ICM’s Travis Merriweather On Agency March, Hollywood & Activism

Travis Merriweather
Chyna Photography
– Travis Merriweather
ICM Partners’ Travis Merriweather (L) speaks to more than 2,000 gathered in front of the agency’s headquarters in Century City,Calif., to hear Black Lives Matter activists before marching past offices of CAA, WME and UTA en route to the Beverly Hills Police Department June 8.

Travis Merriweather joined ICM Politics as a political specialist in January and little could he have known that his first six months on the job would see a global pandemic that hit the African American community especially hard, nor the global response to and protests of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

But he’s met the challenges in a big way as the lead organizer of a protest and march June 7 that drew more than 2,000 people, including participation from CAA, WME and UTA, to the steps of ICM Partners’ building in the Century City section of Los Angeles and culminating in a march to Beverly Hills Police Department headquarters. 
“I felt it was important to meet the moment and to engage and show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, so I picked up my phone and started texting my friends,” Merriweather tells Pollstar. “These are people of color in the industry who I know believe it’s important that we unite and show up and provide a platform, and do it as an educational platform, so our industry can hear it directly from the BLM movement and unite in solidarity over these tragic killings that we’ve seen. 
“Whether it’s George Floyd, or Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor, there’s been so much pain within the black community of America regarding this.”
ICM Politics was founded by Hannah Linkenhoker, who came in as senior political strategist and serves as an inhouse political consultancy for not only clients but ICM employees to advise and guide on strategies for political issues and causes important to them, Merriweather says. Linkenhoker joined ICM Politics on March 8, 2017 – International Womens Day. 
“We recognize that there’s a huge hunger and a need within the entertainment industry to get politically involved,” Merriweather says. “Politics is more relevant now than it has ever been. The purpose of our department is to help our clients make an impact in that space whether it’s about racial justice, LGBTQ, climate change or wealth inequality. We are here to advise and leverage the power of storytellers in the entertainment world to make political change in the way that they want to see it.”
But in the moment, Merriweather says, it was important to bring people in the entertainment industry not to hear from other celebrities but from Black Lives Matter and other activists directly. Actor Michael B. Jordan, who portrayed slain Oakland, Calif., resident Oscar Grant in the film “Fruitvale Station,” spoke at the rally but wasn’t added to the roster until the night before the protest. 
“We weren’t saying that Hollywood has the answers,” Merriweather explains. “It was Hollywood coming together to hear directly from Black Lives Matter. It was a humbled approach to uniting and turning out to listen to the speakers, and listen to what these black leaders in the communities have to say and what the change is that they want to see on the ground. I wanted it to be a platform to share from the movement and from black talent on the way that they think that Hollywood could change for the better.”
ICM Politics, in addition to connecting clients and activists, is involved with putting forward policy ideas and supporting reform and legislative change, as well as the work of the Congressional Black Caucus and the police reform bill introduced in Congress June 8. Other organizations supported by ICM Politics include the NAACP and Colin Kaepernick’s legal defense funds.
It also works on voter education and anti-suppression efforts including Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote and Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight organizations, as well 
as supporting vote by mail efforts. The latter has become especially critical during a time when voter suppression combined with a higher rate of COVID-19 deaths among African Americans has made voting in person a perilous endeavor.
“It feels like we’re in a unique moment in history,” Merriweather says, reflecting on the global spread of protest and of conversations of the last two-plus weeks. “I’ve spoken to people who were around in the 1960s and they say it is different, in the length and the breadth of the protest and just the awakening that’s happening. I want our industry to be a part of it. 
“I know some people would think that it would be controversial but our leadership is willing to try something new to speak to the people who haven’t been spoken to. I’m grateful to the leadership of ICM, because they took a role in supporting [the demonstration and march] and that is different and new. 
“It ended up working and I think that’s what the moment is about – being open to new ideas and that was the spirit of the whole protest.”