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Black women staffers are proudly taking up space on Capitol Hill

EXCLUSIVE: TheGrio spotlights some of the senior and mid-senior Black women staffers on the Hill doing the People’s work on the heels of Black Women’s history.

Staffers on Capitol Hill are known for staying behind the scenes, supporting their bosses who’ve been elected to Congress in order to do the People’s work. Hill staffers are the unsung heroes and sheroes who help members of Congress deliver necessary policy for their constituents.

The role of making government work can often be a faceless and thankless job, and it can be especially so for Black staffers on the Hill. Much like in Corporate America or private-sector industries, Black women can especially be few and far between in government, which is why theGrio decided to spotlight a few of the faces we don’t often get to see.

Thirteen Black women staffers came together for a special photo shoot to highlight a particularly special moment in Washington as a Black woman currently serves as vice president of the United States (Kamala Harris) and another is poised to be confirmed as the first Black woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court (Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson).

TheGrio was able to sit down with seven of the women to talk more intimately about what it’s like being a Black woman taking up space in a predominantly white, male arena, the glass ceilings that are being shattered in U.S. government and what inspired them to work in public service.

Read their stories and see them in their Black Girl Magic glory below.

Black Women Capitol Hill staffers come together for a photo at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for theGrio)Black Women Capitol Hill staffers come together for a photo at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for theGrio)Black Women Capitol Hill staffers come together for a photo at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for theGrio)Black Women Capitol Hill staffers come together for a photo at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for theGrio)Black Women Capitol Hill staffers come together for a photo at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for theGrio)

Black women staffers featured: Antonia Hill, Policy Advisor for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; Courtney Cochran, Strategic Planning for U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark; Harleigh Bean, Operations and Strategic Planning Director for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; Wendy Hamilton, Outreach and Member Services Adviser for U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark; Ashleigh Wilson, Legislative Director/Counsel for House Majority Whip James Clyburn; Hope Goins, Staff Director for the House Committee on Homeland Security; Wyndee Parker, National Security Adviser for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Bernadine Stallings, Deputy Communications Director for House Majority Whip James Clyburn; Kayla Primes, Legislative Assistant, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen; Gabrielle Howard, Legislative Assistant and Acting Digital Director for U.S. Rep. Troy Carter; Maya Valentine, Maryland Press Secretary for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; Melanee Farrah, Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams; Taylor Ware, Education and Labor Legislative Aid for U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock; Tamika Mason, Director of Technology and Faith Outreach for House Majority Whip James Clyburn.

Kayla Primes

Kayla Primes, Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-IL) and President of Congressional Black Associates (CBA) poses at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for The Grio)

Legislative Assistant, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-IL)

President of Congressional Black Associates (CBA)

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Education: Howard University (B.A. in Political Science and Government/Philosophy)

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman working on the Hill?

Knowing that you are an important factor to creating change that you seek does definitely sounds like a cliche, but when it comes to writing the policies and writing the laws, many people think it’s just the members of Congress, but it’s also a lot of people who are behind these members of Congress who are coming up with these ideas — and there are Black women doing it too. So I enjoy it. I feel like I’ve always had a dream of being on the Hill for a very long time. So for me to be here is definitely truly a blessing. This role is very important to me. It has its ups and downs, but I’m very appreciative of the community that is present because I feel we do have a sisterhood and there is a very strong pipeline bringing Black women and men on the Hill. On the Hill, there are Black women senior staffers who want to mentor you and guide you through. This is not information that you can find online about how to maneuver the Hill. I’m definitely appreciative of the sisterhood here.”

What made you want to work in public service?

“Where I’m from, there is a lot of poverty and I use to ask my parents a lot of questions. For example, I didn’t like seeing all these abandoned buildings. I asked them what can I do and they told me I can get into public service. Or, you know, if my cousins are on government assistance, how can I ensure that they have a greater pipeline to achieve more? I learned that you can write the policies or write the laws, or whatever vision that you have, just tackle it and go after it. When I was in high school, I was the first-ever chair of the Cleveland Heights Youth City Council. I’m from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland and there was a huge household income difference. Some people’s household income was $30,000, while others were up to $500,000, and I wanted to figure out ways to close that gap for these families, particularly high schoolers and middle schoolers. That put fire in my belly like, OK, I’m starting to see the change that I’m speaking of and the change that I want to see. After that, I just took flight from there.”

