Kamala Harris makes history as nation’s first Black vice president
By Darlene Donloe
America’s first Black, first Asian American and first female vice president took a historic oath of office Jan. 20, delighting and inspiring millions of young girls, women and people of color from the eastern seaboard to the California coast and beyond.
As millions watched in joy and wonder, former California Sen. Kamala Harris, the daughter of Asian and Jamaican immigrants, was sworn in as the nation’s 49th vice president, signifying an unprecedented moment in U.S. history as she joined former vice president Joe Biden as stewards of America’s executive branch for the next four years.
Accolades poured in for the new administration on social media.
On Twitter, Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote, “Today we made history. This inauguration is a hopeful beginning and a renewal of the American spirit — ushering in leadership with the courage, empathy, and unity of purpose to meet the challenge of our time. Congratulations @POTUS Biden and @VP Harris.”
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters tweeted, “I feel the burden of living in my country under President Trump has been lifted from my shoulders. For me, the relief brings tears of joy. I rejoice in knowing it’s a new day and a new way with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.”
Waters’ colleague U.S. Rep. Karen Bass posted a quote: “This is the day that the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad in it!”
On Twitter, county Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell posted, “It is incredible to witness this moment in our nation’s history. Congratulations President @JoeBiden and Madame Vice President @KamalaHarris!”
City Councilman Mark Ridley Thomas tweeted, “Congrats to @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris on your historic inauguration. It’s with tremendous hope and optimism that we walk on the road ahead. Much work to do for a better tomorrow.”
In a statement released January 20, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez said, “After four years of darkness, the sun is rising on a new era.
“To the little girls in Pacoima, in Watts, in Boyle Heights, in Westlake, as we watch Vice President Kamala Devi Harris sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, remember that no dream is too big,” Martinez added. “Communities of color have been under attack for the last four years by Trump.
“From the Muslim ban to children separated from their families at the border. We now have a president in Joe Biden who leads with kindness and empathy, not one who attacks the most vulnerable. A president who places families first. A president who wants to unite this country, not divide it. A new day is here.”
City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson wrote on Twitter: Today marks a new chapter in American history. Congratulations and God speed to Vice President Kamala Harris and President Biden. Let’s get to work restoring the greatness of our communities and our country.”
Estella Holeman, a Los Angeles resident, who graduated from Harris’ alma mater, Howard University, said, “Kamala Harris knows who she is. What she’s doing for Black women is letting them know they have power and to own it. We are worthy and have a history of running nations.
“I feel very proud that she is taking her rightful place in history,” Holeman added. “Howard University teaches you how to endure, persevere, and have fortitude. Women are rising. They are getting their footing. The only direction we can go is forward.
“In my lifetime to be able to applaud and give a standing ovation to a sister like Kamala Harris is significant. I’m not surprised at all that the first female vice president of the United States is a Black woman.”
“When I saw her walk to the podium to take the oath of office, it was like a surrealistic dream,” said Aldore Collier, former Ebony magazine editor. “It marveled my senses. All the young Black and brown girls can now look at things differently. They can now see themselves differently.
“Because she’s the first, it’s significant. The first of anything is always significant. By her being there, and being so intelligent and polished and ready, she is really paving the way. She’ll make it easier for the next woman, the next Black, the next Asian person. It’ll be different for the next ‘one.’ I’m optimistic for the country and for women in general.”
Marcy De Veaux, professor of journalism and associate director for faculty development at Cal State Northridge, said she has watched Kamala Harris “for a number of years since she was launched into the public eye here in California.”
“She is always prepared,” De Veaux said. “With very few missteps, she has prepared herself for this leadership role as vice president of the United States. I feel great pride that a woman of color has prepared herself to accept this extraordinary and significant opportunity.
“Vice President Harris brings a world-view to this role like no other vice president before her. It is my hope that her background and experiences will be a guiding light for President Biden as he begins to repair the damage that this past Administration has inflicted on America and the world. The historical record is setDe Veaux added.
“America elected a Black and brown woman to the second-highest post in the land,” she said. “And did so during a most tumultuous time when white supremacy raised its head for all to see. That is the historical implication, the power of the Black vote that took the opportunity to elect a Black woman as vice president.”
“Kamala Harris being the vice president of the United States means everything,” said Miki Turner, assistant professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “So often we are looked at as not enough, that we’re not as smart as, our education isn’t as good as a [predominantly white institution]. It seems surreal. It’s been a beautiful thing.”
Turner, who attended Hampton University and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, said the fact that someone from a historically black college or university is now in the White House speaks volumes.
“A win for Howard is a win for every HBCU,” said Turner. “It’s putting everyone on notice, especially in academia. Now every [predominantly white institution]. has an initiative to recruit HBCU grads and doctoral students. Kamala Harris in the White House means I’m more hopeful about the administration. I’m happy I got to see this in my lifetime.”
Lori Cooper, the owner of L.Cooper Fabulousjewels, said the union of President Biden and Vice President Harris will ‘allow her to play to her strengths.’
“She’s a legislator,” said Cooper, who added that Harris’ penchant for pearls has increased the popularity of her jewelry business. “She knows how to get it done. She’ll call out injustice as she has throughout her political and professional career.
“She has broken through the glass ceiling as not only a woman but as a woman of color. It has been women of color that have made anything of any significance, a reality in America. She’s made as significant a shift in the country’s zeitgeist as Title 9 did in the 80s. It officially allows girls of color and little girls everywhere to see themselves on an equal playing field.”
“Kamala in the White House means that we have taken a step moving forward as Americans,” said Dermot Givens, an attorney and political consultant. “I think it will be amazing. Moving forward is what Kamala Harris stands for.”
Givens, who led a campaign called Black Men Voting in support of Harris last year, said, “this is the first time Black folks were given a big political reward.
“Joe Biden picking her is him saying, ‘Hey, Black people, I’m giving you something,’” Givens said. “It was a direct consequence of Black political power. Black folks saved his campaign. Biden acknowledged it. That’s never happened before. Our expectation for her is to stay the course and position herself to take the mantle after Biden and be the first woman president.”
The inauguration proved to be an unprecedented moment in American history when Harris, on a sunny, cool, and crisp day in the nation’s capital, was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The historic symbolism continued when 22-year-old Los Angeles activist and poet Amanda Gorman stunned the inauguration crowd, nearly stealing the show with her poignant poem, “The Hill We Climb,” which effectively captured recent events.
Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, reportedly completed her poem after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6.
One of Gorman’s verses read: ‘We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, It can never be permanently defeated.’
Gorman received a standing ovation from attendees including both President Joe Biden and Vice President
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.