“They’re not paying attention to the writing on the wall.”
Cori Bush, a St. Louis-native and a veteran Black Lives Matter activist, made history this week when she became the first Black woman elected to Congress in Missouri. And in doing so, she toppled a Missouri political dynasty that had held onto the congressional seat for a half-century, but had, she said, become disconnected from the community.
“I just won this seat from a 52-year dynasty because I stood up for Black lives,” Bush told Yahoo News, speaking in a video interview two days after her victory. “I stood up for brown lives and for babies in cages. I stood up against all of the oppression and the systems that have been holding our community down for so long.”
Bush, a single mother, nurse and pastor, became politically active as one of the thousands of protesters marching in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., in the aftermath of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb. She was among those passionately chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
“During Ferguson, I saw something,” she recalled. “The powers-that-be messed up, letting us see change happen. Even though we didn’t get the change that we wanted, we saw change happening in other places.” She gave her victory speech this week with a “Black Lives Matter” flag as the backdrop.
Bush says she’s already found a home on Capitol Hill as a member of “The Squad,” the small group of progressive women of color who have pushed Democrats to the left and frequently earned the ire of President Trump. “Squad” Reps. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., all easily won reelection this year, and their progressive agenda lines up with Bush’s, whose platform includes a $15 federal minimum wage and Medicare for All.
“That’s my family,” Bush said. “I’m already a part of the Squad and we’re going to fight this thing together,” she added.
She’s bonded with Pressley in particular. “One person that I’ve talked to a lot, that’s always checking up on me, is my sister Ayanna Pressley,” said Bush. “She’s always like, ‘You good sis?’ We talk and it’s like, ‘What’s needed?’ And I think that she also understands that there’s also this other piece of being a Black woman and a particular hue of Black woman where we need to stand and build one another up. She’s not looking at it like, ‘Oh, she’s coming to take some of my shine’ or none of that. It’s like ‘Sis, let’s do this together.’”
Alicia Garza, principal at Black to the Future Action Fund and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, says that Bush speaks for everyday Americans, and it’s needed more than ever.
“What is really beautiful about this is that folks like Cori Bush [and other emerging progressive leaders] is that they represent America,” Garza told Yahoo News.
Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, a political organization whose goal is to move political infrastructure toward investing in Black voter engagement, concurred.
“Bush’s victory is important because it represents new leadership and the real importance of providing openings for younger folks to have political leadership,” Shropshire told Yahoo News. “It also represents someone who is of the community, who understands the real needs and what policies are going to make a real impact of regular folks in the community.”
For her part, Bush plans to get noticed doing exactly that.
“If my community needs it, I’m going to talk about it. And I’m going to talk about it the way that my community talks. If I want to put on my big, dolphin earrings and show up, that’s what I’m going to wear,” the congresswoman-elect told Yahoo News.
“I’m going to be exactly who I am, and that needs to be accepted in the Democratic Party and across the board. Because if you don’t, times have changed and you will see yourself in a position that you didn’t think you’d ever see yourself in. Ask the people that aren’t going to Congress again next year.”
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: (Photo Illustration: Yahoo! News; Photos: Getty Images for Supermajority; Zach Gibson/Getty Images(3))
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