Vice President Kamala Harris provided a message of hope while striking an encouraging tone during an exclusive meeting with the Black Press of America.
The Vice President, who cut her teeth as a California prosecutor and later as an influential U.S. Senator, said despite many setbacks to voting rights, she and the entire Biden-Harris administration haven’t and won’t stop fighting.
“I will tell you that I gave a speech with the President at Morehouse College, and afterward, I had a quiet visit with Ambassador Andrew Young because I was looking to him for inspiration,” Vice President Harris told the gathering of publishers and journalists from the National Newspaper Publishers Association [NNPA].
“Based on what history has taught us, Ambassador Young said in a nutshell that freedom is a constant struggle. But we don’t give up. That’s where I am. I’m not giving up,” she said.
“We are going to keep on. This is a movement for voting rights. Coretta Scott King said the fight must be fought and won with each generation. This is certainly a moment that we should not have to be in, which is fighting against blatant laws that are designed to target specific communities that obstruct access to the ballot box.”
Vice President Harris offered that she’s leaned on “folks from every walk of life.”
She declared that everyone must remain purposely intentional and optimistic. With Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona dealing death blows to any hopes of passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote measure, Vice President Harris declined to place blame alone on those renegade party members.
“We have a fight in front of us. I will emphasize that there also are 50 Republicans who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” she said. “I’m not prepared to absolve them of their responsibility to stand in the shoes and in the legacy of the Republicans who, in 2006 in that chamber in the U.S. Senate, voted 98-0 in favor of the extension to the Voting Rights Act.”
“Let us be clear about the challenge here and who the protagonists and the antagonists are. The bottom line is we must march on and fight on. It’s not new to us. We can’t be tired even though we are frustrated, and yes, disappointed, if not angered that we’re continuing to have this fight,” she said.
In the news she provided exclusively to the Black Press, Vice President Harris announced the first National Roadway Safety Strategy.
“It’s about putting $6 billion into state and local governments to improve safety on the roads,” she said. “It’s about funding for local communities for better streetlights, ensuring crosswalks are safe. We’re talking about the elderly, the mother with the stroller, the father with the stroller – people given enough time to cross the street. It’s a very big thing when you talk about the quality of life and when you live in communities where they rely on public streets to walk to church, to get the kids to school, to get them to the bus stop.”
Vice President Harris noted her first year in office had kept her busy including meeting with heads of state, prime ministers and other dignitaries.
Alarmingly, Vice President Harris noted that many had expressed concern about voting rights in America and the many voter suppression laws that have passed in Republican-led states since the 2020 election.
She s said not only are those targeted by such laws affected but America’s standing as a global leader has also suffered.
“I hosted at the Vice President’s residence, [former German Chancellor] Angela Merkle, and while talking about China and Russia, she asked, ‘What is going on with voting in America?’” Vice President Harris said.
“We as Americans are about to take ourselves off the map as a role model for what democracy should be. [The world] is watching. You watch what a role model does. I met with the Presidents of Zambia and Ghana in my office, and they were talking about these issues. It has a direct connection to our standing around the world. We lose our legitimacy. [Voting rights] is a domestic issue but it will impact our standing in the world,” she said.
When discussing the administration’s success, Vice President Harris noted the massive bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed last year.
She pointed out that the bill contains significant funding for public transportation, a vital issue for people of color and the poor.
“African-American workers are four times more likely to take public transit than white workers,” she said. “If we’re not putting funding in public transportation – $90 billion specifically – it means that if you miss your bus, you might lose an hour waiting for the next, and you could lose your job. So, it’s a big deal.”
She noted that the bill funds broadband in areas where none exist, and many find it hard to afford. Additionally, the infrastructure bill removes lead pipes and lead from paint, a serious problem facing many African-American and low-income households.
When the administration began, the pandemic had taken its toll on much of the country and the globe. Since taking office, Vice President Harris said more than 200 million Americans have received COVID-19 vaccines and 75 million have gotten booster shots.
She noted the economic bounce back in the 6 million jobs the administration has created and the near-record-low 3.9 percent unemployment.
“One of the things I’m so proud of is to put the issue of Black maternal mortality on stage at the White House,” she told the NNPA. “Black women are three times more likely to die from childbirth, and that’s a function of several things including racial bias in the medical health system.”
She said she intentionally put training at the top of the list.
“The training community would be doulas and midwives who understand and know communities and who will give dignity to the families they serve,” Vice President Harris said.
“Another issue that disproportionately affects African-American women is fibroids. Again, I’m talking about fibroids inside the White House and what we need to do to address particular health needs of Black women in connection to what they do as wives, mothers, grandmothers and leaders in the community,” she said.