tee was an act to end homelessness. And I so appreciate that it says “to end,” because it is possible. But it really is about the choices that we make in our budgets on the city and state level and the choices that we make when it comes to federal policy. Can you talk to our readers a bit more about the intersections of racial justice and housing justice? So again, I serve on the Financial Services Committee, and I wanted to do that because of my lived experiences growing up in the residual aftermath of precisely discriminatory policies like redlining. That practice still exists, which is also why we need to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act. The fact that 98 per cent of our financial institutions continue to pass those examinations, meanwhile, the practice of redlining persists, then the 2008 foreclosure crisis, and now our current eviction crisis, black folks are suffering from generations of systemic discrimination in housing. If you’re black, you’re more likely to face housing insecurity, less able to build generational wealth and home ownership. It’s why black students borrow more and default more, because of the policies that have obstructed our abilities, our families’ abilities, to build generational wealth. What’s happening during this COVID-19 pandemic has really only laid bare and worsened these longstanding racial disparities and health outcomes. One of the things that I’m going to continue to fight for is the cancellation of rent and mortgage, for eviction and foreclosure moratoriums. They’ve been a critical lifeline for folks during this pandemic. We know that evictions disproportionately impact black folks, especially black women. We’ve seen in Massachusetts and across the country, landlords are illegally attempting to evict tenants despite moratoriums banning them from doing so. It’s also why I introduced legislation with Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the Housing Emergency Lifeline Program, or HELP Act, which would guarantee a right to legal counsel for those who do face eviction. What it provides is an added layer of renters’ protections for those facing eviction. We know that there is an increased likelihood that they will not be evicted if they do have legal representation. REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY D-MASS: “(THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM) IS XENOPHOBIC AND RACIST, AND JUST TINKERING AT THE EDGES WITH LEGISLATIVE REFORMS IS NOT GOING TO BE ENOUGH. WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING BOLD AND TRANSFORMATIVE.” How have the activists and protestors taking to the streets over the past several months influenced your work? Oh, the past several months. No, my entire life. I grew up in a household of a single parent. Our household was destabilized for many reasons, not only because of short-sighted, discriminatory policies, but other destabilizing, social factors. Poverty, incarceration, substance use, trauma. My mother was a tenant’s rights activists. And so, I grew up in the activist household and tradition and my mother made it very clear to me early on that I had a role to play in the movement and in that struggle. It was her expectation that I would. And so now as a policymaker, I’m very intentional about engaging activists because I believe the people closest to the pain should be the closest to the power driving and informing the policymaking. Of the 11 housing bills I’ve either authored or co-sponsored, eight out of the eleven have been directly shaped and informed by my co-authoring legislation with those closest to the issue. People are experts based on their lived experiences. So, my mother’s example really just demonstrated for me the power of activism, of organizing, of mobilizing, the power of movement building. And so as a legislator, I just seek to affirm that our freedoms and our destinies are tied, and to legislate in a way that is bold and intersectional, because each issue builds upon the next. None of these things happen in a silo. In talking with friends and family, about the upcoming election, what keeps coming up is this fear that no matter what happens, things will get worse as far as racist violence and political violence. What words do you have for people with marginalized identities as far as resisting hopelessness or resignation as all this comes to a head? Much of my work on the city council and now in Congress has been informed by my commitment to mitigate the impacts of trauma and to prevent it. I think many things cause trauma. Some things are more obvious, like being besieged and accosted by the consecutive murders on video of unarmed black Americans. I think trauma is also caused by policy that is violent, policy that is precise in the hurt and harm that it causes. [Recently], we asked the City of Boston to respond to the trauma that is all around us and the gravity of our challenges. An activist in the community, Thaddeus Miles, partnered with Boston City Councilman Julia Mejia to designate Black Joy Day in the city of Boston [on 12 September 2020]. One of the affirmations that came out of that was “our greatness is older than our oppression.” So that’s what I would say to all marginalized communities, who are marginalized because of structural racism and systemic oppression, that our greatness is older than our oppression. This is the time to call upon our ancestors. This is the time to revisit the blueprint of what the early chapters of the Civil Rights Movement taught us. We have to dig deep. A dear friend of mine recently challenged all of us to choose the discipline of hope over the ease of cynicism and to choose fortitude over fatalism. My mother taught me to believe in the power of the people, and my conviction and my belief in that has not waned because every transformative systemic change that has been ushered in in this country was made possible because of the power of the people. I would bet on that movement and the American people every day. Ann-Derrick Gaillot is a freelance journalist and writer based in Missoula, Montana. Find more of her work at annderrickgaillot.contently. com. Photos: 1: Ayanna Pressley headshot. Courtesy photo. 2-3: Ayanna Pressley at recent community event in Boston. Courtesy photos. Page 9

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