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Ayanna Pressly

The life and rise of Ayanna Pressley

By Michael Levenson and Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff

An awkward silence hung over the auditorium at the Francis W. Parker School, a prestigious private school in Chicago, where 300 mostly wealthy, white high school students were supposed to be talking about race relations to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr Day.

Then, the organizer of the event, a 14-year-old freshman, stepped forward and shared her experience as one of the only black students at Parker. Something in the room shifted.

Over the next hour, Ayanna Pressley and her co-organizer, a white student named Allison Amend, led their classmates in what Amend recalled as one of the most formative moments of her childhood: an intimate, honest, and sometimes painful discussion about race. At the end, she said, people were in tears.  READ MORE

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