This is, definitely, a night to remember. This is a night to remember. First of all we’ve been outside the last few hours, some of all day long, in November and this has been a historic day from the beginning to the end and I cannot wait to see what happens with the rest of the races that we’re looking at right now. But let me first start by saying to all of you that are here right now: Thank you. Thank you for showing up. It’s one thing to support on paper and on social media – it’s another thing to support by showing up. So I appreciate every single one of you that have stood by me. Everyone that took the jabs, everyone that took the criticism. “She can’t win,” “she won’t do it,” “it won’t happen,” “she doesn’t have a machine,” and blah blah blah – and you still stood, so thank you.
So first I’ve got to start by thanking God, because without the lord I would not be here. And it’s not a phrase, it’s real, like I literally would not here had it not been for the lord. So I have to give God all the glory and all the honor and all the praise first. Also to my family that’s up here with me and my family that couldn’t be here today. To my team – y’all give it up for my team. To every organization that believed in our movement and endorsed this campaign. All the Ferguson Frontline activists – I’m lifting up the name Ferguson Frontline because we don’t lift that name up – we talk about everyone one else and every other group that we talk about, supporting and fighting for black lives, and we don’t talk about Ferguson Frontline that put their bodies on the line for more than 400 days for this movement. We want to lift them up right now – so every single person that’s listening that’s a Ferguson frontliner – this if for you and this win. And you the people of St. Louis.
So, I was running – I was that person running for my life across a parking lot, running from an abuser. I remember one day 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 this?”
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-19 patient. I’ve been that COVID-19 patient, gasping for breath, wondering, “how long will it be until I can breathe freely again?”
I’m still that 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, just scraping by, for so long, and now this is our moment to finally, finally start living. Let’s finally start living, let’s finally start growing, let’s finally start thriving.
So, as the first Black woman, and also the first nurse, and single mother to have the honor to represent Missouri in the United States Congress, let me say this: To the Black women, the Black girls, the nurses, the essential workers, the single mothers – this is our moment.
Six years ago, St. Louis captured the eyes and the 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 more than 400 days, side by side, locked arm in arm, St. Louis strong. And now, in the face of a global pandemic and the 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, our friends, our neighbors, and our 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!
So 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’m here to serve you.
To every parent facing a choice between putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head: I’m here to serve you.
To every precious child in our failing foster system: I’m here to serve you, too.
To every teacher, every teacher doing the impossible work to teach through this pandemic: I’m here to serve you.
To every student struggling to the finish line, finish, finish, finish, I’m here to serve you. To every differently abled person denied equal access; I’m here to serve you.
To every differently abled person denied equal access: I’m here to serve you.
To every person living unhoused on the streets: I’m here to serve you.
To every family that’s lost loved ones to gun violence: I’m here to serve you.
To every person who’s lost a job, or a home, or healthcare, or hope: I’m here, right now, today, elected, to serve you.
It is the greatest honor of my life to accept the responsibility to serve every single person across Missouri’s First Congressional District, as your first-ever Black Congresswoman-elect. This is our movement, y’all!
So tonight, we, the people are victorious. We, we the people, are going to Congress. We are going to Congress together because we, the people have committed to a vision of America that works for all of us. An America that treats every person with respect; that recognizes healthcare as a human right; that believes every person deserves food to eat, a home to live in, and a dignified life. Our America—not Trump’s America, our America—will be led not by the small-mindedness of a powerful few, but the imagination of a mass movement that includes all of us. That is the America we are fighting for.
Everything that I do begins with those who have the least, who’ve suffered the most, and who have the greatest potential to offer. Why is that? Because I myself have lived paycheck to paycheck. I struggled for years under the burden of student debt. I’ve been evicted by landlords. I’ve worried about how I was going to put food on the table for my two kids. I’ve been underinsured or uninsured. And for every one of those stories that I can tell about my own life, I know there are thousands more in our community. And those are the stories that I am carrying, that I am carrying, that I am carrying, oh, I am carrying with me and will uplift in the People’s House as your Congresswoman.
So it is my job now to serve you — not just lead, not just demand, but serve you. This is a moment where things have shifted. Change has happened. So we gotta flow with that change. Now it’s time to move from that place of struggle, to a place of living, and a place of thriving, and so I’m speaking into St. Louis, I’m speaking into the people, I’m speaking into this district, I’m speaking into Missouri, I’m speaking into our country, that now is the time and we will live.
We will live; we will stand tall; we will rise up; we will do this work together; we won’t allow anyone to push us back and tell us we can’t have it, we’re not good enough. We will do this together, we’ve already started the work. You’ve done the work, you’ve stood tall, you’ve believed, and now we have what we asked for. And so, we are about to change St. Louis. This is not about Cori, this is about what you did today, what you’ve done over the last few days.
You stood up and said this is who I want to represent. And so I’m here, ready to serve you, but I’m serving you as you go with me. So it’s like I’m carrying you in my bag, taking you to committee; I’m carrying you in my bag, taking you to the floor; I’m carrying you in my bag, taking you to go vote; because that’s what this is for. So St. Louis, if you know nothing else, you remember this: My congresswoman-elect, soon to be your congresswoman, loves you.
Your congresswoman-elect loves you. And I need you to get that. Because if I love you, I care that you eat. If I love you, I care that you have shelter, and adequate, safe housing. If I love you, I care that you have clean water and clean air and you have a liveable wage. If I love you, I care that the police don’t murder you. If I love you, I care that you make it home safely. If I love you, I care that you are able to have a dignity and have a quality of life – the same as the next person; the same as those that don’t look like you; that didn’t grow up the way you did; those that don’t have the same socioeconomic status as you – I care!
And so regardless of whatever was, this is our moment and this is our time and that’s how it will be. So when you walk away from here, you walk with your chest poked out that change has come to this district and it’s come by way of first. We are going to love and respect and honor one another to change the face of this district and become who we know we can be to have a safe, loving, welcoming, and thriving community.
This moment is brought to us by us by our movement for social, racial and economic justice. Now, our movement is going to Congress. And we will meet the challenges of this moment as a movement: side by side, arm in arm, and with our fists in the air—with our firsts in the air, ready to serve each other until every single one of us is free.
Thank you for electing me as your first black congresswoman.
Let me say one last thing – I don’t know if everybody knows, not only did you make history in the first black congresswoman, and that’s bittersweet you know – it’s 2020 why am I the first in the whole state I should be like 17th or 34th or something but – but I’m also the first woman in this district ever; I’m also the first nurse in the state of Missouri and also the first activist fighting for black lives to go to congress. And so, you’ve make this day historical and so I just say thank you.
Neither the Catt Center nor Iowa State University is affiliated with any individual in the Archives or any political party. Inclusion in the Archives is not an endorsement by the center or the university.