If I could crown her with a title, it would be Maestro of Perseverance. Shalonda Spencer continues to break the cycle of her upbringing via politics and service. Shalonda is a first-generation college student that received both her Bachelors in Criminal Justice and her Master’s in Public Policy and Administration. She is a product of the Glorious, Jackson State University. Shalonda’s passion for politics has afforded her the opportunity to travel the world working on various government assignments and political campaigns. She has even had the privilege to work in Washington, D.C. as a Foreign Policy Analysts and Legislative Assistant on Capitol Hill. So basically, what I’m saying is… The sister is a big deal! In addition to her many accolades, she is a proud lady of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Shalonda currently resides in her home state of Mississippi. She works as the Advocacy Coordinator for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Mississippi. By night, she is a brilliant host of her own podcast; Politics and Empowerment. Enough from me! Check out our latest Q&A session below:
Where did your goals and dreams begin? What do you recall being your first passion?
My goals and dreams started when I was a child. I grew up poor and I was a survivor of domestic abuse. So, I was always dreamed of traveling the world and becoming an attorney. I wanted to travel the world, and view life from a different lens beyond Mississippi. The goal was to fight for the voiceless as an attorney. In 2017, I got accepted into law school and attended. However, due to my financial circumstances and health reasons I had to put the dream on hold. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do…..The first passion I discovered was writing. I started writing poetry in middle school because it was my only outlet. The pen was my voice and the paper was my therapist. It was the only time I talked about my childhood trauma…I wasn’t vocal about it until my early 20s. To this day, Maya Angelou is one of my favorite writers and her work inspired me to tell my story.
Can you explain your title and what your responsibilities include?
I currently serve as the Advocacy Coordinator for the ACLU of Mississippi. I am responsible for advocating on policy issues around criminal justice reform and voter rights. It requires me to educate the communities on those issues, meet with state legislatures, and track legislative bills to determine how they will affect the state of Mississippi. It also requires passion and dedication because the bills do not always pass through legislation, which can be disappointing.
How would you describe working in politics in 3 words? Please share why you chose those words.
Economics is the driving force of politics. Monetary wealth is required if you want to challenge the people in power to change policy. Education is extremely important because if an individual does not have a proper education, they are less likely to have economic and resources. Therefore, uneducated people become uneducated voters or non-voter. That leads to a repeated cycle of poor leadership due to the lack of knowledge of the candidate and our government. If there is a lack of economics and the people are uneducated, then it creates a repeated history of deprived communities. Those three words are the most powerful in politics because they all operate at the same capacity.
Do you find it more difficult for women to advance in your field of expertise?
This field is definitely a challenge. It can be difficult for a woman to advance if she allows obstacles to defeat her. I am one that refuses to quit regardless of any setback or disappointment I experience. Black women have it hard, just because of who we are. It was important for me to set myself apart in the room by studying abroad, working on international policy and expanding my network by leaving Mississippi. I believe women have the power to change politics because we are already reshaping the narrative that women are fit to lead.
I recently subscribed to your Podcast and I’m definitely geeked about forthcoming episodes! It’s so refreshing to hear positive and impactful messages from our generation. On one of your recent episodes, you explored the topic of Civic Engagement. A lot of US don’t know where to begin. How can WE, the community get involved?
I truly appreciate your subscription. The purpose of the podcast was to create a space for our generation. As a community, we must change our perspective on voting. Voting matters and the votes do count. When people hear, “My vote doesn’t count,” it becomes a domino effect, and the public believes it. Civic engagement is an investment, and I believe what you put out into the world is what you get back. I propose that people volunteer in their communities, schedule neighborhood cleanups, and contribute whatever skill you possess to society. It is significant that a person attends city council and community meetings. Learn how to give back without wanting recognition for it. In Mississippi, we need individuals to vote and become active in the communities. It will help us build healthier relationships and progress through this systematic racial disparity that we have in the state and our country.
Now to the fun questions! What does Ms. Shalonda Spencer do for fun?
Fun for me is traveling, trying different types of food, working out, reading, spending time with friends and visiting my goddaughter.
What are you watching on television and reading at the moment?
I do not watch many television shows, but I love documentaries and sometimes a movie. The most recent documentary I watched was Requiem for the American Dream: Noam Chomsky and The Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power. The current book that I am reading is Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
On a perfect Friday night, what’s your ideal scene and cocktail of choice?
On a perfect Friday night, my ideal scene is Johnny T’s and the cocktail of my choice would be an Etta James. It is one of my favorite places to eat and socialize in Jackson, MS. It’s really my Wednesday night spot, but I have enjoyed Friday nights there as well.
Okay last one, my favorite question of all! lol Who is your spirit animal?
My freshman year of college my godfather/mentor told me that I was an eagle. I researched the characteristics of an eagle and saw the relation. An eagle requires looking at life with a wide lens and not getting tripped up on daily details, or looking closely at minute details in order to see life from a broader perspective. Eagles provide vision, wisdom, strength, and courage. The eagle soars to new heights and warns me when the winds of change are coming. As I have developed over the years, my inner spirit relates to an eagle. I’m always looking for my next adventure, and I do not mind spreading my wings to fly. I enjoy a challenge and the changes that come with it.
Are there any upcoming projects or events that you like to share?
- Right now my only project is my podcast entitled Politics and Empowerment. It is available on iTunes and Google Play. I always have something up my sleeve so I tell people to stay tuned because I am just getting started!