Ayanna Pressley, CGS, will be the first African-American woman ever and the first black candidate in nearly 20 years to serve as a citywide councilor in Boston

November 4th, 2009

Ayanna Pressley, who attended CGS, will be the first African-American woman on Boston's City Council.

Ayanna Pressley, who attended CGS, will be the first African-American woman on Boston's City Council.

“I don’t know what to say; I’m beside myself,’’ an elated Pressley said last night during her campaign party in Dorchester. “It’s an honor to represent the city, but I care much more about the awesome responsibility and the chance to serve the city.’’

Pressley will be the first African-American woman ever and the first black candidate in nearly 20 years to serve as a citywide councilor in Boston.

Pressley, 35, is a native of Chicago who until recently worked as political director for Senator John F. Kerry, who campaigned for her in Boston. She ran for office to serve the public at the community level, she said.
from the Boston Globe, Nov 4 2009

Ayanna Pressley is ready to make history in Boston.   If the votesayanna-register-2-text come her way on Nov. 3 — and she deserves strong consideration for your vote on Tuesday — she would become the first black woman elected to Boston’s council.  Though not a graduate of Boston University, Ayanna attended CGS in 1992, 1993, and 1994 and then MET.  We remember her as a dynamic and committed student — it was clear even then that she was someone who would make a difference.


You can read more about her and her positions at her website.   A profile from her website is below and then below that is a recent article from the BayState Banner.

Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Pressley

My name is Ayanna Pressley and I am running for Boston City Council At-Large.

I’m the daughter of a strong, determined and amazing woman whose work with the Urban League taught me at an early age that I have a responsibility to my community, that I’m obligated to vote and be an active citizen, that open and honest dialogue is necessary to solving any problem, and that community activism is a powerful tool for change.

I grew up in a tough neighborhood in Chicago. Bad influences and distractions were around every corner. But I also learned that my neighborhood could be a nurturing, positive place to grow up. We make a mistake when we stereotype neighborhoods as “bad,” and not worth our attention or investment.

What I learned growing up holds true for Boston. We may say we’re from South Boston or the South End, Roxbury or West Roxbury, Chinatown or Charlestown, or another neighborhood when we’re asked where we live. The truth is, we’re all Bostonians and we have a shared future.

My mother raised me on her own because my father was battling an addiction and was in and out of prison for most of my childhood. We often lived paycheck to paycheck. Thanks to my mother’s sacrifices, I was able to attend one of the best schools in Chicago. I believe that no family should have to make the sacrifices my mother made. Our schools should be rewarding for all students. We can do better, and I want to help our schools improve.

I came to Boston to attend Boston University, but never graduated. As it turned out, I also had to make sacrifices for the sake of our family. My mother lost her job, so I left school to work full-time to support her.

Fourteen years ago, I received the unique opportunity to work for Congressman Kennedy as a constituent services representative. Through my work in his office, I was able to help families like mine gain access to opportunities and services. It was a start to my career in public service that I’ll forever be grateful for and has opened so many doors that I never dreamed would be available to me.

Since then, I’ve worked on behalf of families throughout Massachusetts as Senator Kerry’s Political Director, served in leadership positions with groups such as the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, the Young Professionals Preventing Child Abuse, and the Children’s Trust Fund. In addition, I mentor with the Young Black Women’s Society and the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, and am a member of the NAACP. I also serve on the Boards of several Boston and statewide organizations, including the UMass Boston Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus and Emerge Massachusetts. I have dedicated my career to public service, and especially ensuring that women and minorities are given equal opportunities to succeed.

Since I came here seventeen years ago, Boston truly has become my home. I’m proud to say that I am a Dorchester resident and homeowner, and look forward to spending many more years cultivating the roots I’ve already planted in this community. It would be the greatest honor of my life to serve as Boston City Councilor at-Large, and I hope I can count on your vote.


Out Front:  Ayanna Pressley ready to make history

October 22, 2009

October 22, 2009

City Council At-large candidate Ayanna Pressley out on the campaign trail at Ruggles Station. (Yawu Miller photo)

It took a few minutes of conversation to convert Rahshawn Beaman to a supporter of Ayanna Pressley.

“You’ve got my vote Nov. 3,” he told her as he walked away from the turnstile at Ruggles Station.

“She has a passion for what she wants to do,” Beaman told the Banner as he exited the station. “She has a passion for change.”

Since she entered the race for an at-large seat on the City Council in April, Pressley has become a front-runner in the race, placing 4th out of a field of 15 in the preliminary.

If her position holds in the November 3 election — which observers say is highly likely — she will become the first black woman elected to the Boston’s council.

A veteran campaigner, Pressley has worked for 16 years as an aide to former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, working her way up from constituent services to political director.

Pressley says she has had no trouble transitioning into the role of a candidate.

“I’ve been a silent partner behind the scenes for a long time,” she says. “Now I’m looking to be a public partner. People see this as a natural trajectory of my life’s work.”

Like many of the candidates in this year’s at-large race, Pressley has made her life’s story a centerpiece of her campaign. She was raised in Chicago by a single mother while her father battled heroin addiction and served time in prison.

She says her mother, who worked as a community organizer for the Urban League, struggled to send her to a good school outside her neighborhood and pay the bills.

“I came home to a lot of eviction notices,” she says. “I learned very quickly that I had a different reality in my neighborhood than my classmates. Their neighborhoods had banks. We had check cashers. They had supermarkets. We had corner stores. It emboldened me to want that same reality not just for myself, but for everyone.”

Pressley came to Boston in 1992 to attend Boston University. She went from summer internships in Kennedy’s office to a full-time job with the congressman.

Apparently, Pressley’s story is winning converts. Scotland Willis, whose bid for the Council was cut short in the preliminary, says he was impressed by her vision.

“I found that the more I listened to her, the more I was compelled by her story,” he said as he handed out Pressley palm cards at Ruggles Station last week. “She has an in-depth understanding of the issues. She understands the issues on a visceral level.”

Pressley says her experience working in congressional offices providing constituent services, has given her a good perspective on the role of government in people’s lives.

“It’s where I learned that good government begins with good service delivery,” she says.

On the City Council, Pressley says she will draw on her personal experiences to advocate for social justice issues including education reform, affordable housing and improving public transportation.

While the public transportation falls under the purview of state government, Pressley notes that the city contributes $74 million a year to the MBTA and can wield influence on transportation decisions and councilors can use their office as a bully pulpit to make sure their constituents needs are met by local, state and federal government.

“It’s very important that the community is heard and our views are respected,” she says. “This job is a partnership. I really want to improve the relationship between people and government.”

Pressley has racked up an impressive collection of endorsements from elected officials, unions and ward committees.

Horace Small, executive director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, attributes her strong base of support to her political acumen.

“She does her homework,” Small says. “I see Ayanna being the one who lines up the votes behind the scenes. She’s great at politics, but she’s a politician with a heart.”

Pressley’s fourth-place finish in the preliminary was an impressive feat for a first-time candidate. Working in her favor is the fact that she is the only woman in the race.

Additionally, Pressley’s ties to the Democratic party have helped swell the ranks of her campaign with veteran operatives including manager James Chisolm and spokesman Reubin Kantor.

Former WBZ-TV 4 reporter Sarah Ann Shaw says that if Pressley makes it, it will be on her own merits, including a unique ability to connect with people.

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