s Board of Governors.
“I am excited and humbled by the trust and confidence that Chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter and the Board of Governors have placed in me,” McMorris said.
Pitts noted, “We are fortunate to have someone of Lamell’s caliber appointed as our new Council chairperson because he brings to our efforts substantial expertise in working with non-profits and a history of forward thinking.
“Over the years, Lamell has developed deep and sustained relationships with influential leaders and decision makers across a wide range of constituencies.”
Among those leaders is the Reverend Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network and host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation. “The appointment of Lamell McMorris, a proven leader and advocate for social justice, and one of the brightest stars on the horizon in business, is a serious statement that the American Red Cross intends to build a bridge and foundation for the future,” Sharpton said. “This is a very positive step and will be very well received by my colleagues in the civil and human rights community."
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, praised the American Red Cross for choosing a leader with a track record of delivering. "I've seen devastation like never before and I've experienced firsthand the challenges of bringing resources to communities hit hard by a natural disaster. In those moments you need friends and leaders in position who can deliver,” he said.
McMorris moved to Washington, D.C., in 2002 to open Perennial Strategy Group, a strategic advisory firm that provides government relations and public affairs services to Fortune 500 companies, national non-profits, trade associations and public-sector clients on a wide range of public-policy issues and corporate matters. Shortly thereafter, McMorris launched Perennial Law Group and Perennial Sports and Entertainment, which collectively represent a number of well-known entertainers and dozens of professional football, basketball and baseball players.
In this capacity, McMorris has partnered with corporations and interest groups located in areas prone to natural devastation. One of the largest corporate foundations in the state of Alabama, the Alabama Power Foundation, frequently is called upon to support relief efforts and other initiatives focused on stabilizing Alabama communities after a natural disaster. “In most of these cases, there’s no better partner than the American Red Cross,” said the foundation’s president, John Hudson. “Because of our experiences working with Lamell on local and national community initiatives, we have extreme confidence in his leadership and ability to help strengthen our partnership and the communities in our state."
McMorris’ passion to effect change is coalesced with a broad network of collaborators dedicated to the cause of diversity and inclusion, including Isabel Rubio, president of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama. She has recognized McMorris as one who is not afraid to wrestle with difficult questions and issues and work toward common solutions. Her coalition serves a population that greatly needs access to resources, and she expressed a “great sense of comfort to know that Lamell will be working to help the American Red Cross strengthen its work of reaching all communities.”
McMorris’ diverse professional accomplishments, coupled with his leadership responsibilities in various other nonprofit organizations have prepared him for this role. James Crowell, fellow National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) board member, and president of the Biloxi, Mississippi, chapter of the NAACP, is no stranger to the devastation caused by natural disasters. Having worked closely with the American Red Cross to address issues of diversity in communities along the Gulf Coast, Crowell is extremely encouraged by McMorris’ post: “He will work tirelessly to build upon the efforts that have been initiated and will bring enthusiasm and ingenuity to the council and the entire mission of the organization.”
McMorris is enthusiastic sbout building on the foundation established by his predecessors, and looks forward to collaborating with McElveen-Hunter, Pitts and the Diversity Council, and the countless volunteers who support the organization. "I’d like to think that people want to do the right thing—sometimes they just don’t know exactly how," McMorris said. "My task is to serve as a bridge, to help Pitts in his efforts to connect principles of diversity and inclusion to the mission and business objectives of the American Red Cross.”