Councilor Ayanna Pressley

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Councilor Ayanna Pressley
Occupation: At Large Boston City Council Member
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts

Twitter handle: @ayannapressley

Ayanna Pressley was elected to the Boston City Council on November 3, 2009. Pressley, the only woman in a field of 15 candidates, earned one of four At-Large spots on the city’s 13-member council with nearly 42,000 votes. After being sworn in on January 4, 2010 she became the first woman of color to serve in the 100-year history of the Boston City Council.

In keeping with the historic nature of her win, Councilor Pressley formed and is chairing the Committee on Women & Healthy Communities, a new standing committee. The committee is devoted to stabilizing families and communities, reducing and preventing violence and trauma, and combating poverty.

Councilor Pressley serves as the vice chair of the Arts, Film, Humanities & Tourism Committee and the vice chair of the Public Safety Committee. She also sits on a variety of committees, including the City, Neighborhood Services & Veterans Affairs; Economic Development & Planning; Education; Government Operations; Ways and Means; and the Special Committee on Census & Redistricting.

Pressley is originally from Chicago. She became a Boston resident after moving to the city to attend Boston University, where she studied Urban Affairs and Political Science. Pressley is a recipient of National Urban League Women of Power Award, Boston Globe Magazine Bostonian of the Year Award and the Big Sister Association Believe in Girls Award among other recognitions. She previously served as an aide to Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy and Sen. John Kerry.


What inspired you to want to work in the political arena?  

My mother voted faithfully and always took me with her on Election Day. I remember feeling powerful when she would pull that curtain to cast her ballot.  

My mother raised me alone while my father battled addiction and was in out of prison and my life. She worked hard and made great personal sacrifices to ensure that I would receive the best education and have the best life possible.  Like most working families, our daily life was a struggle, but on Election Day, we felt powerful. My mother was a proud, card-carrying Democrat and believed in good government, but she also believed in holding government accountable. 

One of my mother's many jobs was as a tenant organizer for the Urban League of Chicago, and her activism fueled my desire to be a catalyst for change. She fought for safer streets, better schools and jobs. It crystallized for me early on the moral imperative I have to do the same.  

My professional experiences in government afforded me a rarefied political education, but it is truly my life experiences that I believe best qualify me to do this work. They have directly informed my policy agenda to fight for women and girls, stabilize families, and build healthier communities by combating poverty, violence and reducing trauma.

What advice do you have for Black women that want to spark change?

Don’t wait for permission to do it, and don’t wonder if you know enough or have done enough to be a catalyst for change. Also, don’t just spark a flame: fan it. It’s easier to begin a movement than it is to sustain it. Remain committed. If we really want to see systemic, generational change and social transformation, we need Black women leaders in it for the long walk.

What do you feel is the single most pressing issue facing Black women today and why?

Poverty. It is the most critical determinant for health and educational outcome. The wealth, health and educational disparity gap continues to widen. If we don’t address poverty, individuals can’t stabilize, families can’t build wealth and communities are deprived of the opportunity to fully thrive.

Tell us about a woman mentor that has helped you on your journey?

I draw daily inspiration and direction from great Black women visionaries, coalition builders and orators like Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan and the brilliant and courageous Anita Hill. I’ve been mentored in my journey by their examples. But without question, my greatest mentor has been my mother. She passed away in 2011 but she remains my guiding light in all that I do.

