^ business progressivism, in the language of Black church and Black professionals : Ayanna Pressley
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This year’s Boston City Council at large contest hasn’t exactly gone viral. Quiet reigns. (disclosure : i am advising and supporting a challenger candidate, Annissa Essaibi George.) Yet at least one at large campaign consciously represents one of the major movements in American politics : business progressivism. The candidate I am talking about is Ayanna Pressley.
I’ve written about business progressivism before in these pages. Business progressivism, several months ago, turned back Indiana’s anti-gay discrimination law. It did the same in Arkansas and Arizona. Business progressives dominate Pride marches. They have played the major institutional role in winning full civil rights for LGBT people. Business progressives have also taken part in raising the minimum waged in several cities and some states.
Social justice is, however, not all there is to business progressivism. Ayanna Pressley’s campaign displays an entirely separate side thereof : encouraging and enabling entrepreneurship among women. people of color, and immigrants. At meet and greets around the city — I have attended two and will attend one at Haley House in Roxbury tonight — Pressley speaks a language I first heard 35 years ago in Memphis, at a luncheon gievn by that city’s JAGs, a professional association of women of color. It’s a language partly Mary Kay Cosmetics cheerleader, part Black church rise-up, and part political protest,
Whatever its parts, Pressley’s message is that one must self-start, and that self-start must be supported by City Hall.
Her language is different from what Governor Baker uses when addressing audiences of color, but Pressley and Baker have pretty much the same goal : get people to rise up. To think it, attempt it, and see government encourage and enable it. For Baker, that means creating, funding, and purposing pathways for kids to get from school to skills sets to employment and to innovation. For Pressley, it means fostering small businesses. She has already done this. The 2014 home rule petition\ whereby Boston now controls its liquor licenses was hers..
She’s well into phase two of the liquor license movement now, advocating at meet and greets and elsewhere to see those licenses granted to restaurants in the city;s outlying neighborhoods.
Again she and Baker coincide. Getting small businesses up and running, permitted and enabled, is the prime mission of Baker’s Business Development Secretary, Jay Ash. Pressley, as a Councillor only, hasn’t an equivalent agency in her arsenal, but she has the bully pulpit and the following, women and people of color who get her meaning and support pretty much all of it. Of all the at large Councillors, she is the only one whose identity is business progressive. (challenger Essaibi George also speaks the small business message, but she has additional priorities and seems more neighborhood-social than the business-focused Pressley.)
To those who touch only surface, Governor Baker and Councillor Pressley may feel very different in texture, perhaps even opposite. I disagree. Business progressivism has more than one fabric in its fall collection, as befits a significant political movement — the most promising political development in our nation today.
Business progressivism is changing the conversation radically. Baker’s managerial perfectionism and education for innovation have entirely transformed perceptions of the Governor'[s mission. Pressley is carving out the same kind of transformation in Boston, as fervent as Baker is dogged.. Mayor Walsh would do well to borrow from her agenda, as he is generously taking from Baker’s.
There really is no choice about this. Business employs millions of people and engages many, many more in its entrepreneurship. Here is the engine of inclusion, of diversity — our future prosperity, of our optimism. If we reject the politics of exclusivity and failure, here is our rescue. The smartest politicians among us are taking rescue to heart.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere