Essence: ‘The Squad’ Draws A Crowd At Congressional Black Caucus

Sep 14, 2019

Donna M. Owens


Four Freshman Congresswomen, nicknamed “The Squad,” got candid about politics, President Donald Trump and even personal likes and dislikes during an NAACP town hall that drew a crowd of onlookers and fans. 

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY),  and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) came together for conversation around public service, voting, women’s leadership, social justice and other critical issues facing the nation.

The event, part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s  Annual Legislative Conference (ALC), was moderated by attorney and political strategist, Angela Rye, who said she’d pushed for the sit-down.

The progressive lawmakers—all women of color garnered headlines this summer after President Trump derided them as “racist” “troublemakers” who are “young, inexperienced and not very smart.” His remarks followed reports of alleged Democratic party infighting among the old guard, and new legislators elected in the 2016 midterm “Blue Wave.”

Rye, a CNN political commentator, kicked off with a few light-hearted questions, asking the Congresswomen about what they binge-watch on TV to shoe choices and romance. For the record, AOC favors stilettos over sneakers; Pressley had her first kiss in the 8th grade;  Omar watches The Black List and Tlaib hops in Lyft over Uber for ride-sharing.

But the talk quickly turned serious, with Rye delving deep into what’s been happening to the women since their groundbreaking wins.  

 “I am not supposed to be here,” Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, said of her victory. She and Somali-born Omar made history as the first Muslim women elected into Congress. “I was specifically told `It’s not your turn.’ Well, I didn’t know it was a line,” Tlaib quipped.

While running for office, she didn’t take PAC money, and earned no endorsements. But her sense is that voters liked her “authenticity” and desire to tackle issues that other politicians won’t.  

Ocasio-Cortez, a Latina who ousted a longtime incumbent, echoed a similar sentiment. “People are hungry for just realness,” she said, adding that women seeking office should trust their instincts over polls, etc. “Do it your way.”

Omar told the audience she did just that, ignoring naysayers in her community who felt a man should be sent to Capitol Hill.  “I only had 10 weeks to campaign. We met over 300,000 people.”

“I lost my voice and got bronchitis,” she says of a daily canvassing schedule that included 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. meet and greets. “But every vote counts, every vote matters. ”

Now that they’re in office, the Congresswomen indicated they’re focused on introducing legislation and constituent needs. They are each committed to finding solutions to poverty, homelessness, housing inequality, the environment (i.e. AOC’s Green New Deal proposal) and ending unnecessary military engagements.

While the lawmakers have fielded insults from Trump to online trolls, they all said it won’t stop their work. We are “collectively ushering in a different paradigm,” Pressley noted, which threatens the status quo.

And her personal definition of Black Girl Magic? “Doing the work!” she said to loud applause.

“We don’t need to ask anyone’s permission,” Pressley said, adding that the Squad is anyone who believes in making America a better place.

“My mother did not raise me to ask permission to lead. This democracy belongs to us.”

Read original article here.

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