By Sue Favor
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The election of Kamala Harris as the first female vice president of the United States, and the first person of color in the position, has inspired women around Los Angeles. But maybe none more than a group of teens from the Positive Results Center.
The organization’s weekly “Girl Talk” group for ages 13-18 spent the bulk of this week’s meeting Nov. 10 discussing Harris, her ascension, and what it means for women, women of color like themselves, and for this country. In the course of 90 minutes, the handful of participants also discussed racism, stereotypes, and ways to become involved.
“Don’t you feel like there’s somebody on our side?” JaVella said. “It feels empowering, like we finally have someone who can do what is needed for the communities that don’t get the love and care they deserve. The people who are neglected and not getting the services they need. Someone who understands what we’re going through.”
Priscilla said the impact of Harris’ election couldn’t be overstated.
“Having a woman of color as vice president is such a big deal,” she said. “We have come so far, from fighting for our rights and being discriminated against to having a woman of color as our vice president.”
The group has met for about five years, but partnered with the Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center last spring as a way to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kandee Lewis, executive director of the Positive Results Center, and Christelle Telesford, associate director of the Wooten Center, facilitated the discussion and guided participants in critically thinking about issues.
One of the first issues that came up was a rumor about Harris’ actions in the past. Lewis passionately explained that muck-raking is an old tactic used by those who are afraid of losing power. And in Harris’ case, this was due to her gender and her race.
“Our Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is beautiful, intelligent, smart and dynamic,” Lewis said. “You have to have something going on to reach her level.”
Racism was also on the table for discussion, as participants debated whether or not President-Elect Joe Biden was a racist. Lewis and Telesford pointed to his record of public service in politics and suggested that Biden might not always know the best way to make statements.
Ultimately, both facilitators laid the responsibility for change at the feet of the girls.
Change doesn’t happen on TV, it happens when you wake up everyday and try to make a difference in the world,” Telesford said. “What are you going to do as a doctor, a lawyer, to make a difference?
Lewis cautioned that young people, in particular couldn’t become complacent in the wake of Harris’ election.
“Our fight is not ended,” she said. “We’re going to have to continue to fight. This is just the beginning. The door has been opened, and we can’t let that door close behind us.”
Lewis also told the group to watch how Harris handles her term in the Oval Office.
“Just keep an eye out for what they’re going to throw at her, and what people might throw at you,” she said.
Sue Favor is a freelancer reporter for the Wave who covers south L.A. She can be reached via email@example.com.