Yet, as she walked into the Rayburn House confines early one morning, a thought came upon her, she no longer desired to be “here.” It was time for her to go and so she did. Soon thereafter, Waikinya left her Rayburn confines and settled into a quiet F Street NW office at the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women. Now, she fills in her days as the organization’s Executive Director by advocating on behalf of black female political figures across the country.
While inspiring, Ms. Clanton’s story is not unique in the nation’s capital. She is one of the many young women of color who are increasingly taking their seats at the table in today’s Washington. While this town at its core may still be an old boy’s club with the majority of faces in power resembling the ones on the found on our currency, one can’t help but notice the number of black women roaming the District.
Part of the reason why black women have a growing presence in this town is simple, there are more black women in congress (16) than in the past and there are more black women graduating from college than ever before. In a city and profession where obtaining multiple college degrees can almost seem like a prerequisite, that has its implications. We have also had two straight Presidential Administrations with black women in high profile positions.
Even though the diversity on Capitol Hill has not changed much, Washington proper has seemingly become a bit more chic.
In a way, this makes perfect sense in a city that has become distinctly more social over the past few decades. A town dominated by happy hours, social galas and receptions is prime territory for the demographic that has come to set many of America’s mainstream trends.
They have transformed DC from a city dominated by boring black and blue outfits into a place with a little more life, a few more pairs of Jimmy Choo’s and a lot more personality.
Other factors have also fed DC’s surge of sister power. A changing of the guard in philanthropy, advocacy and activism has swept in an assortment of women of color into the city determined to make a difference.
Take Kezia Williams for instance, after building a small fundraising machine to help elect President Obama in 2008, Kezia turned her eyes on other social issues near and dear to her heart. Now, she has built the small but stable and growing philanthropic outfit, capital cause and etched her name in some of the city’s most coveted social circles.
While the mere mention of the word philanthropy conjures up images of old white men, Capital Cause fundraisers have attracted a much different crowd. A crowd dominated by patrons who look a lot younger and quite frankly, a lot better.
Even with the increased visibility of black women in the city, many feel that much more needs to be done and that too many offices lack diversity. Former Senate staffer Renee Johnson believes that that even though more African Americans are becoming involved in the political process, their ability to move into many of the traditional corridors of power has been limited and that more African Americans need to find ways to collaborate together and push each other up the ladder.
Whether or not we are seeing a true changing of the guard in the political kingdom remains to be seen but the rising tide of black politico females shows no signs of slowing down. None of the sitting black female congresswomen are seen at risk of losing their seats and many expect Mia Love of Utah to become the first black female republican elected to congress this November. Furthermore, Melissa Harris-Perry has solidified her slot in the cable news Kingdom, Kerry Washington’s scandal has become a political hit and DC proper could potentially elect their first black female Mayor in two decades. Maybe, just maybe, this is their town now.
Happy Valentine’s Day.