By Julie Kessel, President, LWVSPA
Last year, our dear friend and colleague Babette Husick passed away. Babette was very involved with the League in years gone by and was co-president for one of her many years in the League, well before I joined four years ago.
Unfortunately I did not have the pleasure of knowing her, though some of you here today did. She is one of the folks I’ve come to call “trail blazers,” the women who made our local League the strong League that it is today. She’s also one of a generation of Leaguers who have passed away in the last few years. Just this year, we lost another three of our beloved Trail Blazers: Evelyn Wright, Joanne Shrewsbury, and Penny Levin.
Babette, like so many of our members, was very engaged in many aspects of her community. She was committed to the League, exemplified the best of League leadership, and was committed to supporting a generation of leaders. As such, she was especially involved in the student organization at Bryn Mawr College where she was both a mentor and philanthropist. Babette memorialized her commitment to our League in her estate planning, for which we are deeply grateful.
Our board, as stewards of her bequest, chose to honor Babette’s memory as we believe she would have desired, through support of the league’s foundational programs, and the the recognition of leaders in our own community who have demonstrated their commitment to the principles of the League. So this year, we introduce the first annual Babette Husick community action award.
The award recognizes the outstanding leadership of an individual or community organization who has worked for change in the community, in line with the mission and principles of, and in collaboration with, the League of Women Voters of the St. Pete Area. We believe that Babette would feel great, as we do, about the choice of award recipient.
And so, this year, our first year, it is our distinct pleasure to offer the Babette Husick Community Action Award to our friend and colleague, Gypsy Gallardo: editor, publisher, organizer, and activist, a tireless trailblazer in her own right.
Gypsy has an incredible amount of energy and drive. She is the mother of four, devoted aunt to 13. She is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Publisher and Editor-in- chief of Powerbroker Magazine, and describes her life work to reach the goal of black equality. Powerbroker Magazine publishes a comprehensive voter guide on candidates and issues.
She was appointed in 2008 by Governor Crist to the Florida Council on the Social Status of Black Men & Boys, and is Co-Chair of The PACT – an advocacy and organizing group committed to harnessing the power of collective action to achieve black equality.
She is involved in many organizations in the fields of media, advocacy, economic & commercial development. She is recognized for her achievements in pioneering work in inner-city commercial development; implementing Florida’s first statewide microbusiness financing program; spearheading a new grocery store chain designed for majority-minority markets, and a founding member of St Pete’s Agenda 2020, whose mission it is to reduce poverty.
She has received many awards and honors for innovation, service and leadership. The League is proud to be among them. Specifically, the League recognizes Gypsy’s collaboration with the League on the get out the vote (GOTV) message. Gypsy extended her relationships in the principally African American Faith based community and invited the League to share its get out the vote message.
The churches to which we were invited and their Pastors take a leadership role in the community in getting people out to vote. Because of Gypsy’s deep ties to the community, her initiative, commitment and collaboration, in an effort coordinated by our Voting Services Chair Rachael Garafolo, the League was able to speak to 10 congregations whose Pastors welcomed us and supported our message. We were able to speak to thousands of congregants, and to disseminate nearly 3000 Voter guides directly to citizens we may not have otherwise reached sufficiently this year. In this initiative, her goals and the Leagues were perfectly aligned.
The League’s mission is absolutely to engage underrepresented voters. In the last several legislative sessions, we have witnessed an overreach in targeted attacks on the voting rights of minority voters, women, and college students. And though it is the heart of the work we do to find those hard to reach voters, we frankly don’t always have the tools, resources, or relationships to get into those communities. That’s is where the work and trust with our community partners becomes so indispensable.
Our work with Gypsy helped the League to reach an often underrepresented voting community. We each were and are committed to encouraging informed and active participation in government. We each work to get people out to vote, because we each know that every vote counts. We are grateful to Gypsy, and want to recognize her contribution.
Gypsy is a results oriented person. And in keeping with that banner, we were able to join her in celebrating the seventh consecutive year of increasing voter turnout. Gypsy, you represent the best of what this award is about. Thank you for your partnership.