Ayanna Pressley, A Force to Be Reckoned With

Ayanna Pressley BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Business Insider.

Some know her for her proud alopecia; others know her for being part of the “troublemaker” team, the Squad. But those who have really paid attention to Representative Ayanna Pressley’s career may have noticed the real wave of change in her.

Since her inauguration as a new member of Congress in 2019, the representative from Massachusetts’ 7th district made it clear that she was “good trouble.”

Pressley immediately joined the progressive wave on Capitol Hill, demanding a Green New Deal and Medicare for all, and becoming the focus of President Donald Trump’s xenophobic rage.

Similarly, in September 2019, Pressley introduced a resolution calling on the House Judiciary Committee to launch impeachment proceedings against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Her political and social positions became crystal clear when, in the congressional period before the Covid pandemic, she introduced a resolution for criminal justice reform calling for the decriminalization of consensual sex work, abolishing cash bail, legalizing marijuana, abolishing capital punishment, and solitary confinement, and shrinking the U.S. prison population by greater than 80%.

Pressley has also called the country’s immigration agencies an “existential threat” to immigrant communities.

For much of 2019, she supported Senator Elizabeth Warren in the campaign for the Democratic nomination and became a prominent surrogate on the campaign circuit.

Pressley easily won her re-election in the 2020 election, but not without struggle.

“There are moments in real-time when you’re offering something — on a stage in a dais, in an interview — where you become aware: ‘I’m going to experience a lot of vitriol for this,’” Pressley recalled in a Saturday morning interview with MSNBC. “I have to say, for this particular moment, I had not anticipated that because it was a framing that I have used many times before.”

Amidst death threats and violent assaults, the representative has had to bite the bullet to get her message across party lines.

“People are hungry for truth-tellers and justice seekers, and that is who Ayanna is,” Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia said to The Boston Globe. “She brings that sense of urgency and that fire, and she is unapologetic about it. That is what the Democratic Party needs right now.

Now, facing a Democratic administration that has the first female vice president of color in the nation’s history, Pressley told The Globe she is willing to work with Biden and Harris, not only to undo the harm unleashed on marginalized communities under Trump but to ensure the federal government pursues an equitable response to the coronavirus pandemic – a cause made all the more urgent amid a national reckoning on race and racism.

“I’ve seen unprecedented hurt in the last four years, but I’ve been inspired by the unprecedented community, the unprecedented organizing, the unprecedented voting,” she said. “And that’s why I’m that much more emboldened going into the second term.”

Pero como bien señala el medio, el trabajo por hacer ahora puede no ser sencillo para los progresistas como Pressley.

“If she concedes too much ground, she could anger her supporters. But if she pushes back too strongly on legislative compromises Biden and the Democrats might be forced to make; she risks being called an obstructionist,” the media adds.

Pressley is “the heartbeat” of the House’s progressive wing, and one of a larger number of women in the Congressional Black Caucus who are more forcefully making a case for the need to serve the most marginalized Black people, said Nadia Brown, a political science professor at Purdue University who studies Black women in politics.

“She might be wielded as a deputy of the administration,” Brown said. “But I am not 100 percent certain she wants to be that close to the administration. She already has such a powerful political brand on her own.”