What are some challenges to being a Black woman staffer on the Hill?

“There’s not many of us. Sometimes we do get stereotyped and it may be hard to maneuver through that. Many of us are all in predominantly white offices. Sometimes you feel like you can’t be yourself, but then you have to realize if that’s who I am, then that’s who I am. I feel like that sometimes is challenging but when you have other people who can share your experiences it definitely gets better.”

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman on the Hill during a time when the vice president of the United States and potentially the next Supreme Court nominee are Black women?

“It’s empowering. It was a very emotional week as we saw the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Kentanji Brown Jackson. It definitely was a rollercoaster of emotions, but overall, it makes me happy. It’s like, OK, we’re here, we’re making these good steps, and it’s great to have people that we can look up to like, OK, I could be in that seat. My friend could be in that seat. My colleague can be in that seat. So I’m really excited for what’s to come. Black women, we run the world.”

Where do you see yourself in the future?

“I actually want to run for office. I want to be a senator of Ohio. Just bring it back home, full-circle moment. So you’ll be hearing more!”

Gabrielle Howard

Gabrille Howard, Legislative Assistant and Acting Digital Director for U.S. Congressman Troy Carter (D-LA) and
Communications Director, Congressional Black Associates
poses at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for The Grio)

Legislative Assistant and Acting Digital Director, U.S. Congressman Troy Carter (D-LA)

Communications Director, Congressional Black Associates

Hometown: McKinney, Texas

Education: DePaul University (B.A. in African and Black Diaspora Studies/Clinical Psychology and M.A. in Public Policy)

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman working on the Hill?

“I feel like it’s empowering. It’s also kind of makes me angry, sometimes like walking around knowing that they never wanted me to be here and kind of being here in defiance of that and in spite of that.”

What made you want to work in public service?

“In college, I double-majored in psychology and African and Black Diaspora studies, and in all my classes, the professors would always talk about statistics for racism. Black people and other minorities always came with negative connotations around them. And then in my African and Black diaspora studies classes, I learned more about the history of our country and the history of Black people and that a lot of the reasons why we’ve had to struggle is because of the policies that have been put in place. I thought that the best way to help Black people was to be where the policies are being made so that I could try and change them.”

What are some challenges to being a Black woman staffer on the Hill?

“Being the only Black woman in your office and dealing with coworkers telling you that they don’t know any other Black people or that you’re the first Black person that they talk to or have known was especially challenging and 2020. And also having to be an advocate for yourself and know that you have to work twice as hard to get where a lot of your peers are at and fight that much harder to be in those senior-level positions.”

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman on the Hill during a time when the vice president of the United States and potentially the next Supreme Court nominee are Black women?

“It’s really a blessing, and it’s amazing to see Black women in those leadership roles that they’ve never been able to be in before. To be here in this moment with the first and knowing that they are going to be more after them is very inspiring to be here during this time.”

Where do you see yourself in the future?

“For the future, I hope to be doing what I came here to do, which is to make the world a more equitable place, especially for Black people and other minorities.”

Maya Valentine

Maya Valentine, Press Secretary for House Majority Leader, U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer and Vice President, Congressional Black Associates (CBA)
poses at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for The Grio)

Maryland Press Secretary, House Majority Leader, U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer

Vice President, Congressional Black Associates (CBA)

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Education: Simmons College (B.A. in Public Relations/Communications and Journalism)

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman working on the Hill?

“I think the best part is the humility that comes with it. Five, six years ago, if you told me I’d be working in an institution like Congress, I would have not believed you. I think it’s empowering. Every day, you walk through the same halls to get to the same office, but you’re doing different work and it’s exciting and it’s meaningful. For me, it’s how I think I can make the greatest change for the people I care about the most. It’s something special because I have to remind myself that I didn’t get here without someone paving the way. I’m not ungrateful for that. There’s a sense of responsibility, but also gratitude. I think that kind of shows in the work that I do, especially when you have moments like having the first Black woman vice president or having an upcoming Black woman sitting on the Supreme Court bench.”

What made you want to work in public service?

