I was running … I was that person running for my life across a parking lot, running from an abuser. I remember hearing bullets whizz past my head and at that moment I wondered: “How do I make it out of this life?”
I was uninsured. I’ve been that uninsured person, hoping my healthcare provider wouldn’t embarrass me by asking me if I had insurance. I wondered: “How will I bear it?”
I was a single parent. I’ve been that single parent struggling paycheck to paycheck, sitting outside the payday loan office, wondering “how much more will I have to sacrifice?”
I was that Covid patient. I’ve been that Covid patient gasping for breath, wondering, “How long will it be until I can breathe freely again?”
I’m still that same person. I’m proud to stand before you today knowing it was this person, with these experiences, that moved the voters of St Louis to do something historic. St Louis: my city, my home, my community. We have been surviving and grinding and just scraping by for so long, and now this is our moment to finally, finally start living and growing and thriving. So, as the first Black woman, nurse, and single mother to have the honor to represent Missouri in the United States Congress, let me just say this. To the Black women. The Black girls. The nurses. The single mothers. The essential workers. This. Is. OUR. Moment.
Six years ago, St Louis captured the eyes and ears of the entire world during the Ferguson uprising. We could not stand the injustice any longer, so – in the tradition of every one of our ancestors who fought for a better world – we organized for Michael Brown, Jr. We organized for 400 days, side by side, arm in arm, St Louis strong. And now in the face of a global pandemic and relentless attacks on our right to vote, we organized all the way to the ballot box. We mailed in our ballots, we voted absentee, we reached our families, friends, neighbors, and peers – and we showed up … St Louis strong.
For years, we’ve lived under leadership that shut us out of our own government. For years, we’ve been left out in the cold: protesting in the streets, sleeping in our cars or tents, working three part-time jobs just to pay the bills. And today, today, we, all of us, are headed to Congress – St Louis strong!
My message today is to every Black, Brown, immigrant, queer, and trans person, and to every person locked out of opportunities to thrive because of oppressive systems; I’m here to serve you. To every person who knows what it’s like to give a loved one that “just make it home safely baby” talk; I love you.