Change comes to Boston: Ayanna Pressley makes history
Ayanna Pressley | Steven Senne/AP

History continues to be made across the country as an unprecedented number of women of color, particularly Black women, are running for and winning public office. Ayanna Pressley has added her story to this game-changing moment in time, with her victory against House veteran Michael Capuano to secure the Democratic nomination to the U.S Congress in a Massachusetts district that covers much of Boston and some of its suburbs.

Pressley will not face a Republican opponent in the November midterm elections, thus securing her place in history as the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress. Pressley’s win, on her progressive campaign that challenged much in the political status quo, may just symbolize the changing face of the political arena, as women of color lead the narrative of the shift the American people are seeking in government.

Going by polls before the election, Pressley wasn’t supposed to win. As recent as August 2 surveys showed Capuano, who had served unchallenged in Congress for two decades, with a solid lead over the former city councilwoman. Yet, Pressley is no stranger to electoral upsets and history-making wins. She was first elected to the Boston City Council in 2009, becoming the first woman of color ever elected to that body. In 2011 and 2013, Pressley made history as the first person of color, and the first woman in 30 years, to top the ticket during her reelection campaigns.

On the day of the congressional election Pressley told reporters, “this is a fight for the soul of our party and the future of our democracy. This is a disruptive candidacy, a grassroots coalition. It is broad and diverse and deep. People of every walk of life.”

Pressley ran on a campaign that was further to the left than her opponent Capuano, who is also seen as a progressive. Pressley’s Equity Agenda as she titled it, sought change on a number of issues including immigration, criminal justice reform, healthcare, the environment, and housing. Pressley backs Medicare-for-all and the abolition of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Pressley noted that her campaign slogan “change can’t wait,” was in reference to those who claimed her candidacy was disrupting the traditional order of Boston politics. “My mother did not raise me to ask for permission to lead,” she said during her victory speech on Tuesday.

Pressley’s victory comes with a backdrop of happenings in the city of Boston, which has a history of high racial tensions. Yet, Pressley has noted that her candidacy goes beyond race and speaks to people from all walks of life who want something different in their government.

“I have been really furious about the constant charges being lobbed [thrown] against me about identity politics that, by the way, are only lobbed against women and candidates of color,” she stated during one debate. “I happen to be Black and a woman and unapologetically proud to be both, but that is not the totality of my identity.”

During her victory speech at IBEW local 103, Pressley focused on the need for policy change in the era of Donald Trump, whom she called a “racist, misogynistic, truly empathy-bankrupt man.”  But Pressley also noted that these injustices and inequalities existed long before Trump got into the White House.

“Some of those policies were put in place with Democrats in the White House and in control of our Congress. Policies that have become so ingrained in our daily lives that we have almost convinced ourselves that there wasn’t anything we could do about it. But as we now know, change can’t wait,” Pressley proclaimed. “Because for the families and victims of gun violence, change can’t wait. For our brothers and sisters behind the wall, change can’t wait. To women, whose rights are perpetually under attack, change can’t wait,” she said.

Pressley looked to the future during her speech, noting, “It is time to show Washington D.C., both my fellow Democrats, who I hope will stand with us, and the Republicans that stand in our way, and everyone in the seventh congressional district, that change isn’t waiting any longer. We have arrived, and the future belongs to all of us.”

Pressley’s victory speech can be viewed here.


Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson is an award winning journalist and film critic. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong love for storytelling and history. She believes narrative greatly influences the way we see the world, which is why she's all about dissecting and analyzing stories and culture to help inform and empower the people.