“Growing up, my family faced its fair share of structural barriers to succeed. I saw that in my immediate family and broader family. I always kind of knew that from a young age, my mother would say as a Black woman you’re going to have it 10 times harder. And that stuck. As a young girl, I was being taught these things. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college, but I knew I wanted to make a difference, and that’s what kind of got me here. There was sort of like magnetism to the Hill where you either really love it and you’re drawn into it and you stay or you don’t. And I was the the the former. I really loved what I did because I felt like every day I was coming in and the work that I was doing and the hours I was doing it meant something. It meant something for my boss and for the party that I work for, but more importantly, I could go back home and say, this is what’s happening and it matters to you and us because of these, these reasons. And that was special to me. I wanted to be able to articulate the sort of change that was happening at a greater level for people.”

What are some challenges to being a Black woman staffer on the Hill?

“The challenges are a bit nuanced. You know that you’re a part of a very small pool of very talented women, and that can sometimes be an incredibly special feeling, but also daunting because of the barriers you have to break to get to a place like this as a Black woman, they’re intense. You don’t just waltz into the Capitol and get a job. You have to work really hard for it. And there are systemic barriers that I think about all the time. Even like on a day like today, when you see only a handful of like Black women show up in these sort of senior, mid-senior level roles. We got a lot of work to do.”

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman on the Hill during a time when the vice president of the United States and potentially the next Supreme Court nominee are Black women?

“In those rare moments where you see other Black women make history, it really kind of puts what you do as a Black woman on the Hill in a bit of context. We’re fighting for a reason. We’re fighting so people can look up to us in those same sorts of ways. I’m also on the board of CBA as its vice president and that’s important for me to represent a community of Black Hill staffers as a Black woman because for me it was about leadership and it was about making sure that the community that I serve, both internally and off the Hill, know that Black women can ascend and be at the highest pillars of what they do.”

Where do you see yourself in the future?

“I’d love to eventually be a commerce director. I know a lot of women in my office and generally on the Hill who have dominated that profession, and I aspire to be like them. I could also see myself eventually going back to school to become a lawyer. A part of my long-term dream is to be sort of a legal analyst or a policy analyst on a media network like CNN and MSNBC.”

Melanee Farrah

Melanee Farrash, Chief of Staff for U.S. Congresswoman Nikema Williams (D-Ga)
poses at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for The Grio)

Chief of Staff, U.S. Congresswoman Nikema Williams (D-Ga)

Hometown: Queens, New York
Education: University of Maryland College Park (B.A. in Government and Politics), George Washington University (M.A. in Public Policy and Education Leadership)

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman working on the Hill?

“It’s an honor and a responsibility to be a Black woman. On the hill is to proudly do the work of service with the responsibility of paving the way for more people that look like me to be able to do the same work. So you are doubly conscious of your work, the outcomes and the impact that you’re having, not just on the people in your office, but the people that you work with, the people in your community, your constituency. It’s a big deal.”

What made you want to work in public service?

From the time I was 5 or 6, I’ve been involved in rallies and motivating people to come out to vote. I had a distant relative, who was a local assemblywoman in New York, and our every day was making sure everyone understood the value of civic education because every politics touches everything that you and I do. It behooved me, even at 6 years old, to tell you that it matters that you vote because when you vote you have more control over the decisions that you make every day. I started young, passing out placards and getting people interested in different candidates. From that point, I just stayed involved through high school and college. I was a CBCF intern many years ago, and so to be back here almost 20 years later is a big deal for me. It’s a full circle.

What are some challenges to being a Black woman staffer on the Hill?

“One of the primary challenges, I think, is the assumption of people’s version of who people think Black women are. We are not a monolith. We don’t all think the same. But I can say from my experience — and every Black woman on the Hill that I know — I’ve had the benefit of knowing how hard we work as a collective to fight against any preconceived notions of who we are. We are not all angry. We are not all full of attitude. We are proud of who we are. We are proud of how we look. We are proud of our hair. I am not ashamed to be a Black woman and I want to carry that through to every intern staffer who comes through my office to know that this is the best thing happening — and not just right now. It’s been that way, but everybody’s just finding out.”

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman on the Hill during a time when the vice president of the United States and potentially the next Supreme Court nominee are Black women?

