tv After Words Rep. Cori Bush D-MO The Forerunner CSPAN October 17, 2022 8:01am-9:00am EDT
unfilteredded, unbiased, word for word. if it happens here or here, or here or anywhere that matters, america is watching on c-span. powered by cable. .. weekdays at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. eastern catch washington today for a fast-paced report on the stories of the day. listen to c-span any time. just tell your smart speaker play c-span radio app c-span, powered by cable. >> host: i'm so excited to have this conversation with you. as a fellow st. louis and i followed your political career and you actually represent the district that i was raised in.
>> guest: wow. >> host: like i used to live there. >> guest: i've heard. >> host: i'm excited so let's just dig in talking to you today about your new book, "the forerunner." i want to talk about the opening. so you go in really deep, really quickly with the book about some of the pain and the trauma you've experienced in your life. what made you decide to open the book with what many could consider to be one of the worst experiences that you had in your life up to that point? >> guest: you know, it's something that, you know, i still, i'm still working through but it's something also that affected me so, so deeply because, you know, the sexual assault that i experienced
before, most of it happened around, it was like my early 20s, late teens, early 20s. it was when i was still like trying to find myself, quote-unquote and i blamed myself. i went through the next 20 years blaming myself every single time that happened. oh, it was because my shirt was cut short and my shorts were really, really short. it was because i was out walking with friends when i met them and i was dressed in a particular way so that's why it happened. and when it took me out on the date they just assume that's what it wanted, or like i've made all of these excuses to what happened to me and all of the blame fell on me. so when that happened back in 2016, how the book begins, i was wearing scrubs. i had just come from work, you know.
and so i was over, i was 40 years old, you know, i just turned 40 i believe and it was just the mindset that, hey, like i blame myself because all these things before, but this time those things were not in play and so i have just been really trying to dig through that. so it's important to start with that because that also happened right after my first run for office. and so as my life was changing and i was finally thinking i was getting my life together and moving forward and things are starting to make sense that, that just like crashed everything all at once. >> host: so much of the book especially you talking about your experience with sexual assault, both as a young woman and years later after your first run, i was saddened but not surprised because you experienced the lived experience
of so many black women who have been touched by trauma and violence and abuse and sexual assault. you write quite a bit about how black women are sexualized at an early age and that's what happened to you and you took, as you said you took on a lot of blame for yourself so older men or boys were coming on to you so hard or reacting violently towards you. how did you get out to the other side? how did you come to the conclusion that these instances were not your fault and it was not about how you addressed or how you are behaving at the time? this is really about toxic behavior about the actual men who perpetrated it. >> guest: i think some of it came just from over the last several years of highlighting, you know, how prevalent sexual assault is just the work of organizations, and even when
people have become public, speaking out against people who are celebrities or, you know, politicians and just hearing just that rallying cry that has been pushed forward. those advocates speaking out that i believe heard and just putting it in front of us more but it wasn't until i went to therapy. i went to therapy immediately following, i think the following week or the week after i was in therapy at least one to two times a week, and that's where i learned the most. and that's where, so my therapist started to dig through that to say like hey, why are you thinking, you know? so she helped me to see that i was holding onto it and how much i had internalized everything that happened to me, even down to the catcalls. i talk about in the book how
this older man, i was a teenager and he said, if you're old enough to pee you're old enough for me. like that was the mindset, like i would encounter a lot and not just me but my friends. it was just the usual regular thing. and now i understand that that's not okay and speak out against it. like how often do you hear that spoken out against, like hey, that's not how you talk to women and girls. that's not how you talk to anyone actually. so like turning it around and have tried to highlight not in the book but just in my work is where are the folks that are speaking out? where are the men speaking to boys? you know, about where are the consent conversations, and those things have to happen. >> host: yeah. i'm glad that you talked about
therapy because often in the african-american community sometimes it can be taboo to talk about how you might need help and seek help from the medical professional. did you struggle with some of that same mentality where you felt like somehow you were being weak or you were not acting in the best way by seeking out help? often we're told not to seek help for these types of things. >> guest: absolutely. so for me i grew up in the church. i grew up in the church. i am a pastor even though i'm not pastoring a church right now. so being a minister myself that was, it was a fight for me especially when it was first brought to me, like hey, you need therapy. and it was my friend that i talk about in the book by the name of
