Cori Bush

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Tonight... We decided that we the people have the answers, and we will lead from the front lines.

Cori Anika Bush (born July 21, 1976) is an American politician, nurse, pastor, and Black Lives Matter activist serving as the U.S. representative for Missouri's 1st congressional district. She is the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from Missouri and was featured in the 2019 Netflix documentary Knock Down the House, along with three other progressive Democrats.


(Chronological order)

  • It's voting rights or it's the filibuster. It's LGBTQ+ rights or it's the filibuster. It's union rights or it's the filibuster. It's civil rights or it's the filibuster. It's our rights or it's the filibuster.The choice is easy.
    • 3/18/2021 on Twitter
  • Madam Speaker, St. Louis and I rise in support of the article of impeachment against Donald J. Trump. If we fail to remove a white supremacist president who incited a white supremacist insurrection, it’s communities like Missouri’s First District that suffer the most. The 117th Congress must understand that we have a mandate to legislate in defense of Black lives. The first step in that process is to root out white supremacy, starting with impeaching the white supremacist in chief. (Bush’s first House floor speech)
    • Quoted in Cori Bush: Can She Bring the Movement for Black Lives to Congress? by Derecka Purnell, Teen Vogue, (19 January 2021)
  • I went to Cardinal Ritter (High School). Actually, that was the second school. My first semester of freshman year, I went to a predominantly white school. I was told that I was the number one ranked incoming freshman, and tested to that fact. [They] came to me and said, ‘Oh, you tested number one. We're going to have you retest because we don't believe that's your score. We think that you cheated.’ I think I was still 13 at the time. But I went back into this huge auditorium and retested and ended up scoring even higher. And so they said, ‘Okay, well we believe you now.’ But the way that I was treated when I entered the school, it was so bad I couldn't stay. And that's how I ended up at Cardinal Ritter.
    • Quoted in Cori Bush: Can She Bring the Movement for Black Lives to Congress? by Derecka Purnell, Teen Vogue, (19 January 2021)
  • I don't want anybody to have to feel hunger the way that I felt hunger. I don't want anybody else to have to live out of their vehicle with their babies. Well, I won't even go into all of that... But my son was a baby [and] my daughter was a baby when we were living out of a car. Something happens to you when you feel like you can't provide for your kids, when you're cold and there's nothing, there's no amount of blankets you can put on yourself to be warm when you're sleeping in a car. You can't keep the car running because you're running down the gas. You can't keep the lights on [or] people know that you're in a car. ... What we need to do is put money into mental health. Take money from [police], put it into education, put money into job training programs, to address substance use issues, right? Into our unhoused population. That's where that money needs to go... You give [police] this money, but then we don't give money to human services. Put it into our health department! Look what happened when COVID hit, again. The areas that are the most marginalized in our communities were the last ones to receive COVID testing and supplies. So that's what we're talking about. That also means you don't need money for tear gas. You don't need money for noise ammunition, and MRAPs and stockpiling SWAT gear.
    • Quoted in Cori Bush: Can She Bring the Movement for Black Lives to Congress? by Derecka Purnell, Teen Vogue, (19 January 2021)
  • It really bothers me that people will look at me and say, 'Oh, my gosh, your story is amazing and I really support you and look how far you've come. Look at all the adversity you've overcome. This is amazing! I love you.. And then when they hear somebody say something that they don't have full information on, then it's like, 'Oh, my gosh, she's being co-opted. Oh yeah, I knew it wasn't real.
    • Quoted in Cori Bush dismisses concerns of being 'co-opted' by establishment, Zack Budryk, The Hill, (19 January 2021)
  • I was that person running for my life across a parking lot, running from an abuser. I remember 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 it?” 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’ve been that Covid patient gasping for breath, wondering, “How long will it be until I can breathe freely again?” I’m still that same person... We have been surviving and grinding and just scraping by for so long, and now this is our moment to finally, finally start living and growing and thriving. So, as the first Black woman, nurse, and single mother to have the honor to represent Missouri in the United States Congress, let me just say this. To the Black women. The Black girls. The nurses. The single mothers. The essential workers. This. Is. OUR. Moment.
  • Everything I do begins with those who have the least, who’ve suffered the worst, and who have the greatest to offer. Why? 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 and uninsured. And for every one of those stories that I can tell you about my life, I know there are thousands more in our community. And those are the stories that I am carrying with me and will uplift in the People’s House as your congresswoman. It is my job now to serve you – not just lead, not just demand, but serve you. 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 – ready to serve each other until every single one of us is free.
  • Many of us didn't choose to become activists. We were activated. We could not stand to sit on the sidelines while our people were brutalized so needlessly. At some point, we choose to accept police violence, or we don't. Where will you stand?
    • 8/23/2020 on Twitter
  • Tonight, Missouri's 1st District has decided that an incremental approach isn't going to work any longer. We decided that we the people have the answers, and we will lead from the front lines.
    • Quoted in Who is Cori Bush? Black Lives Matter Activist Defeats 20-Year Rep., by Chantal Da Silva, Newsweek, (5 August 2020)
What we need to do is put money into mental health. Take money from [police], put it into education, put money into job training programs, to address substance use issues, right? Into our unhoused population... That also means you don't need money for tear gas. You don't need money for noise ammunition, and... stockpiling SWAT gear. We're taking that money back.
  • We've been called radicals, terrorists. We've been dismissed as an impossible fringe movement. But now we are a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-faith mass movement united in demanding change, in demanding accountability, in demanding that our police, our government, our country recognize that Black lives do indeed matter.
    • From 2020 election victory speech