“It is the culmination of everything that I’ve worked for and it is the ideation of the people that I’ve worked with. I proudly work for Congresswoman Nikema Williams, so I serve in the office of a Black woman who has been doing this work and has been knocking down firsts as the first Black woman chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia. Seeing us represented by Vice President Kamala Harris and seeing us represented through Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is the dream come true. It’s what we ideated in actuality. It’s amazing and it gives me goosebumps just as much as it peeves me to see people treat [Judge Jackson] that way during the confirmation hearings. At the end of the day, though, it’s not something that we’re not used to hearing or experiencing, it’s just something that everyone else is getting to see. It is the demonstration of the fight that we have to fight for our dreams to come true, but also the confirmation that our dreams still do come true.”

Where do you see yourself in the future?
“As a chief of staff, you just don’t see yourself beyond the person that you’re fighting for. You are in the moment living the dream. And right now, for me, I see my career path working to take my member to the next level to leadership. I’m on this ride and we’re on our way up.”

Taylor Ware

Taylor Ware, Education and Labor Legislative Aid for U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA)
poses at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for The Grio)

Education and Labor Legislative Aide, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA)

Hometown: Prince Georges County, Maryland

Education: Washington University in St. Louis (M.A. in Legal Studies), Penn State University (B.A. in Political Science and Government/African Studies)

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman working on the Hill?

“This has been something I’ve always wanted to do, probably since middle school. I found it really important for people to be engaged with the government. And so as a Black woman, I think a lot of that means just demonstrating to the public that Black voices matter on the Hill and that Black voices deserve to be represented on the Hill. Being able to take up a space that’s so influential means a lot, and to now be someone that folks tend to see as leadership, at least on the staff level, is a huge honor and privilege.”

What made you want to work in public service?

“Funny enough, I did a report on Condoleezza Rice back in the fourth grade. I didn’t know who she was and I didn’t know much about what she did, but I knew that she was able to make a difference in her community. I knew her access and closeness to power being appointed to a secretary position, and being a Black woman and being able to go from a community where not many folks would acknowledge that that potential is there and being able to rise to that type of position. It really inspired me. She majored in political science and that’s how I chose my major. And from there, everything just kind of fell into place with interning on the Hill in high school and just progressively making my way deeper into the Capitol Hill complex.”

What are some challenges to being a Black woman staffer on the Hill?

“I think we saw it with the Supreme Court nominations and just seeing how much work it takes sometimes for Black women, very highly-qualified Black women, to claim the spaces that they should occupy. And as a staffer, it’s just constantly a reminder of the fact that, while I’m not getting grilled on the national stage, these are sometimes the attitudes that are held by members of the body that I work for. There’s just constantly this reality that while I might not directly experience these things, these attitudes exist and that in many ways I have to perform in such a way that I live up to the expectations or exceed the expectations. Meetin the expectation is not an option. You have to go above and beyond as a Black woman on the Hill. And while it’s something I’m happy to do and I love the work, it can be very it can be tiring sometimes.”

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman on the Hill during a time when the vice president of the United States and potentially the next Supreme Court nominee are Black women?

“I would certainly say it empowers me more. Beyond the realization that both of these positions are attainable for someone like me, it also just underscores the need for Black women to be staffers in these spaces and understand the value and perspective that we bring to these spaces and the fact that there are Black women who worked to support the nomination hearings and there are Black women who have worked on Capitol Hill who are now supporting Vice President Harris. It really underscores the importance of persevering and staying in this space and owning the power that we have in this space.”

Where do you see yourself in the future?

“The short answer is I have no clue (laughs). I think about this question all the time, but definitely somewhere where I can be impactful on education policy more broadly, but Historically Back Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been something that I’ve been very fortunate to work on in most of the offices that I’ve worked in. My father is an HBCU graduate and so being able to influence policies for that community is really meaningful to me, and I would love the opportunity to continue doing that throughout my career.”

Bernadine Stallings

Bernadine Stallings, Deputy Communications Director for U.S. Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC)
poses at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for The Grio)

Deputy Communications Director, U.S. Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC)

Hometown: Detroit Michigan

Education: Wayne State University (M.A. in Communications/Journalism), University of Michigan (B.A. in English)

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman working on the Hill?

