Ayanna Pressley takes second oath at local swearing-in in Roxbury

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (left) administered an informal oath with Representative Ayanna Pressley.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (left) administered an informal oath with Representative Ayanna Pressley.

Before a standing-room-only crowd in Roxbury Saturday afternoon, US Representative Ayanna Pressley took the oath of office for a second time and then led the gathering in a pledge, advancing a campaign promise to lead in partnership with voters who vaulted her to Washington.

“The work of change is collective and cooperative work, and that’s why I wanted to come here and have this community swearing-in,” Pressley said after the event. “I want them to be partners in this work. I wasn’t going to be the only one to take an oath which is why we made a pledge together today.”

The “community pledge,” which was distributed to guests on cards, drew on some of Pressley’s trademark refrains from the historic campaign that made her the first woman of color from Massachusetts to serve in the US House of Representatives.


There was the nod to Representative Shirley Chisholm with the line, “I will take my seat at the table of government and create space for others to take theirs too.”

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Harkening to another theme, Pressley and the crowd vowed to bring “those closest to the pain, closest to the power.”

For the last stanza, Pressley implored the audience: “Say it like you really mean it, y’all.”

“I will do my best every day to build a more equitable and just community for us all.”

The gathering at Roxbury Community College had a celebratory feel though Pressley said in her remarks that she won’t rejoice until there’s “equity, equality, and justice” — the same message she offered on election night in September, when she defeated Representative Michael Capuano , a 10-term incumbent from Somerville, in the Democratic primary.

But also tempering the mood was the partial federal government shutdown, now in the record books as the longest in US history, which began before Pressley took the oath of office in Washington on Jan. 3.


“It is devastating the impact that this is having on American families every day and this district is certainly no exception,” Pressley told reporters. “We have to continue to apply pressure on this Senate and the current occupant of the White House to end this shutdown. The irony is that he has framed all of this in a Trojan horse of border security when our borders are secure.”

Supporters waited in line for one of the approximately 425 seats in the college auditorium, the same spot where Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins was sworn in earlier this month. Rollins is the first black woman to hold that position.

An overflow crowd gathered in a nearby building to watch a broadcast of the ceremony.

State Attorney General Maura Healey administered the oath to Pressley, who used a Bible that had been prayed over by 30 clergy members before the event. US Senator Edward J. Markey, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Pressley’s former Boston City Council colleagues, and state lawmakers were among the political leaders in attendance.

In a speech that lasted approximately 10 minutes, Pressley touched on her historic victory, outlined her vision for being inclusive, and reflected on the challenges of striving for equity and justice in a divisive political climate.


“There are many in their shallow analysis who have characterized our electoral victory as a referendum against hate,” Pressley said. “Our victory was a mandate for hope and with you I intend to keep it.”

She continued: “In a world that rarely values little girls and women that look like me, it is a humbling, the most humbling and awesome responsibility of my lifetime to partner with, to lead, to usher in this change alongside you.”

Pressley later told reporters she hopes to be named to the House Committee on Financial Services, where she could push for income equality, improving public housing, and protecting consumers. Her second choice is the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Fabienne Eliacin, who leads a Girl Scout troop in Roxbury, brought 16 girls to the event.

“I think this is history for them,” she said. “This is a chance for them to see they can be on that stage and be a congresswoman.”

One Girl Scout, Jehla Johnson Lugo, 18, said Pressley symbolizes hope for young people.

“She could do a really great job especially with helping our community,” said Johnson Lugo, who lives in Roxbury.

Alisa Drayton, a Roxbury resident, said the congressional district needs a leader like Pressley to stand up against the Trump administration’s attacks on women and minorities.

“My wish for her is that she has the ability to achieve her vision of being a transformative leader,” she said. “There’s transactional leaders, but then there’s transformative ones. I think she’s going to be the transformative leader that we need.”

Alicia Adamson, deputy director of Boston Debate League, brought her infant daughter, Grace, to the ceremony. She said she’s known Pressley since 2005 and worked on her first campaign for Boston City Council.

“We’ve championed women in the city together. We’ve prayed together. We’ve just supported each other in many ways,” Adamson said. “I wanted my baby girl to see this.”

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.