Threats to American democracy were the theme of a talk between Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA 7th District) and Kahina Van Dyke, organizer of the Juneteenth Jubilee events, on Saturday at Union Chapel.

Ms. Pressley is the first Black woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress, taking office in 2019. While in office she has championed efforts for student debt relief, abortion access, Medicare and climate justice.

On stage, Ms. Pressley and Ms. Van Dyke discussed the importance of Black people taking up space and described Black joy to be an act of resistance against oppressive systems.

“Just because I started being a Congresswoman, doesn’t mean I stopped being a Black woman,” Ms. Pressley said. “My existence is the resistance. How I show up is disruptive to people who cannot handle the light of this melanated, bald crown.”

Ms. Pressley took questions from the audience. — Jeanna Shepard

Ms. Pressley told the crowd that she felt the U.S. had embarked on a long march toward fascism.

“It’s happening in plain view,” she said. “The dismantling of our democracy won’t happen in one sweeping blow, it happens a little bit at a time.”

On Jan. 6, 2021, Ms. Pressley was in the Capitol building during the insurrection, a day in which she said the threat to democracy was particularly evident.

She also talked about Project 2025, a collection of policies written by the conservative group, The Heritage Foundation. Ms. Pressley said the policies are a potential blueprint for the Republican platform, and calls for the dismissal of thousands of federal civil servants and the dismantling of the Department of Education.

Ms. Pressley said that she and other members of Congress have created a Stop Project 2025 task force to counteract the agenda.

Ayanna Pressley talk was part of a full day of events for the Juneteenth Jubilee. — Jeanna Shepard

Ms. Van Dyke then switched the conversation to focus on the Supreme Court, saying that their decisions no longer reflect the beliefs of the general public. She asked Ms. Pressley what needs to be done to address these concerns.

“We need to reform and expand the courts and we need term limits,” Ms. Pressley said. “The court should be balanced.”

She added that there should be a code of ethics for the Supreme Court that outlines procedures such as what gifts justices can accept.

Ms. Pressley said the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade was an example of how the court does not support the general public. She said it was particularly an attack on Black women who have the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.

“What is a national ban on abortion?” Ms. Pressley asked the crowd. “It’s a nation of forced birth.”

Rhonda Brown interviews artist Charly Palmer later in the program. — Jeanna Shepard

Ms. Van Dyke then took questions from the crowd. A recurring one was: “What can we do?”

Ms. Pressley said there is reason to be hopeful, and she stressed the importance of voting.

“Voting is an act of self care,” she said. “Who you vote for determines the policy and the policy determines everything... Every election matters in every level of government.”

She also encouraged the audience to find ways in their own lives to be activists.

“Everyone has a role to play, so bloom where you are planted,” Ms. Pressley said.