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Ayanna Pressley: ‘Our communities are facing a crisis within a crisis, trauma layered upon trauma’

The US representative on the inspiration she takes from the people tirelessly fighting COVID-19 and systemic racism.

Ayanna Pressley speaks from home during the UMass Amherst 2020 online commencement ceremony.UMass Amherst

Right now, our communities are facing a crisis within a crisis, trauma layered upon trauma. In the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, we have also reached a moment of national reckoning about police brutality, systemic racism, and legislated injustice. In this moment of profound hurt and anger, when so many of us are grieving the loved ones we have been collectively robbed of — it would be easy to feel defeated and disillusioned. But, now more than ever, I find hope in the organizers, community builders, and activists who have taken to the streets (and the halls of power) to demand an end to the violence inflicted on Black and brown communities for hundreds of years, and to tear down the institutions that perpetuate injustice and oppression. And I find hope in the front-line workers who selflessly care for the sick, and who do the work of supporting our communities throughout this harrowing pandemic.

So, I want to express the deepest gratitude to all those who have put their own health — and that of their families — on the line in defense of our communities. Not only to our front-line health care workers and first responders, but to the grocery store workers, transit drivers, home health aides, custodians, security workers, hospitality workers, and others — primarily women, immigrants, and people of color — who work day in and day out to keep our communities going. And let’s be clear: Although some people may just be waking up to the fact, these folks have always been essential.


And to those who have organized and marched and demanded, never doubt that your voices and your advocacy are the roots of transformative change. For too long, Black and brown bodies have been profiled, surveilled, policed, lynched, choked, brutalized and murdered at the hands of police. We will say their names and carry forward the mantle of accountability and justice, in our communities, in our states, and in our country. This is our movement, it will not be co-opted, and we will continue to organize, mobilize, and legislate for change.


So thank you. Thank you for your tireless work, your advocacy, and your commitment to healing our communities. Together, we will continue to

fight for the critical protections workers need and deserve to do their jobs safely and provide for their families, and we will not rest until no one lives in fear of simply showing up in the world as they are.


US Representative Ayanna Pressley is the first woman of color to be elected to Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

A health care worker outside Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston chooses a flower as a gift. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff