Ayanna Pressley was first elected to the Boston City Council on November 3, 2009, becoming the first woman of color ever elected to the Council. In her subsequent 2011 and 2013 reelection campaigns, Pressley made history as the first person of color and the first woman in 30 years to top the ticket. She joined Local Progress in June 2017.
What motivated you to serve?
My mother’s example. She held many jobs to support our family while raising me alone, and was very active in our church and neighborhood. She was usually the first person to arrive and the last person to leave an organizing meeting. Through her words and actions she made it clear to me that it was my right to organize for better schools, safer communities, and jobs with fair wages and benefits, and that it was my responsibility. There were many reasons my mother and I felt unseen and unheard day to day, but on election day, my mother told me, and showed me that we were powerful by voting in every election. Shadowing my mother, the challenges we faced and overcame together informed my desire to serve, uplift and empower families like ours.
Tell us about the office you hold and city you represent.
Boston has a strong-Mayor form of government, with an elected Mayor as the chief executive and an elected City Council as the legislative branch. The Boston City Council has 13 members, 9 District Councilors who represent specific districts made up of a mix of neighborhoods and 4 At-Large City Councilors representing all 22 distinct neighborhoods. Boston is a growing city with 670,000 plus residents, expected to be home for more than 800,000 by the year 2050.
I was elected to the Boston Council in 2010, becoming the first woman of color elected to the City Council in its history. I am the Founder and Chair of the Committee on Healthy Women, Families & Communities.
What is your fight back for your city, and where are Boston’s areas of resistance that combat regressive federal policies and executive orders?
Despite continued federal hostility towards recreational and medical marijuana, we successfully built a broad and diverse coalition to craft the most progressive equity language for this emerging industry. This legislation includes language to attempt to reverse the injustices of the war of drugs by creating workforce and ownership opportunities for communities disproportionately targeted.
Prior to the November elections, the Boston City Council unanimously passed the “Boston Trust Act” which ensured that local police would use their resources to keep Bostonians safe and not enforce federal immigration policy. In the aftermath of Trump’s election, the Boston City Council passed a resolution reaffirming our commitment.
And on the economic justice front, a diverse coalition is fighting to pass statewide legislation that would raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour. If we cannot pass the legislation through the State House, we are committed to bringing the Fight for 15 to the ballot in 2018. We know some of the most important victories we realize are accomplished when we organize and when we take an issue directly to the people.
What are your 2017-2018 policy goals?
To take aggressive and permanent policy steps to close the growing wealth gap in Boston (which breaks sharply along race lines) by ensuring an equity in opportunity for minority business enterprises (MBE) to apply for, and to be awarded city contracts.
Boston is in the midst of an unprecedented building boom, the third largest in our history. I am in talks to reform Boston’s antiquated zoning laws in order to institutionalize the intentional development of healthy communities (i.e. affordable housing, access to reliable transit, fresh and healthy foods, green space etc).
Recognizing the critical role they play in student health and outcomes, continuing the fight for a nurse to be budgeted for every Boston Public School.
Reforming the discipline policies in all our schools (BPS, private, parochial, charter, METCO) to address and disrupt the current disparate impact “neutral” policies have on girls of color. Currently, Black girls are suspended at 11x the rate of their white peers. More girls are justice involved and women incarcerated than ever before.