An African American millennial is breaking racial barriers on Capitol Hill and displaying Black excellence in the process. Vashti Hinton, 23, has joined Rep. Gregory Meeks’ (D-N.Y.) team, making her the first hire to come out of an internship program created specifically to diversify congressional staffs, Centre Daily Times reported.
The Adams-Walker internship program—which was developed by Rep. Alma Adams, (D-N.C.,) and Rep. Mark Walker, (R-N.C.)—was established to address the lack of racial representation amongst Senate staff. Over time, the number of people from diverse backgrounds who have held positions in these offices has remained stagnant. The program, which has been in existence for three years, was created as an avenue to specifically open up career pathways for North Carolina-based HBCU students in the realm of politics. Rep. Adams told the Centre Daily Times that diversity is an integral part of creating legislation and not having staff members that reflect the different types of communities being served is problematic.
“You may not understand my community if you don’t live there or you don’t interact there,” said Adams. “The people who go through our program, they are able to teach us a few things, to share information about their schools, about their communities and about the needs.” Hinton, a recent graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, says that her experience in the program was enriching and as she’s navigating the world of politics she sees racial gaps that need to be addressed. “I found that there is diversity on the Hill, especially in Democratic offices and the network of minority staffers has certainly helped me along the way,” she told the Centre Daily Times. “Still, when it comes to diversity, Congress, like the rest of America has work to do.”
A 2015 study released by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies revealed that African Americans make up a mere less than one percent of top Senate staff.