“I take great pride being a Black woman working on the Hill because you don’t see a lot of us, especially in a lot of the top staff roles. It means a lot, especially at this moment working at the same time as we have a Black and Asian American vice president and seeing the Supreme Court nominee who looks like me in the works. It makes me proud to know when I drive up every day that I’m coming to this institution that has been the pinnacle of our democracy and in our country’s history, that I am a part of history just being involved in so many things like being able to be on the House floor when they gaveled in The Crown Act when I have locs or being on the floor when they’re passing these bills that will impact my people back home, it just means a lot to be here in the room where it happens. And working for the majority whip who has always been making history and doing what’s in the best interest for Black people and all people…I’m just proud to be a part of that.”

What made you want to work in public service?

“Before I came to the hill, I was working for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. as their communications specialist, and annually we would have our legislative conference on the Hill — we called it Delta Days on the Nation’s Capital. Doing that and attending all these events, hearing great speakers and political leaders come to speak really galvanizing not just the women of Delta, but also our community. The more I became politically aware and savvy I began to really understand that every decision here impacts what just goes on at the local level. It amazed me to see that and reinforced why it’s so important that we all get out there and vote — and who you vote for — because you want people who will work in your best interests. Yes, Washington, D.C. might be far away for a lot of people, but everything that happens here in these hallowed walls impacts what happens in education, in homelessness, and in health care. That’s what really makes me excited about working in public service.”

What are some challenges to being a Black woman staffer on the Hill?

“One is just having imposter syndrome when you come to the Hill. Knowing that you’re working with majority white male colleagues in some rooms and they’ve done political science, and they’re studying to be lawyers or are lawyers. I have a degree in English and I had no interest in poly sci at the University of Michigan. When I first came here, it felt like I was an imposter, but then I realized that they don’t know any more than I know. I really built up my confidence that I can do this job and I am worthy to be here. And that’s what I like to stress to a lot of my other Black women and just Black people and interns that come in. You are worthy to be here. The other challenge is trying to break into leadership roles elsewhere. I was blessed to come in as a comms director, but everybody isn’t. Before working for the majority whip I wanted to try to break into the Senate. I was already told it’s hard to get comms director jobs in the Senate being a Black woman, especially when just two years ago or at the start of this Congress, there were only 10 Black comms directors out of probably 100 or more. That’s a low number, and those are the odds that you have being Black and a Black woman.”

Where do you see yourself in the future?

“I just want to work in a place where my opinions are respected, where my work and my knowledge are respected. I love doing communications and I hope that I’m not the last and that there can be more Black women that come behind me in leadership roles. It’s important that we have a diverse staff. I’ve been blessed to work for three members of Congress who all had diversity in their staff. When you have that diversity at the table, you learn a lot, but you also don’t become tone-deaf to the needs of others. So that’s my goal for the future in my career — and to have peace and enjoy doing what I do.”

Tamika Mason

Tamika Mason, Director of Technology and Faith Outreach for House Majority Whip U.S. Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC)
poses at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Cheriss May for The Grio)

Director of Technology and Faith Outreach, House Majority Whip U.S. Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC)

Hometown: 

Education: Bowie State University (B.A. in  Computer Technology)

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman working on the Hill?

“It is a true honor. I have seen in my 14 years here this place kind of transition if you will. When I first started here in 2007, there were not many African-American women who were working on the Hill. And as a result of that, there was a kind of social group started. It was called African-American Women on the Hill. It was a network for the women to get together to support one another and get to meet one another and help each other in their roles here on Capitol Hill. I have seen this institution change for the good. At first, you were kind of guaranteed that when you go to a meeting there would not be another African-American woman in the room. Now you can almost bet that thee’s going to be other African-American women in the room with you. It’s an honor to be able to have seen that history kind of change over time and see how far women have come in this political world. It’s an honor to be here every day to come and watch women make a change in history.”

What made you want to work in public service?

“It hits so hard on my heart. It made me so excited to see that happening. I’m 40 years old, so when I was a young girl, when we would talk about a Black person being president, it was unheard of. You would hear people say all the time, all day would never have a Black person being president. That was just the craziest thing to imagine. And then, of course, when President Obama became president, that was like mind-blowing and it stirred up something in the Black community. Whether we acknowledged it or not, it definitely changed the way that we looked at things. If there wasn’t an Obama, we probably would not have had Vice President Harris. For her to be sworn in as vice president makes me feel like the work that I have seen being done here on Capitol Hill is making an impact in the community. People’s mindsets have changed that this is something that can happen and that not only can it happen, but we as Black people and Black women can make it happen. So coming from Kamala Harris to now having Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson now being nominated is just a phenomenal feeling. It’s no better time in history to be here and to see it up close.”

