One of the most astute political strategists to ever work in the labor movement — Geraldine P. Boykin — died on Jan. 13. Boykin, 87, had been hospitalized for multiple illnesses before her passing.
Boykin spent more than two decades working for the powerful American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one the largest public employee unions in the country and the District of Columbia. She was a trailblazer as one the first Black women to lead a labor union in D.C. when she led AFSCME District Council 20 as executive director in the 1980s.
She negotiated contracts across the table from D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and won respect in the District’s labor community for being an unapologetic advocate for gender equality in pay and promotions. According to a press release, often she was the only woman in the room when labor leaders met to discuss bargaining strategies and political endorsements, but her humor and insight would cut through tense moments and foster unity.
Boykin spearheaded the petition drive for Home Rule and subsequently became the first District Director of Congressman Walter E. Fauntroy’s congressional office.
Later, in the 1980s, Ms. Boykin joined the Political Action Department at the AFSCME International headquarters, where she traveled the country managing GOTV campaigns that mobilized African American voters. She was celebrated as a gifted strategist, beloved by the candidates and the volunteers she recruited — from Memphis and Milwaukee, to Louisville and Jackson and Houston, and many other cities.
A widower and single parent, Boykin sacrificed family time, living on the road.
During her long career, Boykin mentored a generation of young political operatives. She left her mark on AFSCME by training over 40,000 members in political workshops across the country. She retired in 1995 and launched GPB Political Strategist, LLC.
In addition to the mind of a strategist, Boykin possessed the heart of an organizer. She was a founding member and the first president of the D.C. Chapter of the Coalition Of Black Trade Unionists. She also served on the executive board of the National Congress of Black Women and was founding president of the D.C. chapter of that organization founded by the Honorable Shirley Chisholm.
Boykin went on to become a published writer, authoring several books including: “Explosive Love ,” a compilation of love poems, “Why I Couldn’t March,” a 1983 memoir to commemorate the March on Washington, and a new novel, “Gotta Tell Papa,” a still to be published autobiography.
She is survived by her daughter Jeannetta “BeBe” Boykin.