Kamala Harris speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center. – San Francisco, California – August 05, 2019 (Shutterstock)
By Janet Howard
Kamala Harris has what I like to call happy eyes. And those happy eyes culminated with the most joyous laugh heard around the world on Saturday, November 7, in a video posted to her social media. In that, she excitedly says, “We did it, we did it, Joe. You’re going to be the next President of the United States!” Yes, Kamala, Joe did it. You did it also. You are the Vice-President of the United States of America. What a historic moment for you, all women, primarily black and minority women, and little girls.
Moment in History
Harris is very much aware of her moment and history. When she walked on stage to “Work That” by Mary J. Blige for her first speech, she was glowing in a white pantsuit; of which the color held significance. August 26, 2020, marked the 100th anniversary of the federal government certified states’ ratification of the 19th Amendment on women’s voting rights. The U.S. suffrage movement colors are purple for loyalty, white for purity, and gold for hope. Today, women continue to wear the color white to pay tribute to the suffragists and fight for women’s rights. Way back in March 1913, more than 8,000 women wore white to parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, to demand a constitutional amendment allowing them the right to vote. Since then, many women in politics have donned the color for significant occasions. Shirley Chisholm wore white when she became the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in 1968. Geraldine Ferraro wore white when she accepted her nomination as the first female vice-presidential candidate in 1984. Hillary Clinton wore the color when she accepted her party’s nomination in 2016, as did Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she was sworn in as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress in 2019.
Even Harris’ pearls conveyed a message. A member of Howard University’s Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Harris, has been wearing pearls since her college days. “The symbolism for the AKA sorority is pearls, which each pearl represents the original founding and incorporated members who started the sorority in 1908,” Darnell-Jamal Lisby, a fashion historian, revealed.
Daughter of Immigrants, Praise for Women and Joe Biden
Harris is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants. Harris is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants. Harris immigrant parents: a Black father, Donald Harris, an economist, is from Jamaica, and her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer researcher, and civil rights activist, was from India. Paying homage to her background, she commemorated being named the first woman vice president in American history by choosing to wear clothing by an immigrant, woman-founded, American-based label, Carolina Herrera, who was born in Venezuela. She expressed her gratitude for the women who shaped, inspired and paved the way for her ascension. She also praised the man who had the boldness to select her as his running mate.
Harris: “And to the woman most responsible for my presence here today, my mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who is always in our hearts. When she came here from India at the age of 19, she maybe didn’t quite imagine this moment.
But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible. So I am thinking about her and about the generations of women, Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation’s history, have paved the way for this moment tonight, women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all. Including the Black women who are often, too often overlooked but so often proved they are the backbone of our democracy.
All the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act and now in 2020 with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard.
Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been. And I stand on their shoulders. And what a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president.”
First of Many Firsts and An Inspiration to All
Harris is known for many firsts. She has been a county district attorney, the district attorney for San Francisco – the first woman and first African-American and Indian-origin to be elected to the position. Now she has many firsts in her role as vice president: the first woman, the first African-American woman, the first Indian-American, and the first Asian-American.
A few weeks ago, Harris was seen in a video on social media telling her niece that she can be President. When Biden selected Harris as his vice-president, she instantly became a symbol of hope for all girls, especially brown and black. Young girls were delighted that they could see someone looking like them in such a positive spotlight. For women, it motivated and energized them to continue the fight of shattering glass ceilings as well as inspiration and validation. Harris emphasized these thoughts and feelings in her victory speech:
“But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities and to the children of our country regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before.”
So Proud of You
Kamala Harris, as your husband Doug, said upon learning of your historic victory, “I’m so proud of you.” We are so proud of you also. We love you, respect you, and will fight with you. We wish you and President Biden much success. We know that it’s not going to be easy. We know that you are ready to do the work from day one. We got your back. Remember your words during the 2020 Black Girls Lead conference: “There will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane.’ They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be. But don’t you let that burden you.”
Workers’ World Today is a free publication that empowers all workers, regardless of social or political affiliations. Distributed throughout New York City, our paper has a mission to educate workers and provide them with relevant information pertinent to the workforce such as workers’ compensation, discrimination on the job, workers’ rights, and more.