The Forerunner (2022)[edit]

  • In the pages that follow, I recount other times I've been brutalized. These are a part of my story and who I have become. They are a part of why I fight for the rights of all of my people-no matter who they are or what the circumstances of their lives are like. I know what it's like to struggle to live after a sexual assault. I know what it's like to not be believed, to be told to be quiet, to move on and get over it. I fight for the rights and dignity of victims and survivors of sexual assault the way that I do partly because I've been there myself. (page xv)
  • For me, reproductive justice isn't abstract. As someone who has had to end pregnancies, I know what a difference it would have made to have been met with quality, compassionate, culturally responsive care when I decided to terminate. It's part of the reason why I fight so hard for comprehensive reproductive health care, including family planning and abortion care, because I believe the right of a person to make their own decision should be protected for everyone. As a mother of two, I know what it's like to endure health complications during childbirth, to deliver a baby four months premature and watch him spend the first months of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit. It's one reason I fight so hard to end the Black maternal health crisis in our country that kills too many Black women and birthing people. (page xv)
  • As someone who has been either uninsured or underinsured for most of my adult life, I know what it's like to be burdened by thousands of dollars in medical debt and to have to seek out routine medical care in an emergency room rather than with a primary care doctor. And as a nurse, I've seen too many patients forgo mental health services or be forced to ration their insulin because they couldn't afford the cost of treatment or medication. It's also why I fight for Medicare for All, including for easy access to comprehensive mental health services and affordable prescription drugs, because health care is a human right and must be guaranteed for everyone. (page xv)
  • As an organizer and activist in the movement working to save Black lives, I've seen too many Black children die at the hands of police officers. I've personally been brutalized and assaulted by law enforcement officers during protests and have watched other activists' rights violated while protesting for justice. It is why I hold fast when I fight to fundamentally transform our approach to public safety in our country, so we can save lives and finally achieve true justice and accountability. And as someone who has been evicted, has been unhoused, and has worked low-wage jobs, I know what it's like to struggle to pay rent, keep the heat on, and put food on the kitchen table. In part, it's why I fight so hard for a social safety net that actually meets the needs of those most marginalized by our society so we no longer have to just survive, but so we can thrive. I fight so hard for transformational change because it's right and it's necessary, but also because I've lived through the harms and devastation of police violence, and I know that with more people in positions of power who have an understanding, personally or not, of what it's like to struggle to survive, we can build a more just and equitable world that meets the needs of regular, everyday people like me. (page xvi)
  • I would not be the leader I am if it were not for the challenges I've faced to be where I am, and today, I work to make that path easier for others. This is not your typical political memoir. I have no problem challenging our notions of what is proper or what is respectable. I have no problem being vulnerable and sharing episodes from my life that might make some readers uncomfortable. I know that for every reader who can't relate to the struggles I've been through, there are at least two more who have lived through something similar. Not everyone is able to tell their story. If my telling mine helps others and makes them feel seen, then my own self-exposure will be worth it. If telling my story helps others in positions of power better understand how their decision making affects regular, everyday people, people like me, then my own self-exposure is worth it. When people in power can claim that they don't know the truth of our experiences, they can continue building a world in which there's no room for us to thrive. I want to put an end to that. (page xvi)
  • I'm sharing my truth because I feel an urgency to put my mind, my body, and my reputation on the line to make sure our communities get what we need. I hope that by being open about my own journey, I can help ease others' pain. My work is to move with purpose, knowing that every minute people in our country are walking into new instances of preventable hurt and that I have a responsibility to dismantle the systems of violence that too often cause that hurt. (page xvii)
  • We are not alone. Our stories are not anomalies. (page xvii)
  • I think my daddy bought every Black history book he could find. When we were growing up, he wanted us to know about people like Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer, W. E. B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth. He believed he couldn't leave it to anyone else to teach us these things. And if we didn't know our own history, we would lose ground, he told us. We would fall back into the oppressive conditions that our ancestors had worked hard to change but many of which remain with us today. When we watched television with my dad, it was Eyes on the Prize, Roots, Shaka Zulu, or A Raisin in the Sun. These were difficult to watch oftentimes. I couldn't make sense of why the white people on the TV were angry and violent toward Black people. But I did know, even as a child, that I was going to fight back. (p 11)
  • It is crucial that we give individuals the skills they need to form healthy relationships. To support healthy families and communities, we need to create an antiracist society. We need reparations, distributed both as cash and as resources that can help serve Black and Indigenous students and students of color. We need to close the racial wage gap and the gender pay gap. We need to pay a living wage. During my years at Lighthouse, minimum wage was not enough. No one who is educating children should go to work worried that her electricity is going to be cut off at home. We need access to quality health care. No one should have to live through prenatal, birth, and postpartum experiences like the ones I endured. The men in my life have presented real challenges. But so has the pressure of living in a hateful society. I wish my young adulthood and my children's early years could have taken place in a different America, a better America. That's the structural change I've been working to bring about. (p 108)
  • the lessons I learned from my clients deepened my understanding of humanity and how I could best be of service. (p 136)
    • about working as a nurse
  • two years into the Trump administration it was obvious to people why we needed unapologetic progressives in the House. The vile, white supremacist, sexist, bigoted Trump administration spewed lies, targeted Black and brown women elected officials, made a mockery of our democracy, and emboldened fascists. (p 227)
  • I wanted it to be known that you can be a regular, everyday person and do what others deem impossible. Past traumas don't have to hold you back from achieving your goals in life. Victims and survivors of assault, low-wage workers, single parents, people living with disabilities, folks who are unhoused or transient, people on EBT, WIC, or any other form of state assistance, people with credit issues, those who are incarcerated or were formerly incarcerated, those who are LGBTQIA+, and members of every marginalized group. We must not allow people to put us in the box that they put their own selves into due to insecurities, fear, envy, or their own shortcomings. Let them address those limitations in their lives, if they choose. (p 242)

