“I’m honored to carry on the legacies of Rev. James Macdonell and James O. Gibson” – Mary Kett joins the ERC this summer!

By Mary Kett and Nick Adjami
July 12, 2023

Earlier this year, we launched the Macdonell/Gibson Internship Program to honor the tremendous contributions that Reverend James Macdonell and James O. Gibson made to the Equal Rights Center, D.C. region, and broader civil rights movements throughout their lives. Sadly, both Rev. Macdonell and Mr. Gibson passed away last year. The honorary internship is one way we continue to celebrate their lives and uplift their legacies.

In June, we welcomed Mary as the ERC’s inaugural Macdonell/Gibson Summer Intern. Mary is a journalism and public policy student at American University with a passion for civil rights advocacy. She is a skilled writer and researcher who will be assisting the ERC with communications, research about civil rights testing projects, and archiving the impact of Rev. Macdonell and Mr. Gibson’s important work. Having completed her first few weeks, Mary is excited to introduce herself and share a bit more about her background:

Mary Kett stands on the beach at dusk wearing a purple sweater and jacket, smiling for the camera.

Dear ERC Members,

I’m thrilled to join the ERC as the first Macdonell/Gibson intern this summer. I grew up in the Chicago area and moved to D.C. three years ago for school. My interest in civil rights definitely stems from these two cities I call home. Chicago’s significance in the Fair Housing movement is well-known, as documented by the ERC in this blog post. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moved to Chicago in 1966 to call attention to housing disparities between white and Black neighborhoods in the city, he lived a few miles from my mother’s childhood home on the south side. Today, Chicago remains one of the most segregated cities in the country, revealing the devastatingly long-term impacts of housing discrimination. Similarly in D.C., discrimination and unaffordable housing costs have forced longtime residents out, perpetuating racial and economic segregation in the city.

As a young person, I feel an obligation to create a more just world in which archaic, discriminatory practices are eliminated in the housing industry and beyond. I am excited to help the ERC expand its language access program, which will help protect people with limited English proficiency from unfair discrimination. I have previously worked in environmental advocacy and reported on environmental injustice in the D.C. community as a student journalist, so I am looking forward to putting my skills in both policy advocacy and storytelling to use.

Last semester, I spent five months studying abroad at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. As Dublin and the rest of the country face an intense housing crisis that has left thousands homeless, I learned about the importance of fair housing from an international perspective. Through my classes at Trinity, I was immersed in Irish history, culture, and politics. My knowledge about Ireland’s complex political past directly drew me to this internship due to Reverend James Macdonell’s participation in the peacemaking process in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. Visiting West Belfast’s political murals served as a sobering reminder of the lasting wounds that hatred, violence, and division between communities can leave.

I have been at the ERC for only a few weeks, but I already find myself feeling inspired, hopeful, and emboldened to take part in the crucial fight to protect fundamental civil rights in all aspects of life, for all people. I feel honored to have the opportunity to carry on the legacies of Reverend James Macdonell and James Gibson, the two immensely important civil rights activists who inspired this internship. My main goal for my time at the ERC is to work to advance their missions. I also hope to continue to learn as much as I can from the ERC’s lovely, hardworking team!



P.S. If you have photos of Rev. Macdonell or Mr. Gibson or stories you’d like to share with me as I build these archives, please do! You can reach me at intern@equalrightscenter.org.


The ERC is a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in its home community of Greater Washington DC and nationwide. The ERC’s core strategy for identifying unlawful and unfair discrimination is civil rights testing. When the ERC identifies discrimination, it seeks to eliminate it through the use of testing data to educate the public and business community, support policy advocacy, conduct compliance testing and training, and, if necessary, take enforcement action. For more information, please visit www.equalrightscenter.org

ERC Logo

Start typing and press Enter to search