A Tireless Advocate for D.C. Woman Champions City Culture, Politics

By Washington, Adrienne T. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 22, 1997 | Go to article overview

A Tireless Advocate for D.C. Woman Champions City Culture, Politics


Washington, Adrienne T., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Wherever you bump into the gregarious Gail Dixon of Northeast, she's passing out multicolored leaflets.

A yellow one invites you to attend a D.C. Statehood Party rally. A pink one invites you to an informal "potluck" chat through her Just Friends community group. A green one inspires you to attend a cultural event at the University of the District of Columbia.

One of the first things you learn about Ms. Dixon is that she's a critical connection to the District's intricately interwoven political, social and cultural circles.

"A voice in the wilderness," is how this erstwhile lobbyist and activist characterizes herself. "There's got to be a voice to keep things honest," she says.

You name it - a book fair, a clothing drive, a political lobby - Ms. Dixon's advocacy runs the gamut of Washington life.

Oddly, when Ms. Dixon, 50, first arrived to study the classics at Howard University during the 1960s, she says she was "in culture shock." Now she's a staunch purveyor, promoter and protector of the city's arts and culture.

She was one of 10 sheltered children raised in a Pentecostal family in Trenton, N.J., where "there was nothing relative to your culture unless you left town."

She left Howard after an "eye-opening" year to "find myself," she says smirking. This after "getting a taste of getting involved," mainly through the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee - her first introduction to activism and Marion Barry.

A staunch home-rule advocate, she laments what she now detects is a lack of activism in the District as evidenced by the "shameful" low voter turnout in the Dec. 2 special election for a D.C. Council seat.

"You can't just sit down and be quiet, because then you get what you deserve. You have to take a stand for something sometime. You've got to be a part of what's going on or don't open your mouth," says this fast-talking, quick-thinking woman.

And, what does Gail Dixon stand for?

"Our rights as citizens," she snaps. "We shouldn't have to fight so hard for basic rights that you expect people to do for people."

It wasn't until the mid-1980s, however, that she was able to get paid for her activism in what traditionally had not been considered "a real job. …

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