chris. it was him saying, hey, you are not yourself, you need therapy, and i know someone who can help you. and he did all the work to get all of it set up and you know, forget waiting list. like she needs this now, and that's how that happened. so him pushing me, because if it honestly i would not have ever gone because i was having that battle. it was okay, you need to go to church, you need to go to church and you need to pray about it, you need to ask the members, you need to ask the mothers, reach out to this pastor friend you know and have everybody pray for you and you'll be okay. but i did go to church and i remember i went to church one day and i was sitting in the church, and they were talking about like oh, you know, god is going to bless you in ten days and like it was this whole thing happening and people were jumping up out of their seats and the person said turn around three times you know and say this, say these words and those
people turning around and everybody was, you know, and i'm sitting there in the midst of it bleeding on the inside, feeling like i was bleeding and i was about to lose it. and i couldn't believe why everybody was so happy and cheering and praising god around me but nobody noticed me sitting in the midst of them hurting. and so i jumped up out of that seat and ran out of the church, and i'll never forget i ran out of the church and someone stopped me. tears are, my face is wet and tears are just falling off me and i'm running out of the church. someone stopped me that was at the door and she said hey, wait, stop. have you signed up for the marriage ministry? and i will never forget, i'm like you still don't see me? my face is wet and i'm running. so i ran out of there, ran down the parking lot and was try to figure out how i could kill
myself right there. like, i was sitting to think it okay, if i take my car and they go and i stop it at this point, as soon as a pull out of the parking lot, it was a major street, like i could die. the thing that stopped me was when i put my hands on the steering wheel to get ready to pull off, and there was this flash before me of the faces of my children, and it was the faces of my children if they find, when hearing that i was no longer here. and i couldn't bear that, so that's what stopped me. >> host: that is an incredible, incredible story. i mean, i appreciate you sharing that level of detail. something that i can definitely relate to. i suffer from mental illness and your honesty about your mental health journey and the fact that you admitted that it took something believing in something bigger like your family basically to hold you, to keep you as part of this earth is tremendously insightful. so i appreciate you sharing that.
that is so, so honest. i want to pivot a little to talk about growing up in st. louis. the chapters about your childhood were so relatable to me as a little girl who also grew up in st. louis in the 80s and '90s, like watching the cosby show, a different world, to you knew, eating pizza and the types of music you listen to. like doing a dance routine to poison which is like one of my favorite songs as a kid that it definitely got me to the dance floor. but what i also found touching and relatable was that your family taught you your history which is black history and the richness of our culture and our struggle here in the united states. can you tell me a little bit about the impact your father had on you in wanting you to know your history? >> guest: yeah.
so my dad for me, my dad for me was this strong man. when i was a kid, you know, like i looked up to my dad as this, like, just kind of like, you know, he was very afrocentric in his, like just the way that he raised us. not necessarily outwardly or so. he wasn't like wearing dashikis and stuff like that. it wasn't an outward thing but is more just a way he raises and what he taught us inside the home. i'll never forget my dad worked in africa with a part on the side letter was an afro and he would keep his black pick in his head.
he would wear that everywhere he wasn't at work. we had pictures come with jesse jackson and dr. king and the great kings and queens of africa on the wall. when all kinds of, you know, books on black americans and it wasn't the usual folks that you may hear about when we celebrate black history. he took it deeper than that it was like you need to know who, i remember him at one point teaching us about kwame and teaching us about fred hampton and so like those weren't names we're hearing all the time. but time with dad if we were watching, and no joke, like eyes on the prize, you know, roots, you know, so documentaries and stories. that was our time with him, but it meant so much. i didn't realize it at the time
because i wanted to watch, i wanted to watch mtv, like that was a thing at the time. i wanted to watch, you know, i had other stuff that i wanted to watch, tv shows, but for him it was no, you don't need to look at those things. this is what you need because you need, we need to fortify you at home because when you go out there and there is a different world outside, but one thing my dad taught me that i will never forget and it has meant so much to me, two things actually. one is that my black was beautiful. my dad never made, my sister, we look so much alike but my sister is she's light-skinned, i'm dark skin, but my dad never made a difference. you would not have known that there were color differences. in fact, my mom is a different shade than all of us. you would not have known that he taught me that my dark skin was still beautiful and could never hold my head down for anyone. but also he taught me every
single day before we walked out of our home, drove us crazy as kids but now i get it. he would sit is down before he walked out the door and would take responsibility. responsibility, responsibility, responsibility. you are a leader. you will not be a follower. a good leader knows how to follow, and then you could walk outside the door. he would pray and then you could walk out the door. >> i love it i love it. i had a very similar upbringing. i watched so much of eyes on the prize my father came home from work at mcdonnell douglas which i did think we walk by boeing at some time. he came home from work and said to me or my god you're going to turn into a militant. this was what was encouraged in our house, the same thing watching roots, knowing your history. we had the kings and queens of africa posters, too. >> guest: really? >> host: yes.
