Contender for U.S. House of Representatives Ayanna Pressley Talks Arts in Boston

Kate Lynn Huffman
Apr 26, 2018 · 3 min read

On Tuesday, April 16th, the group JP Progressives (JPP), hosted a Candidate’s Forum with Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley. JPP is a community organization based in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston that “brings progressives together to: build electoral power, mobilize around issues, build a progressive community, and engage our JP community.” Councilor Pressley is running a primary campaign against current Representative Michael Capuano to represent the people of Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Democrat Mike Capuano was elected to Congress in 1998. He also served as Mayor of Somerville, which makes up a portion of the 7th Congressional District, from 1990 to 1999. Pressley is running as a more progressive democratic contender, committed to being an “activist leader in Washington.”

Both Capuano and Pressley have a history of supporting and advocating for the arts. Capuano currently sits on the Congressional Arts Caucus. During her tenure on Boston’s City Council, Pressley was formerly Chair of the Committee of Arts, Humanities, and Special Events. While on the committee, she led efforts to establish the first literary arts cultural district in the country, around the the Edgar Allan Poe statue near Boston Common. She also worked with community members to establish two cultural districts — one in the Fenway and the other in Roxbury.

Recording of the full JPP Forum with Councilor Pressley. The question and her answer about the arts begins at 45:53.

At the forum, Pressley spoke of her strong belief in the creative economy. She said that changes need to be made so young artists can see a career path for themselves in the arts, citing student debt and low income as deterrents to young people pursuing their passions in the arts. If elected to Congress, Pressley said that she would support the CREATE Act. This piece of proposed legislation would recognize artists and nonprofit arts organizations as contributors to the small business economy and allow them to access the same programs and loan opportunities as small business owners.

Pressley shared that her passion for the arts came from her parents. Pressley’s mother exposed her to the arts and enriching cultural activities, revealing that the world was bigger than just her city block. The City Councilor also spoke about her father, who was incarcerated during her childhood and is now a professor of journalism. He would write to her and send her books, which fostered a love of language and the humanities. Pressley said that she was introduced to authors such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Sonia Sanchez, whose writing informed her consciousness.

When first asked about her stance and background in supporting the arts, Pressley exclaimed, “I am so happy I got this question! No one ever asks me about the arts.” Pressley’s comments illustrate that politicians and candidates care about the arts and want to talk about them! Arts advocates need to show up wherever politicians and candidates may be, especially during the time leading up to elections, to ask about the arts and to advocate for their importance as a platform priority.

You can watch the JPP Forum with Councilor Pressley live stream recording here: goo.gl/WkASuZ (question about the arts and answer begins at 45:53). A full transcript of Councilor Pressley’s answer and statement on the arts can be read here: goo.gl/KCj2qs.

Find out more about Ayanna Pressley and her Congressional campaign on her website ayannapressley.com.

Kate Lynn Huffman

Written by

Iowa → London → Boston → Philly. Musician + arts administrator trying to find my home. www.katelynnhuffman.com

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