Ayanna Pressley: First Black Woman to Congress from Massachusetts

Ayanna Pressley: The World Needs Your Vision


That is Ayanna’s advice to young Black women considering a career in politics. This is her story. It could be yours . . .

Ayanna Pressley was destined to be a force for change. There are many ways to make a difference in the lives of others. Ayanna chose politics. Her main asset is that she cares about people and that she followed her heart. She knew who she was. At an early age, Ayanna often saw herself in school student government. She was always looking out for the needs of her fellow classmates. In high school, Ayanna Pressley was voted the one most likely to become mayor of Chicago. It was clear to all who knew her that she would be in the business of helping others.

Ayanna knew that she needed a good education that would further her ability to speak about the issues that mattered to people including poverty, equity, and social injustice.
After high school in 1992, Ayanna Pressley attended the College of General Studies at Boston University, and Boston University Metropolitan College. While in college, she took an internship in the office of then Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy. This was an important part of her education. This apprenticeship put her in the front seat of political life, seeing what a congressman does and how government works.

Overcoming an obstacle: In her second year of college, Ayanna was faced with a difficult decision. Ayanna’s mother lost her job. Ayanna and her mother were a close-knit team. To help support her mother, she decided to quit college to find a job. This was a challenging time for both mother and daughter, but often, our roadblocks turn out to be important detours. This was true for Ayanna. When she informed Congressman Kennedy that she had to end her internship, he offered her a full-time job. This was her first step into real political life. Ayanna became his constituency director which included scheduling events.

When you follow your heart, doors open. In Ayanna’s case, another door opened. In 2004, she became the political director and senior aide for Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry. While working for Senator Kerry, she was encouraged to cut out her political path. In 2009, Ayanna ran for and was elected to the Boston City Council. With her swearing in on January 4, 2010, Ayanna Pressley became the first woman of color to ever serve on the Boston City Council. As a Boston Councilwoman, Pressley formed and served on the Committee on Healthy Women, Families and Communities. She was re-elected to the city council in the 2011, 2013 and 2015 elections.

In 2018, Pressley challenged Michael Capuano, the ten-term congressman, representing the 7th district in Massachusetts for his seat in the Democratic primary. She defeated Capuano by 18 points! In the general election, she ran unopposed becoming the first African American woman sent to congress by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Ayanna’s advice for young women as leaders: This is what Ayanna tells young women who might be considering running for office:

“The world needs your vision and your leadership. Don’t be discouraged by those who would make you doubt yourself–run boldly and authentically as yourself.” **

As in her early years as an advocate for high school students, Ayanna Pressley’s focus in congress is to improve the lives of others. Her key issues are eradicating poverty, building healthy communities and empowering women and girls.

** https://www.rookiemag.com/2018/10/a-mandate-for-hope-interviews-with-ayanna-pressley-sarah-smith-and-deb-haaland

See also: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/ayanna-pressley-1974/

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