‘I call it my heart’s work’: Ayanna Pressley Visits Cambridge Senior Center

“I’m very humbled to represent the Massachusetts’ 7th, and I went to Washington to kick butt, and I took that very literally and I almost broke my leg in the process… My limbs have been compromised but my voice is as strong as ever,” stated Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.  On April 19, the Congresswoman visited the Cambridge Senior Center where she engaged in a question-and-answer session with the Massachusetts Senior Action Council (MSAC) members pertaining to her role in promoting prominent issues that senior citizens face.

One MSAC member, a 70 year old woman living with mental illness, stood and asked Congresswoman Pressley what she planned on doing in Congress to support seniors living with depression and mental illness.  “Because sometimes what they say is treatment, seems to us here, as torture,” she said.

Pressley appeared moved by what the member had said.  Pressley is on the Community Health Center Caucus that she states “provide(s) a level of culturally competent, affordable access” to services for those suffering with mental illness.  She is also fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act as well as advocate for more psychotherapists and social workers in senior housing. “You know, I thank you for sharing that, you certainly didn’t have to.  You’re helping a lot of people in this moment by doing that.”

Congresswoman Pressley then turned the question around, asking the member for some insight as to what are some central services that are needed in the mental health field when it comes to senior citizens.

“One of the things that I think would help is support for certified peer specialists.  These are people like myself, who are living with mental illness, they take training, and are licensed by the state,” said the woman.

Pressley was then asked about where the Democratic delegation is in terms of impeaching President Trump.

“So you thought you’d give me a real soft-ball?” she responded.  

The Congresswoman has recently signed a resolution to pursue investigations and impeachment proceedings when it comes to Trump along with Congressman Green, and Congresswomen Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez and Omar.  

“Let me just say this; I think this President has lost all moral authority, if he ever had any,” she said, referencing specifically the President’s fostering of white supremacy, xenophobia, and fear and hate mongering.  She went on to say, though, that she cannot attempt impeachment based solely on moral crimes. “We do need to have all the underlying documents, and we need something that is unredacted. But based upon what wasn’t redacted, I do believe there is a case that can be made for obstruction of justice – for witness tampering, for abuse of authority and power, and trying to stop the investigation from happening in the first place.”

Congresswoman Pressley was then asked if she would introduce a resolution in Congress in regards to the release of Leonard Peltier from federal prison.  Leonard Peltier is an American Indian activist who was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in 1977 for the murders of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. Many believe that falsified evidence, inhumane interrogation, and mentally ill testimonials, etc. were used to convict Peltier.

The Congresswoman began by saying that criminal justice reform is an element of her “heart’s work.”  Congresswoman Pressley has had personal experience with the criminal just justice system – her father spent fourteen years incarcerated.  She stated though, that her father’s experience is not the only one that drives her commitment to change. “I spent time behind the wall, and it is so heartbreaking…these aging prisoners are no risk to anyone.  And they should be home and with their families, and again it is a situation where we are spending money to build prisons, and paying money to keep people caged when we could be investing that money in prevention measures, and in a more equitable and just society, so that people might not commit poverty crimes and other things that result in their incarceration in the first place.”

Lastly, Congresswoman Pressley was asked about her efforts when it comes to universal healthcare.  She stated that many act as if healthcare is merely a left-wing, socialist issue and that she feels that is simply not the truth – that universal healthcare is in fact affordable and doable.

“I do support that this is not high in the sky… health care is a basic right, it is not a privilege,” she said. “This is a middle issue.  When people are rationing insulin and using GoFundMe pages to pay medical bills, we are in a crisis.”
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley made history when she was the first woman of color elected to both the Boston City Council and Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  She has represented Massachusetts’ 7th District in the House of Representatives for just over 100 days.