Voting rights, the historical nature of entrenched racism and the healing powers of the Vineyard were all topics for discussion when Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley took the stage at the Tabernacle last Friday.

New York Attorney General Letitia James attended the event. — Ray Ewing

“To be in the Tabernacle feels incredibly full-circle for me, as the granddaughter of a Baptist preacher,” the Democratic congresswoman told a large gathering of community members and political leaders who turned out for the free event. “My leadership training and development really began in the church,” Ms. Pressley said. “It’s where I learned how to stand up straight and give my testimony. It’s where I found community and nurturing.”

Audience members included New York Attorney General Letitia James and candidate for Bronx borough president Vanessa Gibson. Joseph Carter, a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Social Justice Leadership Foundation, which sponsored the event, introduced Ms. Pressley.

“Our vision is a fair and just Island for all,” he told the crowd, to applause that became an ovation with the arrival of Ms. Pressley on stage.

Thanking those who supported her 2019 bid to represent the seventh congressional district, which includes much of Boston, Ms. Pressley also noted the historic nature of her election.

“This victory . . . is a collective and a shared victory, truly,” she said. “I am the first person of color, period, and the first black woman to represent the commonwealth of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Joe Carter of the Martha’s Vineyard Social Justice Leadership Foundation, which sponsored the free event. — Ray Ewing

“Now, that took 230 years.”

After opening remarks, Ms. Pressley took a seat at an onstage table for a wide-ranging conversation with Islander Lisette Williams, followed by written questions from audience members.

The congresswoman struck an evangelical chord more than once in her replies, drawing audible murmurs of assent from the Tabernacle crowd as she urged voters to make their wishes known to their elected officials.

“Use your voice,” she said. “Call out the biases.”

Along with abolishing the filibuster and canceling student debt, Ms. Pressley also pushed for the voting rights bill that is currently stalled in the Senate.

“I do have some ire for my colleagues across the aisle who appear to have contempt for the American people, contempt for our democracy,” she said, adding: “But I’m not going to leave out of my ire [Democrats] Kristen Sinema and Joe Manchin,” Ms. Pressley continued, as the Tabernacle erupted in applause.

In one written question, Ms. Pressley was asked about the impact on black people being left out of the G.I. Bill of Rights that provided college tuition, low-interest loans, job training and other benefits to white World War II veterans.

“Black Americans being excluded from those benefits really reflects a pattern of discrimination that is rooted in racism and bigotry,” she replied. Red-lining, or keeping blacks out of white neighborhoods, and unequal banking practices are part of the same pattern leading to today’s student debt crisis, she said.

Ms. Pressley: “Use your voice. Call out the biases.” — Ray Ewing

“These discriminatory, exclusionary policies have prevented wealth-building,” Ms. Pressley said. “All these things are connected.”

She also answered a question about her favorite thing to do on Martha’s Vineyard — in two parts.

“I love the community,” she began. “The second my husband and I come off that ferry, we sort of have a deeper exhale . . . I know that I’m in a place where I will find restoration.”

Secondly, Ms. Pressley said: “This is where black joy thrives.”

As a wave of applause subsided, she continued: “The reason why the value of black lives are not codified in our budgets or our policies, and people are uncomfortable because it quite literally has never been done before, is because they don’t see our whole humanity as black people.

“What I love about the Island is that . . . I believe this is where my full humanity is seen.”

Ms. Pressley stayed after the event to pose for photographs with fans, some 50 of whom quickly lined up in a queue that reached from the front of the stage to the back of the Tabernacle.