Ayanna Pressley wore it a year ago as she looked into the camera lens for her campaign video, and again Sept. 5, when she addressed supporters at a Massachusetts Democratic Party unity event in Boston.
It’s a simple lapel pin of a purple folding chair emblazoned with four letters: BYOC, for “bring your own chair.”
Shirley Chisholm of New York, the first African-American woman elected to Congress, was known to have offered that advice: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
The $6 pin came from the Texas-based Etsy shop LilPerSister.
Rebecca Kaiser, Pressley’s friend of 12 years, had contacted the shop and asked the owner to make a batch with the chair in purple, Pressley’s campaign color and the favorite color of Pressley’s mother, Sandra, who died in 2011.
“For me it was perfect,” Kaiser said, “She could just look at it and feel like her mom was supporting her, and these heroes and she-roes . . . were with her in spirit as she was making such a courageous and disruptive decision to enter into this race.”
Aside from Pressley, who wore the pin for speeches and in her campaign video, “The Power of Us,” her friends and supporters have also found the message of the folding chair especially meaningful.
Campaign spokesman Harry Shipps said Pressley’s personal experiences, beginning as a child in Chicago, are what attracted her to the Chisholm quote and are what will inform her decisions in Congress.
“She has that unique perspective of someone who has felt disenfranchised,” Shipps said. “It has made her intentionally committed to remaining in those places that politicians rarely go or recognize.”
Cynthia Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.