we had the same poster in our house. i also felt the same pressure that you felt to succeed academically and to do well in school. i want you to talk a little bit about how unpopular that was picked as was the '90s in st. louis as a young black woman, the fact that you are a bit more bookish and a bit more on the studious side always working in your favor and try to fit in. >> guest: no, it was not. you know, being cute and wearing, being able to wear lip gloss, you know, colored lip gloss and having the latest guess jeans and polo clothes and all of that. that was the thing. it didn't matter if you were smart or anything. like none of that, people didn't care about that like you know, our age group. it was about the look, you know. but for me i wanted both, like i want to look this way because i like it, but i also loved the books and loved the school. i love the knowledge and learning, like that was my comfortable place.
it was like i could relate to the books. i don't know how to best articulate that but i just don't like, you know, i needed to attain as much knowledge as i could. one of my favorite things was vocabulary words, learning vocabulary. it was its own class in elementary school and i loved it. but it wasn't always, you know, it was more like being singled out though because in class it would be cori, answer this. oh, cori knows that. it started to make me feel like, you know, i just want to be like my friends. don't single me out and so it's like i just want to be like everybody else. but i still pushed on and excelled because i knew that was what was expected from both of my parents. but if you couldn't be also the
it girl, my mom used to call it miss pop. if you couldn't be the miss pop, then your peers wouldn't necessarily see you. >> host: exactly. you talk quite a bit in the book about when you started high school and the amount of like racialized bullying and hatred you often received from other students, that was just part of school life as opposed to something that people felt compelled to actually do anything about. can you talk a little bit about that? >> guest: yeah. that was totally just unexpected. like, i went to this school thinking that what i saw before me in like high school night, you know, when we would have students come from other schools to talk to us about their schools, like all the love and
the school pride, like that's what i thought that i was going to be walking into. never once did it cross my mind that i would endure something completely different, especially because most of the racism that i had seen was in the books and the archival footage of watch and all that, i was young. by the point where i was going to high school i just didn't think that was something i would see in high school because basically racism was almost like racism was over, you know, or the part of it was so overt, at least was over. but walking into the school it was a completely different thing and i just remember not understanding what was happening to me when the administrator, i talk about in the book how i took my entrance exam and i took
the entrance exam like everyone else we went into this big auditorium. all the freshman, we took a together. and then when they called me back and said, you know, you need to come back and retest, i didn't understand. i'll never forget, i walked into the school the day to retest and the administrator, i'm looking up at the administrator. i remember he was taller than me and he looked right at me and he said, we don't believe -- we believe that you cheated. we don't believe that you did this well on your own. and, and sent me back into the same huge auditorium to take it again by myself. and then how kind of like unnerved he was when i walked back out and they scored it. he said to me, you know, that i did better, you know, but the way he said it you could tell that he was a little ticked off so i got to stay number one in my class and so just starting
there it was, you know, i didn't just feel isolated. and just feel, i just didn't feel that discrimination from my peers. i felt it from staff. i felt it from the administrators and what 14 i was 14. i had just turned 14, you know. what kid should have to go through that? >> host: no, i definitely agree. as someone, you predominate when you talked about going to catholic and religious schools in st. louis. i actually went to public schools in st. louis and had similar experiences but what was probably what you just described what was the hardest for me was when teachers didn't believe me or listen to me because of my race and because i was specifically a young black girl. i'd like to hear you talk a little bit about how adults
