Missouri Rep-elect Cori Bush wears Breonna Taylor mask to Congress, GOP colleagues think it’s her name

Tonya Pendleton
·4 min read

Newly elected Congresswoman Cori Bush says that her work in Congress will honor Breonna Taylor, the late EMT

On Election Day, activist Cori Bush, who was once beaten and tear-gassed by police while participating in protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of Michael Brown, became the first Black woman elected to Congress from the state.

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Brown, 18, was the unarmed teenager who was fatally shot in 2014 by former police officer Darren Wilson, who was never charged in the case. Because of it, Bush became a Black Lives Matter organizer, ultimately running for Congress in 2018 in a losing effort. This time, she was successful, displacing 10-term incumbent Lacy Clay for the 1st Congressional District seat.

Cori Bush Breonna Taylor Missouri thegrio.com
WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 12: Rep.-elect Cori Bush (D-MO) speaks to the press outside of the Hyatt Regency hotel on Capitol Hill on November 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. Rep.-elect Bush is a community activist and the first Black woman to represent Missouri in congress. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

When Bush showed up to orientation for new House members on Friday, she was wearing a mask with Breonna Taylor’s name to pay her respects to the late EMT, who was killed in a botched police raid in March in her Louisville, Kentucky home. Only one of the police officers involved, Brett Hankison, has been charged, and only with wanton endangerment as he put others in Taylor’s apartment building at risk by shooting blindly into the building.

Bush was surprised that despite the publicity surrounding the case and the global protests that were generated around the deaths of Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, that many of her new colleagues called her Breonna thinking that that was her name.

“It’s Day One, so I’m wearing my ‘Breonna Taylor’ mask,” she posted on her Twitter account. “A few of my Republican colleagues have called me Breonna, assuming that’s my name. It hurts. But I’m glad they’ll come to know her name & story because of my presence here. Breonna must be central to our work in Congress.”

Bush told the New York Times that being ‘mistaken’ for Taylor was hurtful.

“I didn’t hear it once, I didn’t hear it twice, I heard it several times,” she said, tearing up. “I’m being called, you know, Breonna Taylor today. But it’s OK because we’ll educate and make people know who she is and what she stood for and that she was an award-winning EMT in her community and that she’s someone who deserves justice right now.”

Bush, 44, a St. Louis native whose work as a nurse brought her into the Ferguson protests, joined the 177th Congress with the mandate to truly represent the people who elected her to the job.

In an op-ed Bush penned for Elle before her election, Bush remembered politicians who came through Ferguson for photo ops during the uprising but didn’t stay to effect any significant change. She says that leaders must do more than just show up particularly as African-Americans continue to fight for racial justice and contend with the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We must build coalitions and mobilize around issues using our voices, skills, talents—not high-contributing donors or lobbyists,” she wrote. “We need activists in Congress—not just one, or two, or ten, but an entire generation of activists. We have been through so much. We can’t quit. We can’t slow down. Now is not the time for incremental change. Incremental change means more people will die.”

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