Most challenging part of leading during 2 simultaneous public health crises? 

This pandemic is exposing deep, systemic inequities. Inequities that have been long present. But this moment is also exposing an opportunity. An opportunity to rebuild in a more just and equitable way.

As communities are facing overlapping crises of public health, economic inequality, and systemic racism, I think the challenge lies in continuing to forge forward—continuing to resist and to persist—when our very lives and the lives of our loved ones hang in the balance.

I think about the empty chairs at dinner tables across our nation that were once occupied by family members who were robbed of their lives too soon due to policy failures. But what I know is that if we can legislate hate, hurt, and harm, then we can legislate hope and healing too.

Most challenging part of leading during 2 simultaneous public health crises?

People often ask me if I’m growing discouraged or cynical, and I tell them “I don’t have the luxury. We don’t have the luxury.”

And while my heart breaks at the hurt and harm our communities are feeling, it swells at the organizers, activists, movement-builders, table-shakers, and civic architects who are supporting their neighbors through mutual aid networks and taking to the streets and the halls of power to demand change.

The charge for us now is to turn that culture shift into a power and a policy shift. We are in the midst of a national reckoning, which demands a reconstructing. That the normal that predated this time was insufficient, unjust and inadequate to begin with.

Who do you wear a mask for?

I wear a mask for my immunocompromised brothers and sisters who are at heightened risk of complications due to COVID-19. I was recently diagnosed with alopecia, but there are many types of autoimmune disorders that impact people’s lives on a daily basis, and this pandemic has created an extra layer of stress and fear within our community.

Wearing a mask is an act of love and caretaking, and we must always center the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalized in our community.

Ayanna Pressley

46 years old 

Member of Congress