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2022 Essence Festival Of Culture - Ernest N. Morial Convention Center - Day 2

Vice President Kamala Harris With Keke Palmer at Essence Fest. Source: Paras Griffin / Getty

In her first appearance at Essence Fest since becoming vice president, Kamala Harris sat down with Palmer for a wide-ranging conversation. Harris shared various moments from her tenure including the moments before Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate.

She also reflected on the moment she learned that the Supreme Court removed constitutional protections for abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. She was en route to meet with Rep. Lauren Underwood to discuss work the two have been planning around maternal health.

Black maternal health and related supports is something Harris and Underwood have been working on even before she became vice president.

“We have to recognize we’re a nation that was founded on certain principles that are — that are grounded in the concept of freedom and liberty,” Harris said. “We also know that we’ve had a history in this country of government — trying to claim ownership over human bodies.”

In her conversation with Palmer, Harris also noted the intersection between states denying bodily autonomy and those restricting access to the ballot. But she encouraged people to be vigilant and understand that people will always have to fight for these rights.

She transitioned to highlighting other successes of the Biden-Harris administration including historic efforts to address environmental injustice through the Justice 40 Initiative and funding to massive lead pipe removal. Harris lifted up the value and importance of youth leadership in response to a question about getting young people engaged.

“We have a history of these movements being fueled by students, by young leaders,” she said. “And you could look at anything from who was taking to the street articulating with Black Lives Matter to who has been now out there marching on choice, who is out there leading on so many of the issues that are about the climate crisis that is pounding on the door for attention and swift response.”

The annual Essence Festival captures the best of culture, politics, music and more. While there was much joy and excitement to go around, the conversations led by organizers and civil rights advocates struck a different tone. As reported by, civil rights leaders speaking on various panels during Essence Fest took the time to denounce attacks people’s rights.

Louisiana’s Democratic governor recently signed into law an extremely restrictive abortion ban, citing his personal anti-abortion position as the justification. Sadly, he is among those who don’t understand that their personal beliefs and religion should not be allowed to dictate for others how they live.

A Sunday article in The Advocate noted the dire conditions for families and children. Louisiana ranks high in terms of maternal mortality and low in other quality of life indicators. The state previously received an F from the March of Dimes in terms of infant mortality.

Local news outlet WWLTV captured the full conversation between Harris and Palmer.



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