Kamala Harris paid a moving tribute to Black women while accepting her nomination to be Democrats’ candidate for vice president on the third night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). As the first woman of color to enjoy the distinction, Harris made sure to first recognize the Black women who paved the way for her to be in such a historic position while delivering her keynote address Wednesday night.
Noting that her acceptance speech also fell on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the first Black and South Asian woman nominated to a major party’s presidential ticket made a point to credit the Black women who helped secure that important electoral milestone while still remaining unable to vote.
“Without fanfare or recognition, they organized, testified, rallied, marched, and fought — not just for their vote, but for a seat at the table. These women and the generations that followed worked to make democracy and opportunity real in the lives of all of us who followed,” Harris said while speaking live from Wilmington, Delaware. “They paved the way for the trailblazing leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton,” both of whom delivered their own speeches earlier in the evening.
Harris then ran down a veritable who’s who in Black women who played historic roles in politics.
“Mary Church Terrell and Mary McLeod Bethune. Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash. Constance Baker Motley and Shirley Chisholm,” Harris said while rattling off the names of the civil rights leaders. “We’re not often taught their stories. But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”
Harris went on to credit her mother for raising her and her sister “to be strong Black women … and be proud of our Indian heritage.”
She also spoke about her beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha — the historically Black sorority she pledged at Howard University — as well as the “Divine 9” — historically Black Greek-letter fraternities and sororities — and shouted out her “HBCU brothers and sisters.”
It was in that context that Harris said the fateful words viewers were waiting for: “I accept your nomination for vice president of the United States of America.”
Harris used her feting of Black women to segue into the disproportionate effect that the coronavirus pandemic is having on Black and brown people.
“We gotta be honest, she said. “It is not an equal opportunity offender.”
While the blamed the pandemic in part on “Donald Trump‘s failure of leadership” that “has cost lives and livelihoods,” she also said it was because of “the effect of structural racism.”
“There is no vaccine for racism,” Harris cautioned. “We have got to do the work. For George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor … for our children and for all of us. … to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law.”
Harris finally ended her speech by insisting that “we must elect Joe Biden.”
And with those words, fittingly, Mary J. Blige‘s hit song “Work That” boomed from speakers as Biden joined his running mate on stage before both of their spouses did the same as Harris basked in an extended round of virtual applause.
Harris also made a surprise appearance at the DNC much earlier in the night with a message urging people to vote in the face of Republicans trying to prevent that from happening.
Biden is scheduled Thursday night — the final night of the DNC — to formally accept his own nomination to be the Democrats’ candidate for president.