By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times
Businesswoman Cheryl McKissack Daniel on Wednesday told the triumphant story of family’s history and Black excellence during the 18th annual A.G. Gaston Conference at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.
Daniel represents the fifth generation of the McKissack family’s century-old business, McKissack & McKissack, the oldest minority and woman-owned professional design and construction firm in the nation. Dating back 115 plus years, McKissack & McKissack, descends from a long lineage of architects and builders that began with an enslaved Ashanti ancestor in 1790.
“The uncompromising fortitude my forefathers exuded post enslavement to build many of the nation’s monuments — churches, military bases, colleges/universities, schools, hospitals — brick by brick, that immortalizes Black Excellence,” she said. “And my twin sister [Deryl McKissack] and I are proud to carry on the torch with our respective work adding to our family’s legacy.”
Daniel was one of several national and local business leaders during the two-day conference at the BJCC that included forums and panel discussions. The conference is named in honor of Birmingham businessman A.G. Gaston.
McKissack spoke about her family’s legacy as entrepreneurs. “My ancestors understood the need to give back and support those who came behind them… My great great grandfather Moses The First eventually passed the construction business” down to his children.
“In 1905, my grandfather Moses The Third was joined by his younger brother, Calvin to incorporate McKissack & McKissack.” However they faced obstacles including having passed exams but denied the ability to practice their trade, she said.
McKissack-Daniels said her family’s history became her motivation “This is what keeps me going. As I look out at all the obstacles that seem to be blocking our path as economic justice. How can we give up [today]? Even though they knew what they were doing was not only about them…it was about so many other people that will follow. It is the same for us here today. If we throw in the towel coming this far, how long will it take for others?”
In 2000, the Howard University graduate was named CEO of the company. McKissack-Daniel currently employs more than 150 employees and has managed more than $50 billion in construction projects over the past decade, including major work in commercial, healthcare, education, and transportation, most notably Coney Island Hospital, The New Terminal One at JFK, the World Trade Center Oculus, and many more.
The 2022 A.G. Gaston Conference began on Tuesday at the Medical Forum located in downtown Birmingham.
This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Andre Perry, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, a scholar-in-resident at American University, and a columnist for the Hechinger Report. He is a nationally known and respected commentator on race, structural inequality, and education. He is also the author of “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.”