Ascending Higher in the Nation’s Leadership Than Any Woman Before Her
What a historic election! The American people chose president-elect Joe Biden and his running mate vice president-elect Kamala Devi Harris to lead the highest seats in the land. There will be countless historical and political analyses of the 2020 Presidential Election, but for women and people of color, now is the time for the stories to be told and shared.
Harris, who shattered one of the highest glass ceilings in American life, is proof that women, especially women of color, can reach their dreams. It’s actually attainable.
On Jan. 20, Harris will be sworn in as the 49th vice president of the United States, bringing with her a long list of things she was the first to achieve: the first Black woman to be elected district attorney in California history; first woman to be California’s attorney general; and, the first Indian American senator. Now, she can add to her impressive list, the first woman, the first Black American and the first South Asian American elected vice president in U.S. history.
Her brilliant debate skills and deep connection to her heritage were honed at Howard University, one of the most prestigious historically Black colleges in the country.
Few are aware that the illustrious trailblazer used to call Madison home. Born in Oakland, California, the family moved to Wisconsin when she was 5 years old, after her father, Donald Harris, accepted an appointment as an associate professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Harris’ mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was a breast cancer researcher with the university.
Their stay in the Bader State was short-lived.
She came back to Wisconsin in 2018 as Sen. Harris to campaign for her colleague Tammy Baldwin for re-election to the Senate and Mandela Barnes for lieutenant governor. The rally was held at the Madison Concourse Hotel.
She’s warm, sharp and intelligent. Most of all, Harris owns her Blackness.
It was no surprise to those who got to rub shoulders with her that Biden chose her as his running mate. This phenomenal woman is a product of immigrant parents from Jamaica and India. While attending Howard in Washington, D.C., she pledged with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s founding chapter ꟷ the country’s first Black Greek letter sorority. After graduating, Harris earned a law degree from the University of California – Hastings College.
A focused young woman, with a reputation for fighting injustice, has public service positions that include: Alameda County Deputy District Attorney and San Francisco District Attorney, attorney general of California; and, the second Black woman to be elected as a U.S. Senator. Carol Moseley Braun was the first African American woman to serve as U.S. senator. In 2005 Barack Obama became the fifth African American to serve and third to be popularly elected.
Biden had the “audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exist in our country and select a woman as his vice president,” Harris said in a victory speech in Wilmington, Delaware, while wearing suffragette white. He chose Harris, an unapologetically, unequivocally Black woman.
This year’s election broke records for voter turnout, including the number of minorities that cast a ballot. The campaign season was fraught with hundreds of thousands of people contracting and dying from the coronavirus.
There were other forces that could have easily derailed voter turnout such as voter suppression and voter intimidation, protests against social and racial injustices, high unemployment, food insecurities, health inequities and the list goes on. Yet, voter turnout was the highest in our nation’s history. Black people played a critical role in the turnout and outcome of this election, including groups such as the Divine 9 (the Black fraternities and sororities), Black churches, the NAACP, the Urban League, HBCUs, and several civic and social groups.
The Biden-Harris team brings years of executive leadership and experience at the most critical time in American history. Be prepared to watch this brilliant team demonstrate the kindness, respect and integrity expected of the two highest offices in our nation. Their administration will reflect America’s diversity – racial, cultural, ethnic and special populations.
As a proud AKA, Harris’ political career has evoked unprecedented excitement, energy and action. The impact that Harris will have is just beginning. Many will watch her with admiration and aspiration, especially young Black girls, and women around the world.
Harris has become a role model for many. My granddaughters will dream and grow up aspiring to be whoever they want to be. Her riveting remarks were inspiring.
Harris said: “… 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.”
Harris’ advice to future leaders must be remembered. “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. But know that we will applaud you every step of the way.”
Frances Huntley-Cooper, the first and only elected African American mayor in Wisconsin’s history, is a five-time Democratic National Convention delegate. She serves as a Board of Trustees for Madison College and was the Mayor of Fitchburg from 1991 to 1993. In 2008, Huntley-Cooper was elected as a Barack Obama delegate in the Democratic Convention in Denver. Huntley-Cooper also served five years as president of the Madison branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) amongst numerous other community service roles.