Black Women Are Running For Office – And It’s Just What America Needs
Over the course of three months, theGrio spoke with politicians, candidates, aspiring politicians and political strategists about the experiences and journeys of black women in politics.
From veterans like Congresswoman Maxine Waters who are leading the resistance against President Trump’s administration to newcomers like Tishaura Jones, whose viral editorial during her St. Louis mayoral campaign run challenged traditional media coverage, black women are in the political ring, battling daily.
With victories and losses come lessons learned. This is what they say it takes to earn —and keep— a seat at the table of American politics.
Waikinya Clanton came from Washington, D.C. to Connecticut to learn how to win votes.
“I never really questioned it or thought I can’t do this because I’m a woman,” Clanton told theGrio in a recent interview. “The reason why I’m interested in running for office is because there is a need.”
At the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University, she’s in good company.
This summer, the intensive one-week training program brought together 80 promising women leaders from all political backgrounds for 12-16 hours a day, teaching them necessary skills to run successful political campaigns. They practiced announcement speeches, tallied campaign budgets and learned how to conduct research polls.
“People are thirsting for something different and they’re thirsting for something more,” Clanton says intently. The 31-year-old political organizer dreams of becoming mayor of her hometown in Canton, Mississippi. “And I want to be the person who’s able to actually do that.”
Although women comprise half of the United States’ population, women hold just 19 percent of seats (84 out of 435 seats) in the United States House of Representatives and 21 of 100 seats in the Senate.
For black women, the numbers are even smaller: Just 20 currently have seats in the House of Representatives.
On a local level, black women are still working to break ceilings – only recently becoming the ‘first black women’ mayors of cities like Rochester (Lovely Warren), San Antonio (Ivy Taylor) and Teaneck, NJ (Lizette Parker). In 2013, Aja Brown became the first female mayor and youngest mayor of Compton, CA, winning by a landslide.
In the nation’s 100 largest cities, there are three African American women mayors— Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, OH, and Catherine Pugh of Baltimore, preceded by Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is also African-American.
Not one state has ever elected an African-American woman governor.
“If our government doesn’t look like the people it’s supposed to represent, that means there are a tons of voices, perspectives, issues, challenges that certain communities are facing that don’t have a voice,” says Jenn Addison, a staff member at She Should Run, a non-partisan, non-profit that aims to expand the pipeline of women who are considering a run.
“That is one reason why it is so crucial for women to run for office.”
Since the election of Donald Trump, these training groups say they have seen a surge in interest. The Sunday following his inauguration brought hundreds of thousands of women protesters to the forefront.
Emily’s List recently held a candidate training in Miami, announcing more than 15,000 women have reached out to them to run for office, a significant increase from last year.
This spring, She Should Run reported a 250 percent increase in collective social media growth, citing women signing up for things such as networking opportunities and online courses.