Quotes about Cori Bush[edit]

  • When the raid on the Capitol erupted on January 6, I sent Bush a text, telling her to be safe. I wondered about her two babies who were sleeping in the car with her years ago, and how they were experiencing the events of that day. Now fresh adults at 19 and 20, Bush’s children are no strangers to the violence of daily life in the United States. They have seen everything, she says. “The brutality, losing my home, and so many things. They watched me go through the violent sexual assault that happened after my very first race, when I ran for U.S. Senate. They watched me go through four months where I was not myself, where I couldn't even cook a meal. I couldn't step outside of my home. They watched that.” For years, they also witnessed law enforcement launch authorized attacks on the people of Ferguson, their mom included. “Because I was gone so much during Ferguson, I would ask them before going back out into the streets, ‘Hey, has mama been gone too much? Do you want me to stay home tonight?’" Bush says. "And they would say, ‘No, mom. We know what you're doing. You out trying to save the world, mama. Go. And it's still that way now.”
    • Cori Bush: Can She Bring the Movement for Black Lives to Congress? by Derecka Purnell, Teen Vogue, (19 January 2021)
  • Cori Bush, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist in Missouri, defeated 20-year incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. in a tight Democratic primary race on Tuesday. Bush, 44, celebrated her victory against Clay Jr., saying her win was a sign that Missouri residents are ready for change. If elected in November, Bush, a former nurse and pastor, will become the first Black woman to represent the state of Missouri in Congress. In the wake of George Floyd's killing, Bush has been outspoken in calling for racial justice. She has been a prominent voice in the BLM movement for years, becoming a protest leader in Ferguson in the wake of Michael Brown's death in 2014... Like Ocasio-Cortez, Bush has earned the praise of former Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who endorsed the activist in her 2020 bid.
    • Quoted in Who is Cori Bush? Black Lives Matter Activist Defeats 20-Year Rep., by Chantal Da Silva, Newsweek, (5 August 2020)
  • Congratulations to @CoriBush on her primary victory tonight! She is a true progressive who stands with working people and will take on the corporate elite of this country when she gets to Congress.
    • Bernie Sanders quoted in Who is Cori Bush? Black Lives Matter Activist Defeats 20-Year Rep., by Chantal Da Silva, Newsweek, (5 August 2020)

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