“Funny story — I was not inspired to go to work in public service (laughs). I was working at a lobbying firm and I had been out of college for about a year and was thinking that I was going to be running my own web development company. I started doing that for a while, but it wasn’t kicking off the way that I needed it to. I needed a steady job and some benefits, and was trying to find a job that could build some stability with. I started temping and in it landed me at a lobbying firm and through that lobbying firm, I had come here to the Capitol for a meeting and that’s how I met my chief of staff. At that time, the staff assistant was leaving, so they were looking for a staff assistant. My chief of staff had mentioned that to me, and I honestly didn’t even know when I was getting into. I just wanted a job. I said, sign me up and I’ll figure it out if you give me the opportunity. He gave me the opportunity, and I kind of grew from there. 

I was a staff assistant for two years. Then the director of technology at that time had left, and so my chief of staff had remembered that I had a technology background. He asked me if this was a role that I was interested in and I said absolutely. That’s how I got into being the system administrator. For me, it kind of worked out because I’m able to use my degree in technology while also doing a little bit of policy because I’m the director of outreach. As the director of faith outreach, I’m able to meet with national faith leaders and community leaders and talk about different policy issues that we work on. It’s amazing how it all works out because, you may think that you have a path set for yourself and then the Lord will be like, oh, that’s what you thought you were doing? I kind of got in public service by happenstance. but it’s been an honor to be here because I have been able to learn so much about this institution and this political world. It’s just honor is like the only thing I can think of because it’s just so much to take in. The capital and how the capital was built, the history and just the building. And then you just think about Mr. Clyburn and I’m like, how so lucky to land up in his office of all offices? It was absolutely nothing that I had any control over.”

What does it mean to you to be a Black woman on the Hill during a time when the vice president of the United States and potentially the next Supreme Court nominee are Black women?

“It hits so hard on my heart. It made me so excited to see that happening. I’m 40 years old, so when I was a young girl, when we would talk about a Black person being president, it was unheard of. You would hear people say all the time, all day would never have a Black person being president. That was just the craziest thing to imagine. And then, of course, when President Obama became president, that was like mind-blowing and it stirred up something in the Black community. Whether we acknowledged it or not, it definitely changed the way that we looked at things. If there wasn’t an Obama, we probably would not have had Vice President Harris. For her to be sworn in as vice president makes me feel like the work that I have seen being done here on Capitol Hill is making an impact in the community. People’s mindsets have changed that this is something that can happen and that not only can it happen, but we as Black people and Black women can make it happen. So coming from Kamala Harris to now having Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson now being nominated is just a phenomenal feeling. It’s no better time in history to be here and to see it up close.”

What are some challenges to being a Black woman staffer on the Hill?

“There is still an adjustment that happens to us having a presence, especially in this climate where we are now. I feel like we have had to fight to be heard and to come in. With the level of respect that our counterparts might be able to get when they come in, I feel like we have to come in a little smarter. We have to sit a little taller. We’re always conscious about our appearances. Unfortunately, those are just some of the challenges that we have faced before we can even say something. We still have some of those challenges. We’ve overcome a lot, but we still have to go above and beyond that our counterparts don’t have to go through.”

Where do you see yourself in the future?

“Honestly, I have not seen that out, and that may be a good and a bad thing. People tell you that you should always have a five-year plan. I agree that you should have a plan, but then at the same time when I look back over my life, that plan had been altered once before and it didn’t fail me. So I don’t necessarily have a specific direction that I want to go into. The good thing that I would say about the position that I have now is that it has two doors that are open for me. I can decide to go the IT route if that’s something or I can go do more faith outreach, which would keep me in the public service area. But I haven’t quite figured it out. I’m enjoying where I am right now. It allows me to do both. And if there comes a point where I feel like I have to choose, I will have a hard decision.”

The post Black women staffers are proudly taking up space on Capitol Hill appeared first on TheGrio.

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