Elvi Gray-Jackson: Anchorage Community Leader
February 05, 2021
Anchorage community leader Elvi Gray-Jackson was born in Newark, New Jersey, and made the decision to move North after her friends assured her that she would be able to find Italian sausage and black hair products in Alaska. She has called Alaska home for 39 years.
Elvi began her public service career in 1983 with the Municipality of Anchorage’s Public Transit Department. Meanwhile, she volunteered for several political campaigns, sparking her interest in politics. Elvi transitioned to working for the Anchorage Assembly in 1988, where she began as a budget office admin and soon became the director of the Budget and Legislative Services Office. When her position was dissolved, she went to work at Municipal Light and Power as Director of the Alaska Energy Railbelt Authority.
Elvi lost her first race for the Anchorage Assembly in 2007 but won in 2008, representing the Midtown District and served as Vice-Chair and Chair. She now serves as an Alaska State Senator. In 2019, the first bill she sponsored as a Senator officially established February as Black History Month in Alaska. Her movement to support November as Alaska Native Heritage Month also passed in 2019. She continues to advocate for the recognition of BIPOC communities, as well as Women’s History and LGBTQ and Sexual Assault Awareness Months. Elvi also played a part in the adoption of MLK Jr’s Birthday as a holiday in Alaska in 1999 when she worked as an Assembly staff member. She is currently trying to establish Juneteenth as an Alaska State Holiday.
Elvi was recently interviewed by HistoryMakers, a non-profit research and educational institution committed to preserving and making widely accessible the untold personal stories of both well-known and unsung African Americans. Her advice to other #ExtraToughWomenAK and girls is to “be true to yourself—have courage to do the right thing regardless of what the outcome might be.”
We’d love to know more about the powerful women in your life. Share your images and stories with us on Instagram and Facebook by tagging us (@anchoragemuseum and #ExtraToughWomenAK) and we’ll add them to our ongoing digital curation project. Stay tuned for more information about the exhibition and be sure to check back for new #ExtraToughWomenAK posts.
Special thanks to Elvi for taking the time to share her story and her photographs with us.