choosing not to believe you or question you when you like do well on a test and how that even trickles down to like your interactions with healthcare industry as a young woman. you talk in the book about terminating two pregnancies and the level of dismissiveness and harshness you received from the medical professionals who worked with you. if you would talk a little bit about what that does to a young black woman when you repeatedly were not believed and dismissed. >> guest: yeah, i think part of it goes back to, you know, even as youth we are seen or treated, you know, us being over sexualized. it starts so early, and then that whole like mother, like that matriarch, and not matriarch in a respectful way
necessarily but the whole idea that nanny type thing, we are seen so early as this grown woman, you know even at 14, even at 12, at ten. we are seen as basically a grown woman, and i think that plays this part of, i don't have to be soft with you, or i don't have to treat you with dignity. i don't have to, you know, treat you like you are deserving of peace. i can treat you like you are, this threat because, basically i think a lot of it comes down to not knowing, not understanding, not understanding the core of us. but as i got older, so from that moment i started to just really understand like things that i'd heard in my childhood at school,
like wait a minute, oh, i remember kind of feeling this way when this teacher said this, and now i realize that what that really was. and then years later not being just the whole idea of not just the whole idea of not being believed, not being heard or being treated like you are automatically less than, not less than me. you are automatically less than us. like that was the thing when i was in that abortion clinic and the person that was supposed to counsel me, instead of her speaking to someone that was in this situation that was really, really tough for her. instead of looking at that like this is a way for me to help this person, to help, give them whatever they need in this moment. they took it as the moment to
knock me down and back me into a corner to tell me how i wasn't enough and how i would never be enough. but the thing is, because when we are given the opportunity to shine or when we take by force the opportunity to shine, our brilliance is so amazing that i just feel that it just, people can't connect like understanding, like how is that. especially when you look at black women being the most educated group, you know, in this country. and then all of the struggles and hurdles we have to get past, we have to be three or four times better at whatever we are working on in order to at least be considered average, and for us to do things even greater. it's a testament to our but also puts us in that you have to be strong, be the matriarch. be the matriarch at ten, you know?
but speaking out hopefully will help future generations. >> host: i definitely hope so. i hope that when other black women read your memoir here that they feel as seen as i felt seen reading it. one of the particular chapters that really resonate with me was how open and vulnerable you are about the relationships that you had, particularly starting as early as when you were in junior high and high school, and those first heartbreaks and of those first feelings of not being enough and feeling disrespected, like you tell a story about your first boyfriend and how you were a cheerleader and how you would do a special jump whenever he would score because he was an athlete at your school. and then to find out that he was actually seeing another girl at the same time he was seeing you and feeling crushed and internalizing that as i'm not enough. can you talk a little bit about
how the feeling i'm not enough was repeated over and over and over again again in your relationships, especially with the long-term what you had as a young woman with a man terrel that eventually develop into an abusive relationship? >> guest: yeah. so, you know, it's funny because at home my father made a point and my mother made a point to make sure that i knew that my brother, that my sister, that we knew that we were enough, made a point. but that was at home. so once you crossed the threshold of your house, then it was whatever the streets say. and i think that, so i think that's where i was able to where it started to be smashed for me a bit especially because in school at that time, you know, if you were dark skinned, and i don't really talk about this in the book, but if you were dark skinned, like you were, you were the ugly ones. like, it was all about
light-skinned, you know, a shout out to my light skin, you know, family, but like, that was the thing. you have light skin wavy hair that was the thing, the guys wanted to date or they called those girls cute. that's who they wanted to be the girlfriend and all that. the dark skinned ones we would be the guys were just run up and hit you on your behind but they didn't want to be your boyfriend because they wanted the light skin. so it was all of those pieces it that you started to pull away at my self-esteem early so that i started to believe that i wasn't enough, and so with that being my very first boyfriend and then with him doing that to me and it just happened in a matter of months. it was so fast, you know. so there was nothing to come -- combat that.
