California senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris sat down with Michigan Rep. Brenda Lawrence to discuss the ways Black women can continue to be engaged in the fight for our democracy, less than 70 days shy of the 2020 presidential election.
Black women have continuously pushed the nation in innovative and invigorating ways, and as voting history participation shows, have remained loyal to the Democratic party for over the last 40 years, not to mention the highest levels of voter participation.
Harris spoke from Detroit, Michigan, marking the first of a series of solo events for Harris as she stumps for the second biggest job in American politics. The event titled, “Sister to Sister: Mobilizing in Action Roundtable” was hosted in conjunction with Essence Magazine and featured panelists Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, DNC Black Caucus Chair Virgie Rollins, and Chairwoman of Sisters Lead, Sisters Vote Melanie Campbell, along with Sen. Harris and Rep. Lawrence.
Campbell, a voting rights advocate for over 20 years, spoke first. “Today the nation celebrates Women’s Equality Day to celebrate the ratification of the 19th amendment,” Campbell began, while also acknowledging the erasure of Black women from the movement.
“We also know from black herstory that Black women faced racism, voter suppression, intimidation and even threats to our very lives for even attempting to exercise their right to vote,” Campbell said.
Harris began by framing the history of the suffragette movement and the Black women she named on her nomination night who haven’t received acknowledgement from the mainstream movement.
“That really speaks volumes about where we are today based on the history of America and the lack of representation of Black women,” Harris said.
Michigan, which is one of the largest battleground states holds the city of Detroit, the birthplace of “Black people who have helped build it (America) to greatness, Harris said in response to why she chose the location. Harris also acknowledged the work that a Biden-Harris administration would have to do in order to address the disparities of current day Black residents and beyond like in Flint, Michigan.
In addition to discussing inequity on a macro level, the complexities surrounding being a Black woman in America were also examined during Wednesday’s discussion. While panelists pointed out the fact that Black women continue to excel in education and entrepreneurship, the overall mental and physical health of Black women continues to be affected by overarching factors. Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate, while having to raise and protect families during a pandemic in the middle of a toppling system rooted in systemic and racial injustice.
Harris also took time to address the shooting of Jacob Blake, saying that two systems of justice exists for Black Americans. She also touched on the importance of Black women mentors and mentees in order to raise the next generation of leaders.
“Your voice matters and you will never be alone, we will always be in that room with you,” Harris said.
She closed with encouraging Black women to continue to activate their communities to vote, in light of the disastrous 2016 election which was interfered by Russian operative, spurring voter suppression, along with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“They know when we vote things change,” Harris said. “When we vote we have the ability through our voice connected through our vote to say we are present, we matter, we are seen and you will be accountable to us. I just want to remind everybody that elections matter.”