Activist Cori Bush broke ground in Missouri last night, becoming the state’s first-ever Black congresswoman.
A nurse—another first for Missouri’s congress—and ordained pastor, Bush’s activism intensified following the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, six minutes from her own home. This was 2014, and the Black Lives Matter movement was a year underway. Public outcry for Brown was widespread, and in Ferguson, protests were concentrated and heated.
The 44-year-old, newly elected Congresswoman told PEOPLE in the weeks before the election that prior to these events that, prior to that, her activism was centered on helping people without homes and stopping human trafficking.
But Brown’s tragic death and the movement in Ferguson changed her forever. Serving as a medic and as clergy, praying with whoever needed it, Bush spent the majority of her days and nights working from a tent in the same complex and only a few feet away from where Brown was murdered.
PEOPLE reports that other activists encouraged her to get into politics, a path she never thought she’d take. Bush aimed to advocate for those who’d been “protesting for more than 400 days,” many of whom had “lost so much,” like jobs and livelihoods, “fighting for someone they don’t even know.”
Part of her human rights advocacy includes raising the minimum wage to $15. She also supports the Green New Deal.
Expressing appreciation to supporters in front of a Black Lives Matter flag last night, Bush was impassioned and inspiring. She called to the Ferguson Frontline, “that put their bodies on the line for…this movement, we want to lift them up right now.” She noted where she’s come from—an uninsured person, a survivor of abuse, a paycheck-to-paycheck single mother, a COVID-19 survivor—and how she remains that person today: all those lived experiences, she’ll carry them into Congress.
“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,” she said.