like that never happened, and so then it was the next guy who did the same thing, and so where is the piece that tells us? because people don't want to talk about you are 12, you have boyfriend, you are 14, you got a boyfriend. people try not to talk about that. so do we put are we putting measures in place for youth to be able to talk about their heartbreak, to talk about what's actually happening to them? >> host: totally. i mean, not to belabor the point because there were lots of points especially in the early chapters of this book were i was just like, is she like actually has a mirror into my life? how did we live so similar a life? where you talked about the repeated times that the boyfriend that you were with, you know, got other women pregnant and was disrespectful, and just really he didn't show
up for you. like he didn't show up like to school dances and he just wasn't a real, like a loving, caring boyfriend like you had pictured in the tv shows and films you watched like 16 candles and things like that. i related so much to that because i, too, had a similar situation happen to me in high school where i was in love with a boy, he never made me his girlfriend and eventually he got some other girl pregnant after i went off to college. i was just devastated, completely heartbroken. but there was no one really to talk about it with because of the fact that when we are that young like people don't want to talk about heartbreak like how it actually impact you. the only message you get as a black girl is just don't ever have sex. >> guest: yes, that's right. don't do it. don't date, don't look at a boy, don't talk to a boy. don't do it. >> host: don't bring a baby home. >> guest: exactly.
>> host: i really appreciate your honesty in these chapters especially about the abuse that you suffered because i feel like that happens to so many women because we internalize the views that society imposes on us and we are told repeatedly that we are not worth this much, not as valued, we're not as loud how have you countered that narrative as an adult in your life? >> guest: you know, some of it came from, well, a lot of it came from me finally getting my life to christ and then learning, you know, just going to church, hearing the word, just soaking into the word and just getting built up into who i am just as a human being, you know, and as a child of god. like that is what helped, that helped, like give me strength as far as just, like i'm worthy because i breathe type of thing.
like just starting with that. and so once that really just healed certain parts of me, then i had to also contend with, okay, what about because of, you know, this black woman living in this world, raising a black daughter. so i had to then soak myself into some stuff that i learned when i was in high school actually. i went to this amazing high school which is still amazing now. actually they have like, they got like 40, i think it's like 40 black teachers at that school or something like that right now. >> host: this is the school you attended after you left -- >> guest: yes, yes. it was an all-black college preparatory catholic high school.
but they had this leadership class in the leadership class like you learn so much of your history, like all about leadership black excellence and so i went back to that that i'd learned about angela davis, you know, about so many others, about shirley chisholm and about harriet tubman. i went back to that and was able to see like myself in them a whole different way. so that has helped me over the years, but also i had to put it on the back burner for a while like even caring about how i was feeling and just my focus really turned to keeping my son alive and raising my daughter, keeping my daughter safe. so it turned into that and so then that went for years like this kind of like hyper focused on that. this movement after michael brown was killed in ferguson in 2014, it was through movement
building. it was through learning together that we put so much back into one another. as we were fighting for black lives, as we're fighting to get accountability for every single person that lost their life at the hands of police, as we are fighting for ourselves and i was able to see like hey, this is what you need because she was a black girl, you know because sandra bland was a black woman. like because we got, you know, we got to remember that we can get lost in this conversation like you got to be whole, too. >> host: exactly, exactly. so this pivots nicely to where i want to talk about next, which is about the ferguson uprisings. can you talk a little bit about our hometown and how segregated it is and the history that st. louis has with police violence? >> guest: yeah.
