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Meet Cori Bush, the first Black Lives Matter leader set to take over Congress

Bush unseated Representative William Lacy Clay, who has represented Missouri’s 1st Congressional District since 2001 in a burning rejection of establishment politics.

Meet Cori Bush, the first Black Lives Matter leader set to take over Congress
Image Source: Netflix's "Knock Down the House" Premiere. AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 10. (Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images for Netflix)

Earlier this month, Cori Bush sent shockwaves across the state of Missouri when she won the Democratic primary for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District, unseating Representative William Lacy Clay. The win, what she called "the culmination of activist work" of several years, assured her spot in the next Congress. As a progressive leader and grassroots organizer with the Black Lives Matter movement, Bush's political strategy is characterized by getting out on the street and putting in the work to achieve racial justice. Now, she plans to take a "pragmatic approach" in order to advance her progressive goals, The Huffington Post reports.


"This is about me building St. Louis in a way we haven’t seen―especially in quite a while," she said in an interview with the news outlet. "My door’s not going to be closed to working with anyone, but I’m not going to be someone who goes along to get along either." Bush was only 20 years old when she took to the streets of Ferguson in 2014. Since then, she has spent time learning about what her community needs in order to move forward. The activist stated about her passion for instigating change, "I just couldn’t believe what was happening in my community. So I went to the streets just thinking I could be a medic because I’m a nurse, help out, pray with people because I’m clergy. And I just saw something that I would have never expected and ended up staying―just coming back day after day."


Bush is no stranger to hard work. During the day, she would attend the protests in a professional capacity. Then, she would make the trip down to the community mental health clinic where she worked, helping protesters cope with their grief and trauma. Finally, by night, she would return to the protests as a demonstrator. She has thus been called the "female version of John Lewis." Missouri state Representative Rasheen Aldridge explained, "We have somebody who is like a John Lewis, who has been through the streets and moved now into a position of power. That’s what we’re getting again: a female version of John Lewis. Somebody who understands the need of protests, the need of civil disobedience, and will not ever talk down to a movement or say they need to strategize different."


The young activist now has the opportunity to translate her grassroots demonstrations into public policy. Not only could she support legislation such as the Breathe Act, a piece of legislation proposed by the Movement for Black Lives coalition and introduced by two members of 'The Squad' (Democratic Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley), but she could also bring some much-needed attention to the structural issues that pose challenges at the local level. These issues include housing, healthcare, and mass incarceration, to name a few. Bush's election was an outright rejection of the establishment politics in St. Louis, according to Reed, a Ferguson protester and racial justice activist who now serves as executive director of Action St. Louis.


Bush thus represents a shot at a more equitable Missouri, where the call of the state's people is heard. "They now finally have a representative that they know is not just going to be in Congress all the time but if things get bad will be willing to be in the streets," Aldridge affirmed. "To have someone who’s also going to be unapologetic, not buying into the status quo, and is just going to be speaking straight truth to power, it’s gonna be different. It’s gonna be different and good for the state of Missouri but also for the whole country."


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