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  • Brother Tracy Gibson
    maybe you can use this newsletter I put together. I wish you luck in all the good and positive work you do to change things for the better there in Boston, Mass.R- Nine Things to do to Break the Cycle of Poverty.
    (Localized for the Philadelphia Area)
    1] Don’t support the following stores:
    711 [Because these stores are full of expensive processed foods, salty foods that are not recommended if you are on a low salt diet and watching out for high blood pressure and things we don’t need if we are serious about, getting and staying healthy, moving forward & not being dependent on the system.]
    Mickie-Dees –McDonald’s—[Because their food, generally speaking, is a health risk, full of salt, sugar and fat. And designed to make us lethargic.] If you have to go there, try the filet o fish and chicken instead of the burgers. And a salad with no meat instead of French Fries. Try the fruit and oatmeal or yogurt in the morning instead of eggs and pork sausage. For the truly ambitious, write them a letter gently demanding better food such as: veggie and turkey burgers; turkey sausage; more ads for orange juice; more fresh fruit; less emphasis on sugary sodas and fattening burgers; and less emphasis on fattening French fries. [And NO they should NOT be called Freedom Fries—good Grief Batman!!] ; What is a better alternative? – for instance - healthy servings of wild rice or brown rice and tofu with stir-fried vegetables; natural juices; Oatmeal raisin cookies; Stir-fried free-range chicken with vegetables in a light, low-salt Sweat and Sour Sauce; fresh fruit{Which their 52nd Street store has actually started advertising!!!! Very good McDonalds!! } Note: I have actually ended my own official boycott of McDonalds to try to work with them on improving their menu, but this newsletter is an ole project from a year or so ago, so I will keep it in here. If you think I’m lying watch the video - Documentary — ``Super Size Me,’’ By Morgan Spurlock. It is best to stay out of Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Crown Chicken & Win Dees as well. When you walk into these places you are asking to be part of the obese crowd and the poor crown. Hang with some people who are doing something with their lives and have money. Maybe you need to get some new friends and not only have poor fellow friends. You have to work at this like I do. It is not easy. Joining professional clubs and going to school are just two outlets to meet new and different people. There are many others if you also visit the Self Help section of a book store and the Self Help section of the library you will find many ideas of getting the changes you seek. I am not trying to be cruel, but buying books instead of buying booze and cigarettes and candy and illegal drugs is a great idea. Go to the business section of the library instead of spending time playing video games and watching movies—it will pay off. I don’t mean to sound crass, stupid, Pig Headed, verbose or snotty. These things work. Get together with friends and talk about this newsletter and how you can do some of these things incrementally over time as a group. You will meet with success. Get a subscription to Success Magazine or Inc. Magazine and read it instead of buying so much soda and salty snacks. That will work also.
    Asian Stores [It is nothing against the Asian community, but we need to learn more about their culture, traditional Ways, dance, festivals, religions, & How they relate to each other as Asians before we just keep plunking down hundreds of dollars a day on the food they provide for our community. Many of us as poor and or Black People feel exploited by food providers who don’t care enough about us to slso help us learn about their cultures than to just keep taking our money and tell us nothing about who they are, what political views they have and How the, The Asians, survived as a People throughout the ages. Aren’t they as Asian People even curious about us as poor and oppressed people on the mend? I would think so. The world doesn’t only revolve around Denaros you know.] Write the Asian Businessmen’s Association and the Mayor and ask why there are no open and free cultural events about the diversity within the Asian community to teach the Black community about the cultural, racial and economic differences between being North Korean, or Chinese, or Japanese, or Cambodians or Viet Nemeses, or Laos can. Write the Mayor of Philadelphia at: Human Resources Department; The Mayor’s Office; Room 215; His Honor Mayor Michael Nutter; City Hall; Broad & Market Street; Phillly; Common’s Wealth of Pennsylvania 19107. Write the Asian Chamber of Commerce at: Business Opportunities for the Poor; The Asian Chamber of Commerce of Philadelphia; 200 South Broad Street; Suite 700; Common’s Wealth of Pennsylvania 19102 If you do visit their restaurants ask if they have free cooking classes for poor people or if they know of any free cultural events for the poor & Black or Poor & Latin community in Philadelphia. Many Asian foods are a health risk because they are loaded with salt.
    2] Support the following stores instead: buy some * Caribbean food for a change. There are plenty of Caribbean restaurants in the neighborhoods. This will help support a Black business and keep money circulating in our neighborhood before it leaves the neighborhood—a sure way towards building jobs, wealth and stability in our Black neighborhoods.] There is one such place at 52nd & Chancelor Street in West Philadelphia where you can get a carry-out plate of food for about $7.. Ask for low salt alternatives.
    Sweet Greens – on Walnut Street near 40th Street & Down Town. Their salads very tasty & full of vitamin rich anti-oxidants which are good for the body, mind and Spirit. You can get a salad for under nine dollars if you want. Ask for low salt dressings. Try the ever-fantastic Cucumber / Lemon Aid. Talk about GOOD!!!
    • Hummus – at 40th & Walnut Street– Their foods are lower in fat & salt and high in nutritional value. Salads and Salmon or vegetables and Falafel are always great choices. You can get a vegetable platter for under $8.00 or Falafel and a vegetable for less than $7.50. Ask for low salt items. Try a seltzer water alternative instead of sodas.
      • Atiya Ola’s – Spirit First Foods on 4505 Baltimore Avenue—Raw foods; vegetarian foods; Salmon Wraps; spiced popcorn [a favorite]; healthy juices & a special healthy water. And healthy desserts all at a reasonable price and local. Supporting local stores & Restaurants is a God-Sent for helping economically struggling communities.
        Try some of the other Ethiopian Restaurants in West Philadelphia on Baltimore Avenue between 46th Street and 43rd Street. The food can be ordered spicy or not spicy and is a great home-cooked alternative to fast foods. Less sail and fat and , frankly, more tasty!! !
        • About food. Try not to stay in the same rut and eat the same so-called fast food every month. Fattening fast foods can actually make people lethargic and begin to feel things will never change. This is my own theory and not a proven fact, but I feel it is REALLY true. Stay away from salt because of potential high-blood pressure. And stay away from the BIG sodas from the big chains like WA WA — full of ice and of little, if any, nutritional value. Save your money for more nutritional foods like fresh salads, yogurt, healthy low-sugar cereal, soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk. If you have the Blessed opportunity to cook at Home, utilize that opportunity to cook fresh vegetables; wild and brown rice and use fresh fruits and wheat or rye or 12 or 15 grain multi-grain breads or Oat breads. Stay away from donuts, cake and pies except maybe once or twice a month. You will feel better, have more energy & have more money in your pocket. You will also get the opportunity to mix and mingle with more people up in income and discover Ways of getting out of the poverty trap. Listen to the middle income and the educated and do some of the things they do such as take classes with their extra money; join professional organizations in fields you are interested in and read more books about business, math, and science. You Will be surprised at what rubs off. And you will feel more hopeful about your Blessed tomorrows….