>> host: to give people context as it happened the way it did. people who don't really know st. louis long history of racism, segregation, housing, discrimination. if you go into a little bit of that. >> guest: sure. so st. louis is, you have st. louis city and then you have st. louis county. so you got, it's like this is st. louis city and this is all st. louis county, you know, and then you have the river on the side of us. st. louis is made up of, of course like i said st. louis city but then st. louis county, county has over 90 municipalities within it. over 90 municipalities, somewhere around 92, 93, and many of them have their own government. many of them have their own police department. i remember back during the
protest when michael brown was killed, i lived only six minutes from where he was killed, but i traveled, i would travel through three municipalities to get to the protests. in that six minute drive, if i had a broken tail light or, you know, something else wrong with my car, like something wrong with my windshield that would flag a police officer to stop me, i could get stopped in each one of those municipalities which means i could have a ticket in each one. if i couldn't pay them then i could have a warrant in each one, you know. but through the years us having issues, st. louis had issues with policing, it's not a new thing. one thing about that is there are two police unions. there is a police union that is
majority white, i would say, majority white police union. then you have a black police union called the ethical society of police. so that tells you already a lot about what policing looks like in st. louis. but i grew up thinking that, because in my neighborhood for such a long time my dad was in politics, so the police were come to our home all the time. they came by once a week to drop letter to him. they just knew us in the neighborhood. we grew up with the police knowing who we were, but that was us in this little community of 5000 people. once you step outside of that, which i didn't do a lot of that without my parents at a young age, i didn't see a lot. but as i spent more time with my friends outside of the community that's when i really started to see policing being different because now i'm around the police officers that don't know
me. but you were still made to feel like if someone was brutalized by the police it was their fault, that they automatically had to be doing something wrong. it was all them, and then years later i started to see my friends that i knew, and i like know these i know these folks, you know. i started to see them brutilized by the police. they were getting shot at and all kinds, you know, or getting stopped all the time sitting on the side of the road, like i would see so much and it's like they were not doing anything so that's when my mind started to see, my mind started to shift and started to wake up just a little bit. >> host: so you were also abused by the police during the ferguson protests during the year that there were so many black lives matter protest the spread across the country after
what happened to mike brown and what unfolded in ferguson. if you could just talk a little bit about how that experience personally impacted you but also talk about it within the context of st. louis history, racist history against any type of protests, you know. i often tell people that growing up i never saw anything like what happened in ferguson the entire time i lived in st. louis as a young woman. >> guest: right. >> host: and my parents before me had never seen anything like that before. if you could put all of that into some kind of context. >> guest: yeah. so it was, by the time that incident happened when i was brutalized by the police, so we had been protesting, michael brown was killed august the ninth, 2014. this was november 24 when this happened. we had been waiting to find out
if, if the ferguson police officer who killed michael brown, darren wilson, if he would be indicted. and we knew that this answer was going to be, it was either going to cause like widespread protests or it was going to, you know, maybe just finally give us and the families some type of relief in, like maybe things are starting to change. so we prepared for it. and that night i decided not to just be out there as a protester because i knew that there would be so many people from all over the world that would be there that had never experienced teargas before. so i had all my stuff. i had a book bag full of all types of you know, medical supplies and everything and even a hazmat suit.
it was a bunch of stuff in the bag. anyway, i remember just feeling like, like i need to take care of whoever needs help out here. and then when the opportunity, when it came time to actually help someone, i remember initially i didn't want to help them because i thought it was an ambush. we had dealt with that before many times where someone would like call your name out to try to lure you into an area and things would happen. so i just didn't, i just didn't think that it was real. but helping, so i'm helping this woman and is in the book but helping this woman that i thought was having a heart attack. her daughter thought she was having a heart attack. the people around her thought she was having a heart attack. as i was standing up, standing for this woman trying to help her, i just remember not realizing, not knowing that the police had picked me up and threw me in the air.
i just, i remember saying to the police, yelling at the police officer i'm a nurse and i'm trying to help her. i need a paramedic. you are not skilled to help her. i think she's having a heart attack. can you get me the paramedics who were behind, literally right behind them. i'm looking at the ambulance, would you get them? and i said, i'm a nurse, i'm just trying help her. and next thing i knew i saw stars. i saw the night sky and stars and i couldn't, i just remember wondering, why do i see stars? i didn't feel the lift. then i realized when i started to come back down, like the gravity, i'm like wait a minute, stars, my god, i'm in the air. then i started to come back down and i just remember the impact. i started to see the ground coming towards me and there was nothing i could do but brace for the impact. when i hit the ground, just me just going from one side to the other because i'm being kicked
by these police officers. i won't say police officers, by law enforcement. and then they tear gassed us while i was on the ground, and lisa i believe is her name, she was, she had to be right there on the ground next to me. it was, but the fact that we are -- when i told that story afterward i was most often told, well, you shouldn't have been there. you shouldn't have been there. that was your fault. you're a terrorist, go get a job, all those things. and we would talk to the police who out there on the front line talk to the police and say hey, why won't you listen to us? why won't you do anything? why are you standing for this? why are you standing for how protesters are being brutalized out here?
