Pensacola Magazine, July 2020

Page 28

An Exclusive Interview with Activst Hale Morrissette story by Gina Castro • photos by Guy Stevens + Gina Castro

You’ve seen her stand in solidarity at candlelight vigils. You’ve seen her shout in the face of adversity. You’ve even seen her halt traffic on the 3 Mile Bridge. Hale Morrissette, 29, is a human rights activist in Pensacola. Born and raised in Pensacola, Morrissette centered her education, career and activism on a single goal: improving Pensacola. Morrissette has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work from the University of West Florida, worked at the Lakeview Center Inc. for six years, and is the Regional Organizer of Dream Defenders’ Pensacola chapter. Morrissette credits her passion for helping others to her parents, especially her mother Raychelle Gaston. Although Morrissette grew up in poverty, her parents kept her mind rich. Her mother worked in radio and was a minister. She helped establish Deliverance Tabernacle Christian Center, which is one of the biggest churches in Pensacola. Unfortunately, Gaston passed away in 2013. “She was one of those who believed you have to keep your outer appearance together, period. I realize now that was

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a part of her building me up to be a really strong person,” Morrissette said. “She used her voice on a lot of issues. She was really amazing. When I think of the work I do, even though mine is more unfiltered, I feel like I’m carrying on her legacy.” Morrissette’s parents divorced when she was seven, but both of her parents were influential in her life. Morrissette learned to be active in the community from her mother. She remembers her mom raising the money for the Martin Luther King, Jr. bust and being there the day it was

installed downtown. Gaston also brought Morrissette to see the other side of Alcaniz Street be named Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, and each year, they attended the MLK parade. Morrissette’s parents never shied away from teaching her about racism and sexism. Her dad explained colorism and sexual assault to her when she was just eight years old. “My parents were very blunt with me about issues,” Morrissette said. “I guess that’s why I’m so headstrong, too, when it comes to fighting it.”

Growing up, Morrissette had plenty of interests, but one that stayed with her into her adulthood was to leave the world better than she found it. That feeling became more intense after she had her first child Daunte Jr. in 2012. Morrissette and her then husband, the two later divorced, lived briefly in Mobile, AL, while he played college basketball. They moved back to Pensacola toward the end of 2012. “My associates degree was actually the hardest degree for me. I graduated from high school in 2008. But I didn’t get my associates until 2014,” Morrissette said. “That was because I went through this notion that I didn’t know who I was.” While on this inner journey, Morrissette felt pulled toward mental health and set her eyes on working at Lakeview. She was eventually hired for a front desk job in adult psychiatry at Lakeview. 2013 was a difficult year for Morrissette. It was the year her mother passed but also her baby’s first birthday and the

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