          3] Send yourself a $15.00 or $45.00 Postal Money Order near the first of the month when you get paid. Put it in a security envelope or wrap a piece of white typing paper around it for security purposes with your own note saying to yourself HOW you have hope, HOW you care for yourself better and RESPECT YOURSELF and are being inspired to look for work if you are so inspired and can work and feel positive Spiritually. Try not to open the letter with the money order {Written out to yourself} in it when it comes back to you in the mail. Wait until the 20th of the month when you will need money. Write another note to yourself about staying out of trouble and not breaking the law, paying child support, staying off of illegal drugs and alcohol, getting help from a leader in the community or your doctor if you need it, searching for work at a proven place like ** or going back to school. Send a second Money Order to yourself made out to you and cash it when it comes back and use it when it comes back to you BUT spend it ONLY at a Black store, Black groceries, Black Laundromat, Black cleaners, Black dentist, Black doctor or Black auto mechanic. This Will help money turn around in the Black community instead of going out of the community into the hands of other ethnic groups other than BLACK PEOPLE!!!! This builds economic hope and Black prosperity; stabilizes our Black schools & stabilizes our Black families also. It also helps poor People to be seen as a community asset rather than a community burden. We can do this.
          4] Get some healthy cook books from the library with pictures in them. Preferably vegetarian cook books, or ones that specialize in chicken, turkey, fish & vegetables. Look at the pictures and tell yourself ``I deserve better, more nutritious foods because I’m worth it.’’ Cook some of the recipes if you have facilities, time, and space to do so. Stay away from salt if you have high blood pressure. Take t=one of these books with you to the Church Missions for food and read them and look at the pictures while you are eating and tell yourself the same things. You Will be surprised at the power of the words and pictures as you eat. If you have the courage ask what it is you are eating for dinner or lunch. Don’t you deserve to know? Just Askin…..
          5] Get a list of the Free places to go for food so you won’t have to remember them by memory. I know I forget sometimes where all the places are and on what days. Don’t always eat the white bread, white rice and white potatoes they serve, if you can do so without going hungry. These foods are very low in nutritional value and should be avoided.
          6] Attend some of the free cultural events at the library, the historical district like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the free films as places like the original White House where the names of the slaves of George Washington are at the historical center at 5th and Market Street, the community centers, the recreation centers, the churches, or the artistic centers like the Kimmell Center or The William Way Center (also known as the Gay Community Center). Some of the museums are also free on Wednesday nights after 5 P.M. such as the American Jewish Museum of History and Culture; and the Art Museum on the Parkway. Call and ask if you need to. You can do the research to get the numbers at the Library. It will just take a few minutes away from your job searches and your video games and your videos or music. Ask to see if they have free tickets for free events at the Kimmel Center of the other museums. Also: Call the African American History and Cultural Center at 7th and Arch and see why they don’t have a free-entrance night. I have always wondered why this is so, but haven’t had the chance to ask. …. [See if you can find the names of the following Slaves on the historical wall also at 5th and Market Street: Paris; Joe, Hercules; Richmond; Clive.] If you are really ambitious you should write the Federal Parks Department and thank them for spending the money on the slave-White House exhibit. Their address is: The African American Historical and Cultural Museum; 7th and Arch Street; Philadelphia, Pa. 19107. There are also free museums and free galleries at 2nd and Market through 2nd and Arch Street to look at the beautiful artwork as well. You might also go to the information desk at 16th and JFK or at 30th Street Station and ask for brochures for the free events in Philadelphia over this the next year. >>>>>>>
          7] Don’t throw paper on the ground & always keep as clean as you can even if you live in a shelter. Take showers and baths because people who keep cleaner get more respect from the community and other people. You deserve to be respected. I hope I have not offended anyone with anything here, I know I have trouble taking a bath everyday myself because I sometimes get a little down and don’t even feel like it. If you have these down feelings, you should talk to a social worker, a psychiatrist, a church pastor or a doctor, even if you have to go to an emergency room to talk to a doctor. It is always a good idea to buy something at the store when you use their bathroom instead of just use the bathroom at the store if at all possible. Even if you just but a lemon ice tea or an oatmeal cookie with raisins or a healthy nut bar.
          8] Make copies of this statement and have the courage to give it out to your friends and relatives who might also be trying to make a better Way for themselves. To Piggie Back on this: STOP SMOKING!!! You are NOT Getting COOL….. YOU ARE GETTING CANCER!!! My Mother, God Rest Her Soul, died of Cancer. She smoked when She was younger. It is exactly as the Surgeon General warns. A danger to good health. Smoking is also very expensive, taking money you need to pay your bills on time. It is also important to pay your bills on time.
          9] Go see a different type of movie. Visit the Ritz at 5th Street at Walnut Street or 2nd and Market. I highly recommend the new movie: ``Belle.’’ Or, go see a foreign film and see how good you are at reading the subtitles. [I personally can never read fast enough to read all the subtitles and information fast enough.] Look through the free newspapers for other free things to do. Now if you did five of these things, you MUST REALLY, REALLY congratulate yourself for a JOB well done because it is a full-time job to be poor & survive on the streets in any major city in the United States!!! I personally have vowed to not see any more Super Hero movies because they ignore Black Super Heroes. You can see The Black Panther in animation on You Tube in separate parts. This is a major step forward. Write the producers and send them a business / movie idea. Tell them you want one of those Big Fancy jobs as a movie producer. You would be surprised, you probably have as much qualifications as they do, except they have an Uncle in the business, but I’m not goin there right now.

