This was originally published by WireTap magazine.
Keesha Gaskins is making history as one of the few young black leaders at the League of Women Voters. Rallying the Vote
October 14, 2008
(This content is produced by Rock the Trail, a partnership between Rock the Vote and WireTap magazine.)
Keesha Gaskins is a champion for emerging women leaders. She’s the first black woman to serve as executive director of the League of Women Voters Minnesota, a non-partisan organization that uses education and advocacy to inform voters and influence public policy. Formed in 1919, the organization has traditionally been led by older white women.
Gaskins is a stark contrast to the status quo. The history of the women’s suffrage movement is fraught with divides along race and class lines. White leaders were often at odds with their black allies over issues of race and class. As a woman of color, Gaskins has done work to further the legacies of both the Civil Rights and women’s suffrage movements. She now faces the monumental task of connecting generations of women in the common struggle toward education and empowerment.
Throughout her youth, Gaskins participated in politics on many levels, from discussing current affairs on the debate team to challenging the status quo on her campus. After college, she practiced law, ultimately taking her talents to the Minnesota political scene. She is now working to support women who are interested in running for office, as well as making sure that women voters everywhere are informed on the issues. The voter guides of the League, may be coming to a doorstep near you.
She recently sat down with Rock the Trail to discuss her childhood, challenges and new position at the League.
What were your high school years like?
I lettered in a few sports: soccer, softball and volleyball. Unfortunately, I was a terrible basketball player. I lettered in debate, and I did some backstage stuff in theater. I wasn’t terribly popular in high school; I just kind of did my thing. I was involved in some community organizations and I was pretty active with my church. They still had roller-skating, so I went on Saturdays and Thursdays with my friends.
Would you say you were political? Did you grow up around politics?
I wouldn’t say I was political growing up. I was opinioned. When I was two and three, my parents were very politically active. My dad would take me to all of these community meetings. I would be playing with my blocks while they were planning their community action, so it must come [somewhat] organically.
Later, I remember getting involved in the Council of African American Students. I heard about it, so I thought I would show up to one of their meetings and see what these people were up to. I thought, Well, I can do this, so I start raising my hand to do stuff. Later on, I found out that some people were irritated with me, thinking, Who is this girl? and other people were thinking, She’s willing to do work, just shut up! That was my first big thing: I became president of the Council of African American Students on campus.