Politics

Congresswoman Cori Bush says she’s ‘absolutely not’ giving up her activism

Rep. Cori Bush (R-MO) speaks during a news conference to introduce legislation that would give the Department of Health and Human Services the power to impose a federal eviction moratorium in the interest of public health, on Capitol Hill September 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Congresswoman Cori Bush on Tuesday convened a gathering of 10 mostly Black journalists in her office in the Cannon Building on Capitol Hill adorned with pictures of notable Black history makers accompanied with their famous quotes. 

Angela Davis hung on the freshman congresswoman’s wall, along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Shirley Chisholm and Fannie Lou Hamer

TheGrio was in the room for the gathering during Black History Month that gave journalists a chance to get to know Bush, a St. Louis activist who was elected into office in 2020. During the query session, the unapologetically Black U.S. representative from Missouri did not stand down when asked if she would move away from activism to solely focus on legislating. 

In response, Bush said: “Then that will be when I need to leave, so absolutely not.”

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) speaks to reporters as she leaves a meeting with Progressive House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill October 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Congresswoman Bush vowed to fight on for the granular causes in Black and Brown communities, particularly her Missouri district where a Ferguson police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014. The shooting sparked widespread protests and gave way to the Black Lives Matter movement that years later ultimately propelled Bush to Washington, D.C. 

Her passion was evident during the almost hour-long session where she challenged the predominately white male political structure of Washington, D.C. Bush said she walked in the door wearing an activist hat and had no plans to pivot from her very public and impassioned activism. 

Some of the nation’s most notable Black congressional leaders were activists before they were elected and changed their approach to legislation like civil rights icon, the late Congressman John Lewis, Congressman Bobby Rush and Congresswoman Barbara Lee.  

Congressman Lewis worked with Dr. King and was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Congressman Rush was one of the founders of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party and was also a member of SNCC. Congresswoman Lee was also associated with the Black Panther Party in Oakland before becoming an elected official. 

During her chat with members of the press, Rep. Bush also put her own party on notice – including President Joe Biden. “Trust the president – it sounds great because we want to lift up the president of the United States, right? Do we want to trust them? You know, that’s what people are taught to do. But for me, you know, my trust is in what you bring…if it’s a lemon tree, give lemon juice.”

Bush had demands of what the president should do before the 2022 midterm elections to shift the prediction of a red wave that is expected to wash through Washington, D.C. in November. 

President Joe Biden (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The congresswoman said President Biden needs to address the student debt crisis (the president said supports some form of debt cancellation), and “support Medicare for All,” to which Bush acknowledged the president is opposed. She also called for the president to renew his effort for a “Build Back Better” comeback and inquired on what the administration is going to do on policing. 

The minister, activist, congresswoman also strongly spoke on the pitfall of “pitting Black women against each other” in the process for Biden’s upcoming historic Supreme Court justice nomination. Bush did not want to endorse any of the candidates who she deemed more than competent. She did, however, express it was important that whoever Biden nominates a “Black woman who is strong on legal reform, strong on worker protection,” adding, “We want someone who will have those values as they’re in such a powerful seat.”

On Thursday, Bush released a joint letter she led with 13 other Black women members of Congress commending President Biden’s commitment to nominate a Black woman and called on him to choose someone with an “established record of working to advance racial justice and eradicating entrenched white supremacy.”

She also stood in support of H.R. 40, the House bill that proposes the study of reparations for descendants of African slaves, but took the issue further by calling for payouts to African Americans, verses a study on how and if the payments should happen. H.R. 40 made it out of the House Judiciary Committee vote but has not been brought to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for a full vote.

“We understand that nuance because there are Black people who want it to look one way and other people want it to look another way…it’s a lot of different ways to address and tackle reparations,” said Bush. “We’re talking about what does it look like when you get taxed. What does it look like when you’re putting money into education? So we’re talking about [whether] it is 40 acres and a mule.”

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Rep. Cori Bush / Getty

When it comes to the other side of the political aisle, Bush did not hold back when discussing  misinformation from the right, particularly as it relates to the Republican Party’s focus on so-called “critical race theory” in schools.

“When we talk about critical race theory, we have to fight it back…The people are looking for that right now. That’s what people need to see Democrats doing. They need to see us actually fighting,” she said.

Since being elected, Bush has continued to be a vocal advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement and notably staged a high-profile demonstration on the steps of the Capitol last year to prevent an eviction moratorium from expiring and potentially causing hundreds of thousands of Americans to be without housing.

Bush acknowledged that her activism will continue as a member of Congress, but given the nature of job, she declined to provide specific details. Much like the people she advocates for in her district, Bush is keeping any plans for future demonstrations close to the heart.

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