Four women of color in Congress took the stage at Netroots Nation in Philadelphia on Saturday.

You’ve got to remember the context. In the last two weeks, these women — Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Deb Haaland — have been called out, marginalized, villainized, and tokenized by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In a way that is so specific to women of color. Because of who we are, what we look like — we’re standouts.

There’s so much pressure to conform in ways that don’t serve our community. It might feel isolating to take bold stands — to make that vote, introduce legislation, fight for the things, call for impeachment. When the head of the party won’t do it.

Even Donald Trump initially agreed with Nancy Pelosi’s criticism. Do you know how that makes us feel? 

Today, Pelosi responded with the following:

When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to �Make America Great Again� has always been about making America white again. Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power. https://t.co/ODqqHneyES

July 14, 2019

And so I opened our panel Saturday by explicitly saying to them: you are loved, we love you. It means keep going, we support you. I can imagine the pressure, because I’ve been under this kind of pressure.

I asked these congresswomen, what do you say to women of color who see the work they do being silenced or criticized?

“We never need to ask for permission or wait for permission to lead, we were sent to Washington I believe to lead with our values,” Rep. Omar responded.

“You have to be unapologetically you,” Rep. Tlaib said.

What they told me in various ways was: “Keep the main thing the main thing. This is what I was elected to do, I serve first and foremost my district. I serve first and foremost humanity. And I’m not going to waver from that.”

Standing ovation as these boss ladies take the stage @Netroots_Nation! #NN19@aimeeallison@Ilhan@RashidaTlaib@RepPressley@RepDebHaalandpic.twitter.com/bsmIaVGUFN

July 13, 2019

Three of the four freshman âÂ�Â�SquadâÂ�Â� getting a very enthusiastic welcome at Netroots Nation in Philly this am âÂ�Â�TheyâÂ�Â�re more than just four votesâÂ�Â� – moderator @aimeeallisonpic.twitter.com/jYAdEeh5N4

July 13, 2019

The message to women of color is you can withstand tremendous pressure, and you can keep your eyes on the prize. That’s a powerful message. We can do it.

Today they talked a lot about the heartbreaking border crisis, the foreign policy that lead to it, they talked about the fact that all of them voted against the bill to expand funding at the border.

These women have been around 6.5 months and they have been leading voices on a whole host of issues.

“This country was founded on the genocide of Native people,” Rep. Haaland said on the panel. “It’s very difficult to heal something when you’re in denial over it.”

She’s correcting centuries of wrong.

“Now is not the time to be territorial about oppression and trauma…we are all losing, but we can all win,” Rep. Pressley said, urging people of color against a scarcity mindset.

People who care about the prison industrial system need to care about what’s happening at the border because it’s the same system.

When Rep. Tlaib talks about her hero Shirley Chisholm, putting herself in a tradition with women of color, it’s very powerful.

They show us what it looks like when you have elected leaders who are deeply tied to movements. They are an example for us all on how you can be in office and fight for a justice agenda.

But we don’t want them to be isolated and alone, we want them to be reminded that they represent millions of us and not just women of color but millions of us Americans and I want them to keep going, I want them to be strong. I want us all to be strong.

Watch the full panel, preceded by fiery speeches from Pennsylvania state representatives Summer Lee and Movita Johnson-Harrell, below.

YouTube Video

Editor’s note: Article has been updated with Nancy Pelosi’s response to Donald Trump.

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Aimee Allison

Aimee Allison is founder and president of She the People, a national network connecting women of color to transform our democracy. She is also a senior fellow at Prism. You can follow her on Twitter at...