Kicking off her campaign for reelection Monday, US Representative Ayanna Pressley told about 40 young participants in a Zoom chat that their generation’s participation in politics is crucially important to the country’s future.
“If you bring a new chair to an old table, nothing changes,” Pressley, who’s running for her third term representing the state’s 7th Congressional District, said during a Zoom event Monday evening. “So we have to build an entirely new table, and that’s what I see you all being a part of.”
Pressley’s aides said the Zoom event is part of a series of virtual talks the campaign is holding to spotlight how organizing can affect the issues most important to the district’s youngest members, including climate justice, racial justice, and education. Participants said politicians should meet with youth beyond campaign season, offer more internship and volunteer opportunities for young folks, and use less jargon when interacting with constituents online.
Hodan Hashi,one of the event’s facilitators and cofounder of Black Boston, a nonprofit aimed at eliminating racial inequities in Greater Boston, said she’s found a way in recent years to make an impact in politics through organizing.
“For a very long time I convinced myself there wasn’t a space in politics for someone who looked like me or came from where I came from,” Hashi, a Somali American, said. “But I’ve been able to create a world for me.”
Historically, young voters have helped elect many Democrats into office, including Pressley, who has become a national progressive leader since defeating 10-term Democratic incumbent Mike Capuano in the 2018 primary and becoming the state’s first woman of color elected to Congress. Pressley said in a phone interview that youth are often valued during politicians’ campaigns but left out of policymaking.
Over 46 percent of Massachusetts residents from ages 18 to 24 voted in the 2020 general election, according to Census data. About half of residents ages 25 to 34, 52 percent of those ages 35 to 44; 63 percent of residents ages 45 to 64; and 72 percent of people 65 and over cast their ballots in the same election.
“This is more than about winning re-election,” she said. “It’s about bringing people into a movement.”
This story has been updated to correct the number of terms former congressman Mike Capuano served.
Tiana Woodard is a Report for America corps member covering Black neighborhoods. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tianarochon.