Ayanna Pressley is an advocate, a policy-maker, an activist, and a survivor. On November 6, 2018, Ayanna was elected to represent Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, making her the first woman of color to be elected to Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Ayanna believes that the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power, and that a diversity of voices in the political process is essential to crafting more effective public policy.
Born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago, Ayanna is the only child of a single mother and a father who was in and out of the criminal legal system. Ayanna’s mother, Sandra Pressley, was a tenants’ rights organizer who instilled in her the value of civic engagement. Thanks in large part to her mother’s dedication to activism, Ayanna has always been acutely aware of the role that government can play in lifting up families and communities.
Ayanna moved to Boston, MA in 1992 to attend Boston University. Working as an aide to Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II and later Senator John Kerry, Ayanna’s professional life mirrored her commitment to service and lifting the voices of those in her community.
In 2009, she launched a historic at-large campaign for Boston City Council and won, becoming the first woman of color elected to the Council in its 100-year history. On the Council, Congresswoman Pressley worked in partnership with residents, advocates, and other elected officials to combat the inequities and disparities facing the community.
In Congress, Ayanna has been dedicated to the kind of bold, activist leadership she emphasized throughout her groundbreaking campaign. She has introduced legislation to ensure fair compensation for low-wage workers, to support survivors of sexual assault and harassment, and to fundamentally reimagine our criminal legal system, among much else. And she has been a vocal advocate on behalf of our immigrant communities, led the creation of the Future of Transportation caucus, fought to protect critical reproductive rights, and to hold the White House accountable.
In 2018, Ayanna was named one the Boston Globe’s “Bostonians of the Year” and, in 2016, she was one of The New York Times 14 Young Democrats to Watch. She has been honored by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce as one of their Ten Outstanding Young Leaders, and with the Leadership Award from the Victim Rights Law Center. In 2015, she earned the EMILY’s List Rising Star Award and was named one of Boston Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful People. She is also an Aspen-Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership, Class of 2012.
Ayanna lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston with her husband Conan Harris, eleven-year-old stepdaughter Cora, and cat, Sojourner Truth.