Black leaders shaping Anchorage while proudly serving the community
February is traditionally the time to celebrate Black History Month but there are many African American leaders in Anchorage who are working hard throughout the year. One of them is Anchorage's Deputy Police Chief Ken McCoy.
Anchorage has never had a black police chief but APD has had two deputy chiefs in its history including McCoy. McCoy came to Anchorage as a high school student with his family in the mid-'80s after spending his youth in a predominately African American community in Virginia. He said he found Anchorage a welcoming place almost right away. Now, after 23 years of working his way up through the department, he is sometimes the only person of color in the room. He said to him, it's a responsibility that he takes very seriously.
"I take all that in every day when I put this uniform on, knowing I may be the only minority or the only African American in the room," said McCoy. "I realize a lot of minorities are counting on me to succeed."
McCoy sees the city's diversity as one of its strengths and said he feels proud to live and serve here.
"Anchorage isn't perfect, we aren't perfect, but there is no place I would rather be," McCoy said. "I think the diversity we have and the way our community comes together for so many different things, it just speaks volumes."
From policing to politics, Elvi Gray-Jackson has been involved in municipal government since she arrived in Anchorage from New Jersey in 1982.
"People back in New Jersey would say to me, 'how many black people are there in Alaska?' And I'd say about 10 percent, but it didn't bother me.
Gray-Jackson was the first African American Chairperson of the Anchorage Assembly. She served as a member for nine years before term limits dictated she leave last spring. During her time in city government, Gray-Jackson made a point of honoring the city's diverse cultures.
"Alaska Native Month, Black History Month, I was the leader in bringing together those diverse resolutions on the assembly and I'm proud of that," said Gray-Jackson.
Gray-Jackson has mentored young people during her career, something she said is important. She would like to be considered a role model to young women of any color.
"I'm honored to say I'm a role model because I want to be a role model," she said.
Gray-Jackson said she wants to let young women of any color know they can work hard and succeed.
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