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Thursday, October 13, 2022

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley Delivers Powerful Keynote at 109th NAACP Providence Branch Freedom Fund Awards Gala

 Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley Delivers Powerful Keynote at 109th NAACP Providence Branch Freedom Fund Awards Gala


In Impassioned Speech, Pressley Outlines How Attendees Can Wield Their Collective Power to Make Lasting Change 


Providence, RI – On Friday, October 9, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) delivered the keynote address at the NAACP Providence Branch’s annual Freedom Fund Awards Gala. This year marked the 109th edition of the event, which raises funds to support the work of the NAACP Providence Branch and honors community members for their advocacy and activism.


To watch a recording of the event, including the Congresswoman’s full remarks, click here.


During her remarks, Congresswoman Pressley focused on the theme of this year’s celebration: This Is Power. 


“Power comes from many places. It manifests in many ways. But, here's what I think, what I know, what I see when I look around this room. When I look at all the folks who are being honored this evening, who answered the call to serve, because your job is what pays the bills, but your work is what you are called to do – what you were made to do. When I look around this room, I see organizers and advocates. I see trailblazers and mentors … some disruptors, too. … I see community builders and social architects and civil engineers. This. Is. Power. And around the country, Black and brown leaders are the backbone of our communities. We are the frontlines of today's social movements. We are pushing for progress and defending what we have achieved together. This is power. We are powerful. And may we continue to be audacious in that power, because scared power isn’t power at all.”


She spoke about how she has used the power of her office in Congress to push for meaningful change for the people she represents, and communities across the country, in the form of student debt relief:  


“I just want to lift up a success, a victory. Using the power of the pen, using the power of my platform, using the power of the movement, I led the fight in the House – with many others, I’ve been working closely with Leader Schumer and Senator Warren – I was in negotiations at the White House till 7:00 AM the day of the announcement, but student debt relief is on the way. And you know why that matters? Because Black folks in this country have been locked out of every Federal relief program, from the New Deal to the Homestead Act to the GI Bill. Targeted by redlining. We haven’t built generational wealth. We have income, but we don’t have wealth. We borrow at 85 percent. We default at five times that. You told us we live in a meritocracy. You said education is the equalizer. You said go get that degree. But to put it out of reach, you increased the cost by 150 percent. So because we used the power of the pen, the power of our platform, the power of this movement, student debt relief is on the way. 43 million people slept a little bit better at night, woke up a little bit more optimistic and hopeful. And one in four Black borrowers will have their debt zeroed out. So I'm glad y'all are recording because I need you to go to studentaid.gov/debtrelief and get in this queue, so that you can find out if you are eligible. If you were a Pell Grant recipient, $20,000 of your debt will be canceled. Non-Pell Grant recipients, $10,000 of your debt will be canceled. Now, all these things I steward: the pen, the platform, the movement, because I want a politic not of transaction, but of transformation.


And she called on attendees to be intentional and bold in using their collective power to make change: 


“Let us wield our power together, just as our ancestors did. 


Let us wield our power to create schools in which our babies can thrive, no matter what zip code they come from or how they wear their curly, textured hair. Schools that embrace their full identity, meet them where they are, set them up for a life of learning. 


Where the doors to college and meaningful work are thrown wide open.


Where a Black woman can give birth in a place where humanity is centered, where she feels heard, safe, sacred, and loved. 


The dream. 


Where Black boy joy is a right of passage. 


Where Black men make headlines and earn trending hashtags because they are celebrated emancipators, engineers, educators.


Where our children can afford to purchase homes in the communities where they were raised. 


Where the ballot box is an accessible and frequent presence in our lives. Where Black votes are cast and counted and never taken for granted. 


The dream.


And the needs of our community are centered in policy-making, from city hall to the White House. 


Where we build on the momentous step taken yesterday by the White House to pardon thousands of unjustly convicted people and make meaningful progress to reverse the legacy of the war on drugs. 


The dream. 


Where our elders can age in community and make the transition to ancestor with dignity. Where Black people grow old. Let me repeat that. Where Black people grow old and gray.


And where the value of Black life is codified in every policy and budget. Where our wealth is generational. Where our hair is celebrated. Our legacy enduring. That is the potential of the dream. That is the potential of our power.”


The NAACP Providence Branch is led by President Jim Vincent. In addition to Congresswoman Pressley, this year’s gala welcomed NAACP New England Area Conference President Juan Cofield, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman David Cicilline, Governor Dan McKee, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, among others. Colonel Sharon Harmon received the Rosa Parks Award; Regina Clement received the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Award; the George S. Lima Award went to Susan Pires; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award to Terrell Osborne; and Cedric Huntley was the recipient of the Medgar Evers Award. 

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