Meet Ayanna Pressley, the Black woman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants us to vote for next

According to her bio, Ayanna Pressley is an advocate, a policy-maker, an activist, and survivor. She is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District and was the first woman of color elected to the Boston City Council in its 100-year history. (Courtesy of

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democratic socialist who unexpectedly defeated Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in last Tuesday’s primary race, now wants us to root for another woman of color who has great promise but is being labeled a political underdog.

“Vote her in next, Massachusetts,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Wednesday about Ayanna Pressley, the first Black woman to serve on the Boston City Council in its 100 year history, who is now running to unseat Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) in the House.

Pressley’s chances of winning against Capuano, a 10-term incumbent may have seemed slim a week ago, but Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking win over Crowley now has voters believing just about anything is possible and insiders wondering if a similar upset could be brewing in The Bay State.

And the support that Ocasio-Cortez expressed towards Pressley definitely goes both ways.

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“You proved that when we stand up for what we believe in, we win,” Pressley tweeted to Ocasio-Cortez after her win. “This is a movement. Together, we will change the world.”

While both Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley share the distinction of being women of color challenging an incumbent white male lawmaker, unlike the 28-year old Bronx native, Pressley is no newcomer to public service and has a political career that spans over 18 years.

“I’ve been told to wait my turn,” Pressley said at a kickoff event for her campaign in February. “I’ve been accused of naked ambition.”

“I’ve been called a traitor for challenging an incumbent, told simply this isn’t the way things are done here in Massachusetts,” she continued. “When the challenges we are confronted with are this big, this deep, and growing, I can’t and I won’t wait my turn.”

After being elected to the Boston City Council in 2009, Pressley founded the Committee on Women & Healthy Communities, which works to combat community destabilization and poverty and is known for her advocacy on behalf of survivors of sexual assault and for sexual health education.

“As the first woman of color elected to Boston City Council, Ayanna Pressley has worked to be a voice for all Bostonians. She has demonstrated a deep commitment to promoting healthy, safe communities where all women and families have a fair shot,” Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY’s List, a group dedicated to electing Democratic women to office, said in a statement.

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“She works tirelessly to identify and create opportunities to make a positive impact on the city and the people she serves.”

Pressley was raised in Chicago as the only child of an activist mother who made sure she understood the importance of civic engagement and participation. She is most interested in policies that help to stabilize families and communities and rallies around issues that disproportionately impact women and girls like violence and poverty.

Massachusetts voters will decide Pressley’s political fate on Sept. 4.