EDITOR’S NOTE: Williamstown’s Adianna Alston this past fall completed an internship with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington, D.C., giving her a first-hand view of our elected officials at work. Here is her story about the experience.
BY ADIANNA ALSTON | For AC JosepH Media
My interest in politics was sparked at a young age. I was 12 years old when I volunteered for Cory Booker’s campaign for Senate alongside my mother and grandmother.
I can still remember the excitement I felt to officially become an active participant within our democratic process and my hope that my actions could potentially result in meaningful and positive change.
However, within that same year, Trayvon Martin was brutally murdered, leaving a profound impact on me. I vividly recall the anger and disgust that I had felt in response to such senseless violence. I was further angered by comments I came across in the media that lacked empathy for what occurred and even attempted to place the blame on the victim himself.
This tragedy and its surrounding conversations became an eye-opening experience for me as I began to truly grasp for the first time what it meant to be Black in this country and the level of dehumanization and discrimination that Black people and other minority communities are forced to endure. This served as the catalyst that awakened a passion for social justice and advocacy that would always remain with me.
Early last summer, my mother sent me information regarding an internship opportunity with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF). The CBCF was founded in 1976 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research and educational institute by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), previously established in 1971. The mission of the CBCF is to advance the global Black community by developing leaders, informing policy, and educating the public.
The CBCF’s Leadership Institute offers a variety of internship and fellowship opportunities. However, I was immediately drawn to their State Farm Communications Internship program which offered the opportunity to learn about press and media relations on Capitol Hill.
With a background in communications and an interest in politics, this internship provided a unique opportunity to explore the connections between politics and media through firsthand experience.
It further allowed me the opportunity to develop key skills necessary to be an effective leader within advocacy and public service. I knew that this was one opportunity that I could not afford to pass up.
After submitting all the required application materials and participating in an interview, I eagerly awaited a response regarding their decision, constantly checking my email with great anticipation for weeks. Finally, one Friday afternoon in July, I received an email with the following subject: “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to CBCF’s Internship Program!
An overflowing amount of joy and excitement filled my body as I prepared to embark on this new chapter in my life. In just a short 4 weeks after receiving my acceptance email, my internship with the CBCF would officially begin.
The first week of my internship consisted of orientation activities which I participated in alongside the 37 fellow members of my cohort. During orientation, each of us received personal office placements where we would be working directly with a congressional or corporate office. I was extremely excited to be placed with the Democratic Women’s Caucus (DWC).
The DWC is composed of all 94 of the Democratic women in the House of Representatives, united in their commitment to championing the rights of women and girls across the nation and around the world.
The caucus focuses on key issues impacting women and girls, including access to affordable health care and reproductive freedom, economic opportunity, equal rights, and safety from violence. Throughout my internship, I had the privilege to participate in and observe their efforts to address these issues through legislative initiatives, advocacy work and educational outreach.
During my time with the DWC, I also worked closely under their Communications Director as a Communications Intern. In this position, I was able to witness firsthand the inner workings of congressional communications and the pivotal role that it plays in shaping the political landscape.
This experience not only deepened my understanding of the intersections between policy and media, but allowed me to hone essential communications skills crucial for success within such a dynamic field.
My placement with the DWC was an invaluable experience but served as only one of the many components of my internship with the CBCF.
Each week, my fellow cohort members and I actively engaged in Professional Development (PD) Sessions. These Professional Development sessions included panels and presentations on a range of topics –– from the importance of networking, brand building, effective resume writing, and financial literacy, to the intricacies of the legislative process, drafting bills and much more.
These sessions not only deepened my legislative knowledge but empowered me to refine essential skills to be successful in multiple facets of my life.
Throughout the program’s duration, my commitment to personal and professional improvement extended beyond our PD sessions. Each week, I had the opportunity to submit a journal where I could reflect on my experiences while documenting my growth as a young professional.
Furthermore, I often participated in networking calls and events, not only expanding my network of professional connections but broadening my industry knowledge. Additionally, I was tasked with learning to formulate and implement strategic, well-defined SMART (Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time-Bound) goals which served to guide and focus my professional growth.
Yet, among these responsibilities, one of the most exciting highlights was our unique opportunity to contribute to the 52nd Annual Legislative Conference (ALC).
ALC is a major, multi-day policy conference that the CBCF hosts annually. Widely regarded as the leading policy conference on issues impacting African Americans and the global Black community, ALC features policy forums, panel discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities.
Elected officials, activists, scholars, community leaders, celebrities and the general public attend the conference to engage in discussions about various issues impacting the Black community.
I had the rare opportunity to not only contribute to the conference through the successful execution of tasks assigned to me, but also to participate in and thoroughly enjoy the conference.
One of the sessions that I found to be particularly compelling was a panel discussion centered around gun violence. This panel was moderated by MSNBC’s Symone Sanders-Townsend and featured Senator Raphael Warnock, Representative Lucy McBath, and Hip-Hop Artist and Founder of the Rocket Foundation, Quavo.
This powerful, yet heartbreaking discussion focused on examining the consequences of gun violence on the Black community. Through the firsthand experiences shared by panelists, this conversation sought to explore and identify ways that leaders at the forefront of this issue can bring an end to gun violence. This was just one of countless, impactful conversations and experiences that I was able to witness firsthand during ALC.
Working on Capitol Hill is undeniably rewarding yet entails navigating a very fast-paced and hectic environment. From the chaos that ensued due to weeks with no Speaker of the House, to two narrowly avoided government shutdown scares, I never experienced a dull moment throughout the duration of my internship.
Capitol Hill can seem overwhelming, especially for a young Black professional. However, there are plenty of resources readily accessible. Staff Associations in particular prove to be very valuable in offering assistance, guidance, and a support system for interns and staffers on the hill.
I joined the Congressional Black Association (CBA) and the Black Women’s Congressional Alliance (BWCA). Joining these organizations helped to foster a sense of community amongst myself and fellow black professionals on the hill.
Through my memberships, I was not only able to establish and expand my network, but actively hone essential skills for both personal and professional growth.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to me through my internship with CBCF and I look forward to applying the knowledge and skills I’ve gained into the next chapter of my life.
BIO: Adianna Alston is a graduate of Haddonfield High School and Clark Atlanta University and served as an intern with Front Runner New Jersey.com
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