you know, what we're hearing is it our job. i don't want to lose my job. this is how i take care of my family and i had to keep my head low. so the fact that we heard from officers that it's because of who is the higher up, not that i agree with this, and that is one of, that is part of that history we have in st. louis is the leadership, and so that's the training, it teaches you to keep your mouth closed if you want to keep this job. >> host: exactly, exactly. and so one of the things i was struck by in hearing your story, you know, you have been a victim of police violence. you've been a victim of domestic violence. you've been a victim of assault. you have dealt with so much insurmountable in some cases like very debilitating racism towards you. you have dealt with medical racism. you have lived in your car at one point. you dealt with being under housed. and i thought what more perfect person to run for congress, like she has experienced everything that is about how our government often fails us.
yet when you decided that you wanted to first run initially for the senate, you had some pushback from other protesters and other organizers in the st. louis community. can you talk a little about that? >> guest: yeah. it came out of left field. you know, for me just as it did for them so i know they were probably, i know it was probably tough for them because we had been angry at local politician saying hey, why weren't you out there with us? why aren't you out here, you know? so to then for me to run i know it seemed to some of them like you are just time to become one of them now. you just want to get, you just want to become some celebrity. and so it was hard for me because i was like y'all know me, like you know what the character is, you know my
history, you know who i am. why would you think that i was trying to become something other than somebody that's actually trying to change this community? it was tough. that first run we didn't have, there were a few that supported us and was with us, but for the most part many were not. i even had some come to me and say, you know, i can't believe you are doing this. like, we don't do electoral politics. that was tough, you know, but, but when people started to see how much, not only me but there were two other activists who ran that were from the ferguson uprising, bruce franks junior who ran for a state representative seat and won and also shane aldridge who later took over bruce franks seat, they, you know, just seeing that we held to our values, we held to the reason why we ran.
the reasons why we ran, and we were able to at least affect change locally, you know, and even for me in some ways on a national scale because bernie sanders, you know, opened up some doors for me. people were able to see, wait a minute, you're right, because the people who vote or people who write these bills, they can't come from your community, they can be like you, you know, and support the things and advocate for the things that the community actually wants and needs. so that started to turn the tide. >> host: yeah, and it's just, like to me it made sense. you talk in the book about your father's past political ties and how active he was in the community and the impact that had on you. so to me it was like when you started talking about starting your own ministry in the book and then later getting involved
in the protest movement out of ferguson, like this seemed like a natural extension of your efforts to try to make the world a better place, not just for st. louis as a whole but for women and girls like you who look like you who had similar experiences to you of your own, that you basically wanted to represent the people. so that really struck me, but you were up against quite the machine. as we already discussed we're both from st. louis. you are actually my father's representative. >> guest: hi, dad. >> host: so you were up against william lacy clay who is a legacy the son of bill clay who was a representative from st. louis for a very long time, one of the founding members of the congressional black caucus. can you talk about the machine that you had to go up against as a grassroots organizer? >> guest: oh, my gosh. yes.
so first of all, i had no desire to run for office again. i was still recovering. i was still in treatment after the sexual assault. so the sexual assault happened lord, that's a whole other situation that happened. it happened september 6, 2014, and so the next four months i was in deep therapy. i had not gone back to work because i couldn't work yet i was struggling just to be well at that time. and that january when i decided okay, my job was like hey, we can't give you any more time, you're going to have to come back to work. i was trying to figure it all out. a few people from the community came to me, people that were not necessarily talking to one another came to me and said hey, we really want you to run for this seat. and i was just like why?
