Community organizer and self-described logophile Clyde Gabriel got hooked on politics in his high school civics class when he first heard the word “filibuster.”
“It’s just a maneuver used to delay a vote,” he says. “But I was intrigued about how it came to be a part of congressional procedure. I’ve since come to understand that it’s designed to maintain control, to maintain power.”
What began with curiosity grew into a lifelong passion for equality. Clyde went on to get his bachelor’s degree in political science, and then study law at Southern University. A longtime resident of McComb-Veazey, he’s spent the last few decades of his life working to improve voter turnout and educate young people in the community he loves.
Clyde is especially committed to helping register formerly incarcerated people to vote. During the last election, he canvassed “every neighborhood you can imagine” throughout Lafayette, Acadia and St. Martin parishes with Black Voters Matter. As an activist with Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) and the POWER Coalition, he was part of the successful effort to overturn a legislative holdover from the Reconstruction Era that allowed courts in Louisiana to convict someone of a felony with only 10 out of 12 jurors in agreement.
According to Clyde, the law was originally designed to nullify the votes of the few Black citizens who might be called upon to decide a case once they became legally eligible for jury duty after emancipation.
“When slavery was abolished in Louisiana,” he says, “it was like — OK, how are we going to keep these people enslaved?”
After four years of lobbying at the state Capitol, in 2018 the law was finally changed.
When Clyde’s not working to educate voters or otherwise balance the scales of justice, he volunteers in Northside schools, helping kids brush up on literacy skills.
Phyllis Mouton, the first Black president of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, says Clyde’s humility is the only thing that’s kept him out of the limelight, despite being well-known by leaders across the city.
“I don’t think anybody understands how much positive impact he has on individuals,” Mouton says. “Because he’s one of those silent guys. But he’s the person at the table, registering people or giving out information, creating an awareness of how they can support their own uplift.”
Celebrate Clyde and the rest of this year’s honorees Nov. 4 at the Lafayette Science Museum. Get your tickets here.