By Alexis McCowan, Howard University News Service
Today is a day of firsts as Kamala Devi Harris becomes the highest-ranking female U.S. official in the country’s 244-year history, after Joe Biden was projected to win the 2020 election. Harris is also the first African American woman to become vice president of the United States.
In a post on Twitter which included her only remarks so far about the victory, it showed her calling President-elect Joe Biden and saying, “We did it Joe, we did it”.
The California Senator is no stranger to making history as she did when she became the first African American woman, first Asian American woman and first daughter of two immigrants to be a major party’s vice presidential nominee, when Joe Biden announced her as his running mate in August 2020. She is the fourth woman to be on a major party ticket.
Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California, to two immigrant parents: an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father.
Harris is also the first graduate of a historically Black college and university — or HBCU — to become a vice presidential candidate and now vice president.
For four years she attended Howard University, one of the nation’s preeminent historically Black colleges and universities, which she has described as among the most formative experiences of her life. During her time at Howard she became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, A Black women’s organization founded in 1908. She graduated from Howard with a degree in political science and economics.
Harris earned her law degree at the University of California. In 2003, she became the district attorney for San Francisco, before being elected the first woman and the first African American person to serve as California’s attorney general, the top lawyer and law enforcement official in America’s most populous state. In 2017, she was elected to serve as the junior senator of California.
Harris made a victory speech that emphasized the importance of unity in a time of division amongst the American people.
Ashley Tucker is a recapitalization specialist with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She is also a graduate of HBCU, Winston-Salem State University and also a member of AKA sorority.
Tucker said, “Since I became an AKA, it’s been such an integral part of my identity and as a Black woman it’s a win to see a Black woman on a national stage. Biden is the president but as VP she [Kamala] will have a vital role in pushing things forward.”
Tucker continued, “Generations coming behind us have never seen anything like this. They see a lot more representation than we did. It would be gratifying and go a long way towards boosting the morale of young black women and girls in the nation.”
Harris talked about the importance of various women in history.
“Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision — to see what can be unburdened by what has been — 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. But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” said Harris.
She continued, “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
Howard University political science professor, Dr. JoVon McCalester talked about the importance of Harris’ win to the African-American community and HBCU education.
“Now we have someone who is vice president who didn’t descend from this ivy league education. She comes from a traditional HBCU,” she said.
“Their victories are important to us because blackness is not relegated just to one experience in the United States; blackness is experienced in multiple ways and all of those ways are valid, important, and a part of what blackness is.”
McCalester looks forward to the Biden administration using their power to create change and make tough but pivotal decisions on prominent issues.
“At this point worrying about being ethically or morally superior is affecting the real tangible everyday lives of people.If you believe that women’s bodies are their choices then you do what it takes to solidify that. If that means adding seats to the Supreme Court then you add seats,” McCalester continued.
“I want for the administration to sit down and really consider the long-term effects of not actually engaging in policy that are beneficial to people.”
Harris ended her speech with a promise to the American people.
“Now is when the real work begins. The Hard work. The Necessary work. The Good work. The essential work to save lives and beat this pandemic. To rebuild our economy so it works for working people. To root out systemic racism in our justice system and society. To combat the climate crisis. To unite our country and heal the soul of our nation. The road ahead will not be easy. But America is ready. And so are Joe and I,” said Harris.