Kiara Pesante Haughton is a premier messenger of the movement, leveraging deep expertise in strategic communications, media relations, and advocacy to build power for Black and brown communities. Her experience spans every facet of the progressive space, from grassroots organizations and political campaigns to larger non-profits and government, to one of the country’s foremost public relations agencies. She led the Communications shop at the non-profit Civil Rights Corps, served as Communications Director for the Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor, and most recently was Senior Vice President at Berlin Rosen in the issue advocacy division, using communications and storytelling to drive change in oppressive systems.
But before these milestones, before she even could say the words, Kiara Pesante Haughton was committed to justice. Her mother majored in African American Studies and her father was active in the Black Panthers and Latin Kings in the 1970s and 80s. Together they “instilled in me a very clear awareness about how the world might view me, how it might treat me, and what tools I might need to navigate [it],” she said.
You will hear me say, ‘I don't believe I'm Black on accident. I think I'm Black on purpose.’
She added, “I feel like I've always worked in the movement, because I am a very clearly proud Black woman, an Afro-Latina. You will hear me say, ‘I don't believe I'm Black on accident. I think I'm Black on purpose.’ And my Blackness is not just a racial reality—it is a political identity for me.”
In addition to her upbringing, a series of injustices and uprisings in the early 2000s were the catalyst for dedicating her career to social justice. They included the trial of the Jena Six, six Black students in Louisiana who were wrongfully convicted of attempted murder of a white student, and the murder of Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old Black boy who died in a Florida boot camp under suspicious circumstances. These two events, she said, “really got down in my bones and made me want to orient myself toward this particular set of causes.”
Just as her parents inspired her as a child, Pesante Haughton’s two daughters are a driving force in her work. “I have to be inspired by them,” she emphasizes, “because they are the reason why I keep doing this work. I’m doing it because I refuse to believe that my children will have to fight the same fights that I'm fighting.”
Storytelling is a critical component of that fight, as shifting narratives can shift power. [...] No one is voiceless, they’re just unheard.
Storytelling is a critical component of that fight, as shifting narratives can shift power. Which is why a guiding question for her work is: “How can you draw attention to this thing that folks need to be paying attention to but aren't? Whose voice can you amplify and lift up that people may not otherwise be hearing? No one is voiceless, they’re just unheard.”