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FunTimes Magazine

Joanna McClinton

When she ran for office, Joanna McClinton pledged to bring about change and work hard for the people of the 191 Legislative District. She began serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives after winning a special election in August 2015. 

"I'm the first woman in this district to serve in this position so I've got a lot of great gratitude deep in my heart for this opportunity," McClinton said, "I don't know how long I'll be here but I am showing my neighbors that I'm compassionate and a visionary. I want to take our community to the next level."

A lifelong resident of Southwest Philadelphia and graduate of Grace Temple Christian Academy, she became active in the community while completing a two year internship with the radio station WDAS. McClinton later studied political science and leadership in global understanding at La Salle University where she was a Dean’s List student, student leader and neighborhood tutor.

Immediately after graduating from LaSalle, McClinton enrolled at the Villanova University School of Law. She worked as an intern at Regional Housing Legal Services, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Defender Association of Philadelphia. McClinton was an assistant public defender for seven years. She became the assistant chief of the East Zone during her last year there and helped attorneys with case preparation.

In 2013, McClinton became chief counsel to state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, working behind the scenes in the senator’s Harrisburg and Philadelphia offices, developing policy and legislation. She organized expungement fairs and public policy forums and helped constituents with solving problems.

Growing up in the inner city has spurred McClinton to work on changing the justice system. Her brother was a victim of gun violence. She observed how he and others struggled with drug addiction and saw people being charged with crimes.

As a former public defender, she spent years visiting prisons and representing people in court. McClinton serves on the PA House Judiciary Committee. Last December she became the first woman to serve on the PA Sentencing Commission, which creates sentencing guidelines for every charge in the state.

McClinton’s district is home to many African Americans and African and Caribbean immigrants. To help bridge the gap, she works with African Cultural Alliance of North America, Inc. (ACANA) and AFRICOM (Coalition of African Communities – Philadelphia). She often visits schools in her district where she interacts with students from West Africa and shares her experiences of visiting the continent.

McClinton is working to strengthen the the 60 Street and Woodland Avenue business district. To help drive foot traffic to the district, she partners with the businesses to host the 60 Street Community Summer Jam which features a fashion show and health fair. “If we can help our businesses to flourish, we will have a decrease in unemployment because people in the neighborhood can get jobs right here,” McClinton stated.

“We hear about crime on TV. We know people who are victims of crime and we feel so helpless, but we are not helpless,” McClinton explained. “The people who are committing crimes are such a small percentage of people that live here.


I encourage our neighbors to get to know each other, to come out of their houses to meet each other when the weather is nice. If we can put the neighbor back in the neighborhood, we’ll also see community improvement.”

She encourages people to become actively engaged in the political process. “You have a say in who serves you publicly,” McClinton said. “Unfortunately, in the last presidential election across the nation, many just didn’t come out. Every election has a consequence. It is not too late to get involved to register to vote and to find out who is serving you now. Do you want to support that person or do you want to support somebody else? You have the power.”

McClinton serves as a volunteer with Outreach to Youth, and Hands of Compassion American Sign Language Ministry. She was an elected board member of the La Salle University Alumni Association Board of Directors, where she helped initiate the Minority Alumni Advisory Group. She has served as the secretary of the Philadelphia Barrister’s Association, the city’s bar association of African American attorneys. Currently, she is the president of the La Salle  University African American Alumni Association.

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