"As societies build walls of separation between communities,
ICAAD works to remove each brick to illuminate our common humanity"

Joanna McGibbon, JD


Joanna McGibbon is an Interim Legal Specialist with the Office of the General Counsel at Open Society Foundations.

Prior to joining OSF, Joanna was a Gender Justice Consultant for UN Women, where she provided advice to UN Women staff on promoting women’s human rights, access to justice, CEDAW compliance and gender responsive governance in the Pacific and the Caribbean regions. She previously served as a Legal and Human Rights Officer at Independent Diplomat, where she developed advice in diplomacy and communications strategy for governments and political groups that have been marginalized in international diplomacy, specializing in accountability issues related to the final stages of the civil war in Sri Lanka.

Joanna has prior experience in corporate law, working as an associate at Proskauer Rose, representing private and public clients in general corporate matters, including transactions in mergers and acquisitions, finance, securities and private funds. Joanna’s pro bono work includes representation of arts-related entities through formation and obtaining 501(c)(3) exempt status and serving as a mediator at Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts on various matters.

Joanna serves as a Senior Advisor to the International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD), a human rights organization working to combat structural discrimination against marginalised groups around the world.

Joanna has a J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she served as a Notes Editor for the New York University Law Review. She graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Government.


This Civil Rights and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we’d like to challenge you to reflect on how fear may have influenced your opinions, especially of others, and to take a step towards the courage to overcome those fears. Why the focus on fear you might ask?

Famed marketer and author Simon Sinek in his book “Start with Why” outlines six typical manipulations used in sales and marketing, one of which is the use of fear. On fear, Sinek says, “When fear is being employed, facts are incidental. Deeply seated in our biological drive to survive, that emotion cannot be quickly wiped away with facts and figures.”

In the current political atmosphere, in the U.S. and around the globe, fear is often used by politicians and campaigners to polarize debates and to demonize marginalized communities, using them as scapegoats for the real economic, social, and political challenges that societies face.

Martin Luther King, Jr. understood how important fear is, so much so that he gave a sermon on it named “Antidotes for Fear.” It’s worth reading in its entirety, especially because it recognizes the importance, necessity, and creativity of fear (kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/draft-chapter-xiv-mastery-fear-or-antidotes-fear). However, particularly pertinent section was highlighted by King’s wife Coretta Scott King in her book “My life with Martin Luther King, Jr”:

“First Martin spoke of the many kinds of fear that troubled men and women in this period of change and "calamitous uncertainty"— fear of illness or economic disaster, fear of personal inadequacy in our highly competitive society. More terrible was the fear of death, even racial annihilation, in this atomic age, when the whole world teetered on "a balance of terror . . . fearful lest some diplomatic faux pas ignite a frightful holocaust."

"Some fears are normal and necessary," he said, like the fear of snakes in a jungle, but when they become neurotic and unchecked, they paralyze the will and reduce a man to apathy or despair. He quoted Emerson, who wrote, "He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear."

How, then, to overcome fear? First, Martin said, "We must un-flinchingly face our fears . . . this confrontation will, to some measure, grant us power. . . . "Second, we can master fear through one of the supreme virtues known to man— courage . . . courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear.”"

MLK Coretta Scott King Simon Sinek
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