i'm still trying to get well, but i realized that through all that i had gone through with my rape kit sitting on a shelf for several months, with my, with me not getting any type of justice, without there being any type of accountability. i couldn't even get an order of protection against the person who assaulted me. so just thinking about that and i was thinking about like how many others go through this and have no advocate? like, how do we get help for victims of sexual assault? you know, what can i do? that was one of those things when i also thought about my son and my daughter, like, have i accomplished the goal? did i accomplish the goal last time? if something happens to them what i didn't say oh, you could have done more, you know? so i said you know what? i'm just going to go. i'm just going to run and i'll continue to get help as i'm running. but what people would say when i
first started saying that i was running, so first thing was i knew my dad's connection to the clay family. my dad had worked for both clays. helped both of them on their campaigns. i worked on their campaigns as a kid, not the father but the son so i knew the connections my dad had talked about in the senior clay book. so there was a family connection, the pictures with us together. i knew that that may be an issue for my dad, but i knew what i had to do. once the lord gave me like go ahead, i knew i had to do like this run. what people would say is first of all the biggest thing that kept being tossed at me was you're a black woman, why are going to run against a black man? you are supposed to be supporting him, not running against him. my thing was, where is the support for regular people,
regular everyday people like me? where has that support been? why did i have to go, why was my life about always struggling? who fights for us? i'm going to the payday lender because i can't afford to take care of my kids without having, you know, without taking out a loan all the time. childcare is way too expensive for me to be able, you know, i'm working just to pay for child care. who speaks for us? so i talked a lot about that and people were just like, you can't, you're a black woman, you can't do this. one of the things also was, like his dad, people talked about, well his dad, you know, broke this glass ceiling. his dad was the first black congressman in the district, and so, in the st. louis area, so like why would you messed up their legacy? you should be standing for the legacy. and i was like, you know, we have to be people over legacy.
so that was a big thing. so it took that first run for me to really help people see this was not a black woman running against a black man, had nothing to do about that. it was me wanting for those that have felt left out and neglected and underrepresented to finally have some representation. but that was money, you know, a lot of money. i wasn't able to really raise money. so it was money and it was the machine of everybody in place, all of these, you know, whether it's politicians or business leaders, community leaders, like all of these folks were still like, you know what, even if i like you i'm not going to go against the machine because it will hurt me if you don't win. >> host: speaking of the machine, when you were talking about this it made me think a lot about how in your book you talk about how you and other ferguson protesters were treated by establishment types, more prominent ministers, more
prominent organizers who basically came in and told you guys you don't know what you were doing. your movement work wasn't authentic movement work and you were not doing things right way. i imagine you get some of the same feedback on the campaign trail when you run against william lacy clay. because you are truly grassroots and you have experienced a lot of things your constituents are concerned about, so tell me a little bit about what it was like trying to counter this narrative that protesters are disorganized and not fit to actually be leaders. >> guest: yet. we heard that so much. oh, you are a leaderless movement, and you know? and it just always made me come every time i heard it would make me think about, like, you know,
i would take me back to the bible. and i'm like if you take out the cane, you know, or like looking at david and goliath. david took out goliath and what happened? you know. so if there's only one, if there's only one head, you know, that could cause a whole movement to fall apart, you know. but for us we had a leader for a moment because we all had something that was our thing and that brought those things together. we had this movement. if they took out one, but still kept doing. so that was the amazing thing about what we were able to do. so the ferguson uprising withstood more than 400 days of constant protests. and so, so to call as leaderless, you know, did we do everything the way we thought people should do? no. ask people wears a playbook?
what was a playbook? what was instruction manual and why did you give us the instruction manual before it happened since in all the things, why did you let us know? hey, if this happens this is what you do. many of us had been to like boycott, like the boycott dillards, and like he was just like things locally in the community. we had gone to some of those actions, the boycott was when i was small. but you know, we've been apart of some of that but this was something different. this was our own, like this was, this is us. like it happened to somebody, you know, during our time where that body laid on the ground uncovered for almost four and a half hours, you know, in our community. you tell us that this is how we should behave, you know, and what was also said was some folks really felt like you are telling us how to behave.
you were telling us what we should do, but i don't know you. i never met you. so why weren't you in the kennedy with us before? because then maybe we could look at you and hear what you are saying, but now you're coming out making yourself to be this big person when we never met you before. you are no greater than i am. >> host: exactly, exactly. well, representative bush, i truly believe that you have demonstrated what the true qualities that need -- so many other protesters show you guys had a movement that may appeared leaderless but was quite later full and is quite amazing that you took that experience and managed to create something wonderful out of it by representing your district. and so what you thank you for this book and for this great conversation today, which i hope was really illuminating for those listening tractor yes. thank you so much. >> host: thank you.
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