Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts on Monday spoke about her experience of being “robbed of my hair” and said that “hardship is universal” at a public appearance that comes after the Democratic congresswoman revealed last week that she has alopecia.
“I’ve been robbed of my hair, I lost my hair, and I was saying to people that’s nothing new. Hardship is transcendent, hardship is universal and for the issue of alopecia, of which, there are millions of sufferers, certainly there are many black women. So I’ve been robbed of my hair, but black women have been robbed of things for a long time,” she said in remarks on stage at the 50th anniversary Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast held at the Boston convention center.
“We were robbed of our men that were lynched, we were robbed of our children, we were separated from at the auction block and on plantations. They tried to rob us of our beauty by criminalizing or violating our bodies, so that’s nothing new. It’s alright to stand in joy because when you are oppressed and marginalized, we give each other so much instruction about the armor that we need to put on to navigate and to negotiate the world and to do it safely, but joy is a necessary act of resistance as well,” she said.
The congresswoman drew cheers from the crowd during the event with members of the audience giving her a standing ovation.
Pressley later tweeted out video of the event, highlighting her statements that “black women have been robbed of things for a long time” and “joy is a necessary act of resistance.”
The congresswoman has been in the spotlight more than usual lately after opening up about the fact that she has alopecia, an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss, in a recent video interview with The Root.
Pressley spoke about wearing wigs in the video, but also revealed her bald head. She described the announcement as “my official public revealing,” saying that until that point she had “only been bald in the privacy of my home and in the company of close friends.”
The congresswoman spoke further about her hair loss on MSNBC, saying, “hair is political,” and “I’m grateful that I have the platform to shine a light on this issue.”
Pressley posted a photo of herself to Twitter over the weekend without a wig and wearing a hat with the caption: “Happy Sunday! #baldsquad #baldbaddies #baldisbeautiful Thank you for the warm welcome #alopecia nation #hairlosscrew. New year. New decade. New truths. New swag. #theyaintreadyforthissmoke.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.
CNN’s Allison Gordon and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.