Voting rights will be front and center this week in Washington, while one local organization is working to make sure people in Virginia have a pool of diverse candidates from which to choose.
Getting Black people involved in politics has been Krysta Nicole Jones’ mission for over 15 years. While she was working on her master’s degree at George Washington University in 2006, she wrote her thesis paper on the lack of Black members of Congress in Virginia.
She then founded an organization, dedicated to increasing the number of Blacks who run for office. Jones said Vote Lead Impact has trained people in fundraising and media relations and provides mentoring to people interested in entering politics while encouraging people to get involved in the community.
Although she knows of candidates who have won races without significant financial backing, Jones said one of the main stumbling blocks for candidates is fundraising.
She said of some candidates: “They simply have not built the relationships, not necessarily on the ground in the community, but within the political community.”
Vote Lead Impact, Jones said, has provided scholarships through leadership development programs to people who want to build those relationships and further their leadership knowledge and skills.
She said the organization has honored Black leaders in sponsored programs that offer networking opportunities for political hopefuls and has given them the chance to meet leaders who are already involved in politics.
The Florida native moved to the Washington area after graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in political science. She lived in Washington for nearly a year before deciding to join the Peace Corps.
Jones spent two years in Paraguay as a volunteer, which she calls, “One of the most critical learning experiences of my life.”
She said, “People would stare at me, laugh at me, say things about my hair.”
It was 2000. At the time, she thought she was experiencing racism, but as time passed, she said she realized it was ignorance.
Jones said the people were greatly influenced by the stereotypical images they had seen of African Americans in soap operas and sitcoms on American TV programs that aired in Paraguay. Jones worked on democracy-building in elementary schools near the capital of Paraguay.
She also founded two organizations while there, one focusing on minority Peace Corps volunteers, the other on the general volunteer population. Those organizations were precursors to the work she would do when she returned to the U.S. to promote the power of advocacy.
Jones said after years in the business, she is able to see things from several lenses, “from the lobbyist/government relations lens to the elected official lens.”
She has worked as a lobbyist for women’s health and mental health associations. She has been the director of outreach for Reps. Jim Moran and Don Beyer, D-Va. And, she’s the former chair of the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women. Jones is an active member of her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated.
This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference in our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.