Rep. Ayanna Pressley asks marginalized communities to remember “our greatness is older than our oppression” introduced this bill, the Anti-racism in Public Health Act, with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Barbara Lee specifically so that we can be actively anti-racist when it comes to dismantling structural racism and improving policy when it comes to public health. There are three things that I think are important to highlight here. The first is that we’re confronting and dismantling these racist systems and practices, which have created these racial disparities, by creating the National Center for Anti-Racism at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which first declares racism as the public health crisis that it is and then provides the critical research needed to develop anti-racist health policy. The other matter is the bill will also establish a law enforcement violence prevention program at the CDC, because police brutality is also a public health crisis. In fact, this is the sixth leading cause of death for young black men. I really do ultimately believe that that which gets measured gets done. So, if we’re really serious about ending systemic racism, then we have to invest in the policies and the research that are actively anti-racist. And that’s what the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act does. Ayanna Pressley at recent community event in Boston. [Courtesy photos] What does the federal government need to do to meaningfully address the housing crisis and homelessness in this country? By Ann-Derrick Gaillot Two years ago, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley won her seat in the House of Representatives after running against a 10-time incumbent. That was one of the nation’s first clues that the Chicago-born and raised politician was game for taking on the seemingly unchangeable. Upon doing so, she, who in 2009 became the first black woman ever elected to Boston City Council in over 100 years, took on a new, trailblazing superlative: first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress. She’s taken a similarly undaunted approach in Congress, having thrown her support and efforts behind a number of fair housing and racial justice policies and efforts, tackling other seemingly inescapable, entrenched national realities, like homelessness and police brutality. Earlier this year, she and Rep. Page 8 Rashida Tlaib introduced the Public Health Emergency Shelter Act, calling for $11 billion of grants for emergency funding for those the pandemic has left homeless and housing insecure. She also secured $4 billion dollars in homelessness assistance funding in the CARES Act, passed in March. Meanwhile, Rep. Pressley has steadily emerged as one of Congress’s more relatable members, often speaking to how her formative experiences in Chicago, as well as her specific experiences as a black woman in America, inform her policy work. Now up for re-election, Rep. Pressley took a moment to speak to INSP about housing justice, racial justice, and holding on to hope in turbulent times. Ann-Derrick Gaillot: You introduced the antiracism and public health act calling to formally declare racism as a public health crisis, which Boston did. Can you talk more to our readers about this legislation and the impacts that it could have across the country? Ayanna Pressley: The Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District, my district, has been the hardest hit in the Commonwealth by this pandemic, and that has everything to do with the comorbidity of structural racism. Unequal access to healthcare, transportation deserts, food apartheid systems, lack of safe, affordable housing, a confluence of all of those things which, by the way, are not naturally occurring. They are policy choices and decisions. And so, during this moment of national reckoning on racial injustice, it’s not enough to simply call out racism. The federal government really has a moral obligation to actively pursue anti-racist policies and to dismantle systemic racism once and for all. I’m grateful for the Boston City Council, which I served on, the Somerville City Council, and Cambridge as well in the Massachusetts 7th, Boston, who have all declared racism a public health crisis. But I Again, housing is a critical determinant of health, but also social and economic mobility. So, access to safe and affordable housing is a matter of public health. The fact that we find so many people on the precipice of eviction, contributing to growing homelessness in the midst of a pandemic, is unconscionable. We have arrived at this moment not only because of the failings of the federal government to meet the scale and scope of the crisis, but [also] because of a confluence of a lack of political will and leadership and policy. When I was a Boston city councilor, the number one calls my office received were related to housing. And now as a member of Congress, that’s still the case. This is about choices, ultimately. For the price of one military aircraft carrier, we could end homelessness. That’s $13 billion. And I know that because I serve on the Financial Services Committee. Housing and homelessness are under that jurisdiction. And the very first bill to be considered in the 116th Congress in full commit

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