    Suggested Films & Books:
    ``Beating the Odds: Crime, Poverty, & Life in the Inner City.’’ By Robert P. McNamara
    ``Up & Out of Poverty: The Social Marketing Solution,’’ By Philip R. Kotler & Nancy R. Lee.
    ``Death at an Early Age,’’ Please do the research & get the Author from the Library.
    ``Hot, Flat & Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — & How It Can Renew America,’’ By Thomas L. Friedman
    ``The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison,’’ By Francis Xavier Hguyen Thuan & a Forward by Hy K. Hgayen.
    ``Sounder,’’ Starring Cicley Tyson.
    ``Lady Sings the Blues,’’ Starring Diana Ross & Billy Dee Williams.
    ``Adjustment Bureau,’’
    ``Gold Finger,’’ Starring Sean Connery.
    ``Harold & Maud,’’
    The above information is provided by Brother Tracy Gibson; a disabled worker and businessman who is also right along with you as one of Philadelphia’s Poor People. I am, however, a man working every day to free myself from this poverty. If you can distribute this information to the public any way you can, please do so. Reach me at 1 (215) 921 – 2065 if you need more copies of this information or if you need any kind of referral for help. I will do my best to help you, or ask for help at the place where you get food. Write me a letter at my Post Office Box at: Mr. Tracy Charles Gibson; Post Office Box 42878; Philadelphia, Pa. 19101-2878 and tell me other things I can do to help and let me know if this information is helpful. Send your compliments, complaints and so forth over regular mail or e-mail at: I take great joy in working to help the poor and left out of all races, but especially Black People, because we have been historically discriminated against in this great nation of ours.