Channel 11 sits down with Congresswoman Summer Lee to discuss historic victory, plans after election

PITTSBURGH — Making history and forging a new path: of the more than 500 members in congress, Summer Lee is one of only 27 Black women in office, and she is the first black woman to be elected from Pennsylvania. Her historic win in November 2022 shattered glass ceilings.

Channel 11′s Talia Kirkland sat down with the freshman congresswoman to discuss the impact and what her victory means for the Democratic Party.

“I pledge to fight for you. I pledge to fight for a better world,” said Congresswoman Summer Lee during her swearing-in ceremony earlier this month.

On Sunday, Feb. 19, Lee was re-sworn into office. Her ceremonial oath was taken at the historic Kelly Strayhorn Theatre in East Liberty on the third Sunday in Black History Month.

RELATED >> Summer Lee sworn in as first Black woman elected to Congress from PA; Ceremony held in Pittsburgh

In November, Lee won the 12th Congressional District race, but ceremonies in Washington D.C. were delayed after several failed attempts to elect a speaker of the house.

“It felt like we needed to kind of take a pause and to just honor who came before us, right, the folks who made this pathway,” Lee, said.

PHOTOS: Summer Lee sworn in as first black woman elected to Congress from PA, ceremony held in Pittsburgh

Lee’s victory made her the first Black woman elected to congress from Pennsylvania, taking office more than 60 years after Robert Nix Sr. cracked open the door for African Americans in Pennsylvania when he became the first Black man elected to the House of Representatives.

Now, six decades later, Lee said she hopes to continue that legacy and forge a path alongside other women in politics.

“It’s not me, it’s so much less me than it is our region realizing, you know, the power and opportunity that we have here the opportunity to send progressive voices to send impacted voices office,” Lee, said when asked about her historic win.

Currently, women make up just over a quarter of all members of the 118th congress. While the highest percentage in U.S. history - that means only 149 of 540 seats are women- and just 27 are black women.

“Every time one of us gets in we have made it easier for the next person we create a blueprint, we tear down some barriers,” Lee, said.

Despite the numbers, Lee said she has never been more optimistic about the future, especially in western Pennsylvania.

“We are going to continue to center marginalized folks center, those working families, right, who are who had been, you know, hurting throughout the pandemic,” Lee said.

True to her campaign, the freshman congresswoman now sits on the Oversight Committee as well as the Science Space and Technology Committee.

“When we think about where Pittsburgh was, where Pittsburgh has been, we think about the steel industry, we think of industry, and that is a part of our story, but it’s not the end of our story,” Lee, declared.

She plans to transform Pittsburgh from a steel town to an innovation hub creating more jobs and livable wages. But also, said she plans to tackle rising housing costs and hold corporations accountable.

“Starting with a living wage and union is a part of that it’s a huge part of that, but also addressing housing, making sure that we are connecting our Mon Valley communities and some of our suburbs into the city of ours with transportation, making sure that we’re creating access for jobs,” Lee said.

Her plans also include investing in the next generation and addressing the region’s rising teen gun violence epidemic by providing wrap-around services for students and families.

“We know that gun violence is directly correlated with poverty. That means at every level of government we must be willing to invest in that, we must make sure that we are all directing those resources at the same time, otherwise, we are not being honest about it,” Lee said.

RELATED >> Congresswoman Summer Lee shares problems she believes are causing teenage gun violence in the area

During our conversation, Lee reflected on a recent visit to a Pittsburgh public school.

“I came in looking like me with my sneakers on and my hair in my braids., and you could see their eyes light up because they saw themselves,” Lee, said.

Ultimately, she said it is that representation that drove her campaign, and it will be the next generation of diverse girls and boys from the inner city to the rural county coming together that will catapult Pennsylvania into a brighter future. And for that, she said she is accountable.

During Lee’s acceptance speech, she promised to continue to lead a multi-racial, multi-generational movement of people who had never worked together but now will forever forge ahead.

Summer Lee is Pittsburgh’s Black History.

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