Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood made history last fall when she was elected to Congress, the youngest Black woman to ever win a seat in the legislature, at 32 years old.

Now as a freshman lawmaker on Capitol Hill, she is wasting no time getting to work, and encouraging other Black millennials to follow in her footsteps.

When I decided to run, I had no idea that that was the case. None,” Underwood told theGrio at the recent Millennial Media Row event in Washington, D.C., hosted by Rep. Maxine Waters ahead of the 2019 State of the Union address on Tuesday night.  “I did it because I believe strongly that we deserve better in my community.”

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As a former Obama administration staffer, registered nurse and health policy expert,  Underwood says that Black people are often the backbones of civic and social justice movements, but not in seats of elected power.

“We are running organizations, we are active at the school,” she told theGrio. “You know, we are dedicated voters. We’re the most loyal voting bloc in this country. And yet so often we hesitate when it comes time to putting our own names on a ballot.”

“We need to just channel that energy and to run.”

Underwood says “The American Dream” isn’t dead for Black Millennials

Underwood also addressed the question of whether the American dream is dead for Black millennials who are struggling to afford homes, pay down student loan debt, take care of their aging parents and build a future.

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“If we surrender the American Dream as something that’s only achievable by other groups then we have lost,” she said.

“We’ve lost our power. We cannot afford to disengage.”

Underwood acknowledges the structural racism that exists and creates unique obstacles for Black millennials. She says she’d like to see this generation continue to support each other by actively organizing, rather than stopping at social media awareness.

“We should be organized in our approach and not be content with just commenting about it.

“We should be organized in our approach and not be content with just commenting about it.

We’re not the only generation to be struggling with these issues. Homeownership has been out of reach for African-Americans for generations. We can’t feed into the hype, we have to continue to strive and aspire.

“It might look a little different. It might take a little longer. And we might need to help each other get there. But I believe it’s possible.”

Watch more from our interview with Rep. Lauren Underwood in the clip above.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 03: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) poses for photographs with Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and her family in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol January 03, 2019 in Washington, DC. Under the cloud of a partial federal government shutdown, Pelosi reclaimed her former title as speaker and her fellow Democrats took control of the House of Representatives for the second time in eight years. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)