Ayanna Pressley can’t remember the moment she decided to enter politics, but it has always been in her DNA.
She began her career as an intern for former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II before she was hired as a legislative aide. She later worked as a Political Director for U.S Senator John Kerry. In 2009, Pressley broke the glass ceiling when she was elected as the first woman of color to be elected to the Boston City Council.
Now she’s ready to tackle the next frontier: Congress. Pressley is challenging US Representative Michael E. Capuano for the 7th Congressional District in the Democratic primary.
Raised by a single mother in Chicago, Pressley was bred for a life in civic duty. Her late mother, Sandra Pressley instilled the power of the vote in her. “There were a lot of reasons we could have felt invisible and marginalized. But on Election Day, my mother made sure we felt powerful," she told ESSENCE. "I was there under that curtain with her. We could have felt disillusioned but she reminded me this was a partnership. We had to hold government accountable, but also engage. She made sure I knew my rights and that I had a responsibility to manifest the change I wanted to see.”
This year, there are over 500 women running for federal, state and local elections across the United States. Many felt compelled to run after the election of the President Donald Trump. But Pressley said her decision to seek a seat in Congress was more than that. “Certainly, the 2016 election and who won impacted the decision. But the policies coming out of D.C. are draconian, cruel, bigoted and lacking in empathy.”
As a sexual assault survivor, Pressley has remained persistent in her pursuit of available resources for students in school. “Were it not for a school nurse, no one would know about the abuse I suffered. Now I fight for nurses and guidance counselors in every school.”
Following the creed of Martin Luther King Jr., “It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless," Pressley has devoted her life to fighting to alleviate poverty. While on the Boston City Council, she has developed policy to increase graduation rates among expecting teen mothers, increased access to condoms in schools and advocating for city-wide trauma response centers.
One of Pressley’s proudest policy moments is the potential overhaul of the alcohol rules in Massachusetts, many of which were enacted at the end of Prohibition in 1933. Because of these antiquated laws, many neighborhoods hadn’t had a new restaurant for nearly 20 years. These new liquor license provisions will drastically change the city of Boston.
Pressley has a tough road ahead: Capuano, her challenger has been elected nine times. But Pressley is looking forward to hitting the campaign trail and meeting the constituents in the district of the city she loves.
“I love the level of political engagement of the city. I love Boston because it has made it possible for me to pursue my dream. It has given me the opportunity to make the world a better place.”
Pressley faces Capuano in the Democratic primary September 4, 2018. Learn more about Ayanna Pressley and her campaign here.