JANS – Canton, Mississippi, native Waikinya Clanton has made the 2022 Root 100 list as one of the most influential African Americans in the nation, landing at number 42.
Clanton currently serves as State Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi State Office, the first person appointed to the position in the organization’s 50-year history.
“Being on the list with so many amazing people is truly an honor. At the SPLC, our aim is to ensure that people living in poverty in the Deep South can get the help that they need from their local, state, and federal government, and that they are not punished or exploited just because of the color of their skin or their socioeconomic status,” said Clanton. “Growing up in Mississippi, you see a lot. You see a lot that can either cripple you or empower you. I took a lot of the things that I witnessed, and I was motivated by them. I was motivated to change them. I saw leaving to go to Capitol Hill as a way to expand my skills in activism, and to bring them back home. The SPLC’s Mississippi office will continue to be ground zero for change and innovation.”
As state director, Clanton has led the charge through the newly initiated SPLC Advocacy Institute, a community leadership program designed to strengthen and support communities by educating and empowering emerging activists and advocates. She is also an active member of the Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition – a community of frontline community activists and advocacy led organizations providing direct assistance to residents impacted by the Jackson Water Crisis, as well as the Mississippi Donor’s Alliance and the Mississippi Criminal Justice Funders’ table.
“Our country is at war with itself. We are in a war waged by draconian ideology, wedged in the ideas of the haves and have nots; and cans and can nots. We are at war with the truth of who we are because it illuminates the struggle of becoming who we are charged to be. Politics are not just local; politics are personal…,” comments Clanton.” When I decided to leave the Democratic National Committee in DC and come home to lead SPLC in Mississippi, it was personal.”
The Root 100 list prides itself on shouting out trailblazers like Clanton. Having previously served as Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Executive Director of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, as well as a Congressional aide to Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, Clanton has dedicated more than a decade of her career to public service and leadership. Clanton is most commonly known for her role as the chief architect of the leading democratic organizing campaign – Seat at the Table, a program that galvanized thousands of Black women throughout the country to secure key electoral victories in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
As a fierce warrior for equity, equality, and acceptance, Clanton has helped to advise the social impact strategy of companies like the international beauty brand, Sephora Nextdoor and other key clients. She has also consulted, advised, and directed major tech and media conglomerates around philanthropic giving totaling more than $3 million in support of voter engagement programs; and led and coordinated the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign, “Take The Shot for the Win,” in partnership with the Black Women’s Health Imperative as well as the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) which specifically targeted Black women and their families.
Clanton is a graduate of the historic Tougaloo College. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where she serves at both the local and national levels. She is the recipient of many distinct awards and honors including the inaugural Tougaloo College’s 40 Under 40, the Judge Constance Slaughter Harvey Champion Award, and being named as one of Mississippi’s Top 50 Women in Business by the Mississippi Business Journal. She was recently chosen as an Eric H. Holder Public Policy Fellow of the Reuben V. Anderson Social Justice Institute; is a member of the Mt. Able Missionary Baptist Church in Canton, MS; and founder of Who’s Who of MS Women.
For the complete list, visit https://www.theroot.com/list/the-root-100-2022.