Whistleblower Voices — Marcel Reid, “Whistleblowing and truth telling are one and the same”
National Whistleblower Center celebrates and amplifies the voices of whistleblowers and fights for stronger whistleblower protections worldwide. This community blog will highlight these stories, giving you firsthand experiences from the brave whistleblowers who will be part of our July 30th National Whistleblower Day Celebration. Check here every week in July for intriguing stories from real-life heroes!
In the fourth and final installment of this series, we hear from Marcel Reid, co-founder of the Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival:
Whistleblowing is reporting waste, fraud, or abuse voluntarily. Truth telling is revealing things to people that they don’t necessarily want to know but need to hear. Whistleblowing and truth telling are one and the same because when telling the truth about a large organization or business it is always about waste, fraud, or abuse. Sometimes one must tell the truth about organizations they love like I loved ACORN.
ACORN was the largest low-to-moderate income organization for direct action in America. It was built off of a refined Alinsky model of organizing so it not only accomplished things for communities, but it was also a petri dish for refining organizing in real time.
I blew the whistle on ACORN because I wanted to find out what was happening to the dues and donations we were collecting. These were questions that I and others had been asking for a few years, but it was brought to a head by New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom who sent an inquiry to ACORN headquarters in New Orleans, letting them know that she was starting an investigation into accusations of embezzlement. Spurred by Strom launching an investigation, we formed the ACORN Interim Management Committee and finally gained access to the books. Much to our dismay, we found that indeed they had been embezzling money, along with several other fraudulent activities. It was not just the embezzlement that shattered us, it was that they were taking hope away from people who had little else.
After we blew the whistle, ACORN deconstructed and reformed into multiple community groups nationally while remaining ACORN internationally. Though the organization dissipated, the pain remained.
I saw and experienced the isolation of whistleblowers firsthand. I became determined to see if I could help change that isolation. I wanted to find a space where whistleblowers could meet other whistleblowers and share their experiences without feeling isolated and could start to talk about the profound changes that whistleblowing brought to one’s life. The nagging accompanying doubt, the loss of friends and families, and in extreme cases not being able to practice their professions again are just some of a litany of negative impacts that accompany whistleblowing.
Michael McCray and I founded the Whistleblower Summit to provide a space where people can celebrate whistleblowing without having to explain why they became whistleblowers. We hoped that the Summit would be a place where whistleblowers could start to heal, so each year we planned more ways to experience healing from book signings to movie nights to our newly launched award-winning Whistleblower Film Festival. This year, the Whistleblower Summit will be from July 23-August 1.
Over the last few years, whistleblowers have made huge strides. The U.S. Senate carved out July 30th as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, which is also recognized in Arkansas and Washington, D.C. Since the first National Whistleblower Day celebration in 2015, the National Whistleblower Center has hosted an annual National Whistleblower Day event. Today, the Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival is the oldest and largest annual gathering of whistleblowers in the country and is traditionally held on Capitol Hill on Whistleblower Appreciation Day.
Please join National Whistleblower Center, the sponsor of Whistleblower Voices, in celebrating National Whistleblower Day 2021. National Whistleblower Day is an annual celebration commemorating the contributions of whistleblowers like Marcel Reid around the world who have bravely stepped forward to expose waste, fraud, and abuse.
This year’s celebration will be an three-day virtual event featuring a wide range of speeches from whistleblowers, policymakers, and advocates as well as a series of panels on pressing whistleblower issues. And, Marcel Reid is a featured speaker! RSVP here.