Gyspy Gallardo: "I'm busting down barriers"

Who? Gypsy Gallardo, founder and editor of The Power Broker Magazine.

Sphere of influence: Since Gallardo, 37, came to St. Petersburg in 1997, she has been heavily involved in urban revitalization, political advocacy, media diversity and business development. Her Power Broker Magazine reaches 10,000 African-American households in Tampa Bay every month. The Harvard-educated activist has campaigned for several Democratic candidates including U.S. Representative Jim Davis, Pinellas County School Board Chair Mary Brown, St. Pete City Councilman Ernest Williams and, most recently, Darryl Rousson in his bid for the Florida House seat 55. She has built a business portfolio totaling more than $75 million in new commercial investment in blighted communities and chairs the NAACP's statewide economic development committee. She is also the co-chair of PACT, a countywide antiviolence and education advocacy organization.

How she makes a difference: Gallardo connects the diverse elements of the African-American community to work for their common interests. She was instrumental in gaining funding and public support for Midtown's Tangerine Plaza, Larry Newsome's urban development featuring a Sweetbay grocery store. She's embarked on large-scale African-American voter registration campaigns. And, through the monthly Power Broker Magazine, she's brought together black-owned businesses from around Tampa Bay for events, networking and a business directory.

CL: What is the thread that runs through all of your work?

Gallardo: My field is the field of black progress. All of the work I do is toward the advancement of the African-American community. ... The other linchpin to that is collective action. My specialty has become to really organizing down to really tacit details that most people don't even know exist below the surface. ... Over here in the community, I'm busting down barriers, moving people beyond old grievances and baggage, and boiling it down to say, "Look how beautiful and symmetric and synchronized all of your actions can be if you all get on the same page."

How have you been so successful building bridges?

Probably openness and incentives. First of all, I'm open enough and my whole childhood is extremely diverse. I've lived in poverty; I've lived in wealth. I've lived with white people; I've lived with black people. There are all different people in my family. And part of it is openness and ability to interface with different groups well and to see their world and to understand where they're coming from. You know, I work very well with the Uhurus. A lot of my counterparts here in the community can't even bring themselves to sit at a table with the Uhurus. I work just as well with them as I do with the elite black fraternity here in St. Petersburg. It's just the ability to be able to do that.

And then the second part is the incentive: helping people to see how it is in their best interests — the individual's and the collective's best interests — for all to be working together.

How do you choose your causes?

They choose me. It's really a need-based focus. Where are the sweet spots? Where can we have the greatest marginal impact on advancing the African-American community? That's where I go.

Tell me about The Power Broker Magazine.

What I usually say is it looks and feels like a magazine. But that's only a disguise. It was really intended to be a communications platform. ... We've done some nice pieces like our top 30 edition, which I'm so proud of. We brought together the top 30 black-owned businesses in Tampa Bay for the first time ever. Most of them had never even heard of each other or met one another. They had no idea that this level of power and this base of wealth and assets existed in the African-American community. We've done similar things with the art community and the legal community. Part of it is just following these themes edition after edition that help people see what's there in certain pockets of our community.

Where do you think we're at with diversity in the media?

I think we're in a building stage. You have the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists that have really come back on the scene in the past three years in a major way. And I think they're making some strides in educating the mainstream on African-American issues. I think you got several of your black-owned media outlets strengthening. ...

But I think the conversations are very unevolved. ... I want people to move to serious scientific understanding of race issues, and I don't know if we're ready for that.

Do you have political aspirations?

No. Not at all.

What is preventing Tampa Bay from being known as an influential African-American region like, say, Atlanta?

The networks are still being built. I guess when I came into organizing in this community, there were very few connected networks here. I think we're just in this foundation laying stage, because all of the potential is here: the number of people, corporate black execs, black public officials. You have the critical mass of a very vibrant community, but until they know about each other, and have means of connecting to one another, it won't jump off in the way it can. ... It's coming, is my prediction.

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