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Updated: Mar 25

The 2023 Black History month celebration in Pennsylvania ended on a historic note!

On Tuesday, February 28, 2023, history was made with the groundbreaking election of Joanna McClinton, the first Black American and female the Speaker of the House, as Mark Rozzi steps down from the position after two months of unsettling partisan fights in the lower chamber over the rules that govern that chamber. She is the first woman Speaker in the history of the state of Pennsylvania. Speaker McClinton was supported by all one hundred and two (102) PA House Democrats and no Republican. McClinton is the second Black House Speaker in Pennsylvania after K. Leroy Irvis (December 27, 1919- March 16, 2006), a 40-year-old teacher, pastor, public defender, and activist was elected in 1977. She was first elected in 2015 and represents communities in west and southwest Philadelphia, Yeadon, and Darby boroughs in Delaware County. She rose to become the Democratic Party Caucus Chairperson by 2018. She was the first woman to serve as the House minority floor leader since 2020. According to Speaker McClinton, after her swearing-in ceremony as Speaker, “I’m grateful for all those who fought before me…so that this day was possible. It is only on their shoulders that I stand here today.” McClinton also commented after taking the oath of office as House Speaker that “The majority will no longer silence the minority.”

Pennsylvania House is a closely divided state House where the Democratic party holds a one-vote majority. Speaker Joanna McClinton will preside over a House divided along party lines and will have to work with the Republicans who control the state Senate in order to be able to send any legislation to he state's new and first term governor, Josh Shapiro, a Democrat. Although no Republican legislator supported McClinton’s rise to House Speaker, State House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R. Lancaster) a previous PA House Speaker himself, commented that: "After several months of gridlock and a state House of Representatives that has not been working for the people, we are in dire need of a reset.”

Speaker Joanna McClinton is poised and determined to deliver positive results for the people of Pennsylvania. In her acceptance speech, she postulated that the chamber should work collaboratively and professionally as equals rather than fighting themselves. “The time calls for real reform and real change,” she stated. After flipping the PA House twice in three months, Speaker McClinton is not new in the advocacy space. As a public defender, legislator, and advocate, she has fought tirelessly for marginalized families in Pennsylvania. In her new role as House Speaker after the groundbreaking victory, McClinton, a passionate and dedicated champion of marginalized populations and women, will lead the House in making a transformative difference for Pennsylvania families whose rights she has always fought for, including healthcare, voting rights, education, housing, and LGBTQ rights, among others.

Bernadine Ahonkhai, M.A. ED. D

Education Consultant

Founder/President & CEO, Coalition4Justice


Advancing Equity and Justice Together

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