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100 Black Women Take a Seat for Historic Photo

One hundred Black female leaders gather in the Edward M. Kennedy Institutes' replica of the United States Senate chamber to take a symbolic photo for the "Take Your Seat" event. Eric Haynes

One hundred Black female leaders gathered in Boston to symbolically take “take their seat” in the Edward M. Kennedy Institute's replica of the United States Senate chamber on Tuesday evening.

“One hundred [came] together to take over a powerful space we’ve historically been underrepresented in, the United States Senate,” Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley told NBCBLK.

As the first black woman to be elected to the Boston City Council in its 104-year history in 2009, and the first person of color and the first woman in 30 years to top the ticket in her subsequent runs for office in 2011 and 2013, Ayanna Pressley's career has been marked by history-making campaigns.

And she approached this event no differently, with her sights set on what she believed could be “the visual shot heard around the world.”

As a founding circle member of Higher Heights for America, an organization that seeks to harness the political power of Black women and build a national infrastructure that supports the election of Black women, Pressley orchestrated the event as part of her organization's #BlackWomenLead100 campaign to elevate and engage the voices of Black women in political activism.

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"We know that representation matters," Pressley said. "It does make a difference when government is reflective of the diversity of the citizenry that it represents and serves."

According to Pressley and a 2015 report produced by the Center for Women and Politics at Rutgers University, Black women make up only 3.4 percent of congressional leaders, despite comprising of 7.4 percent of the U.S. population.

And since its inception 233 years ago, there has only been one Black woman to have ever served in the U.S. Senate, Carol Mosely Braun, a democrat from Illinois who was elected in 1992 and served until 1999.

Official headshot of Boston City Councillor Ayanna Pressley. FayFoto/Boston / FayFoto/Boston

However, Black women have owned a fair share of the current political discussion given the group’s participation in electing President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections. With 70 percent of eligible Black female voters that participated in the last election, according to Pressley, this number is “proof” that black women can elect presidents.

"Despite our electoral power and strength, our many contributions to the economy and culture and civic life seem to be underrepresented and under served," said Pressley. "So, in my capacity as a circle member of Higher Heights for America, I had been percolating on this idea of how to visually speak to the electoral power and strength of black women while also highlighting the disparity."

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Pressley also shares that the selection process was a diverse one, with multiple avenues whereby people were invited to take a seat.

Those who "absolutely" had to be invited were black women who had previously served in the Commonwealth, are currently serving in office or running for office. Beyond those qualities, recommendations and nominations made by several senators invited were also taken into consideration.

"Obviously there are more than a hundred black women leading in the city of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, said Pressley. "There is not an arena big enough for all of the black women that are leading."

"So this is just a snapshot - but it's going to be powerful," said Pressley. "At the end of the day, this picture should demonstrate that black women lead, that black women vote and black women run."

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