This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of ESSENCE magazine, available on newsstands now.
Good things are going to start happening. And it’s you, the American voters, who made that so, with the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President–elect Kamala Harris.
January 20, 2021, will mark the end of one of the most damaging and divisive episodes in United States’ history. It will be a day that strengthens a movement committed not simply to repairing the recent devastation but to building a better, more just, more inclusive nation than we have ever had before.
If Joe Biden—with his many decades of working with the other side of the aisle to solve problems—represents the binding up of this nation’s most recently inflicted wounds, then our new Vice President, Kamala Harris, embodies the shimmering possibilities beyond that healing. She is an impressive combination of career, qualifications and competence. Her history as the first woman and first African American to hold the seats of district attorney of San Fran- cisco and attorney general of California, later to become a United States senator, is one of excellence and achievement. At every step of Kamala’s career, a solid 30 years, she has demonstrated a commitment to professionalism, progressive values and compassion.
She became a lawyer to take on the powerful people and special interests who prey on the vulnerable. She took on big banks that bilked homeowners, polluters who tried to poison communities, for-profit colleges that preyed on students, and transnational gangs. She also targeted rapists and child molesters. She has been a leader on criminal-justice reform and closing racial disparities in healthcare. She has always stood up for those who needed a voice.
If there is another hallmark of the vice president–elect’s career, it’s that so many stops along her way are described as “firsts.” She’s the child of immigrants—a mother from India and a Black father from Jamaica—and her achievements have resulted in the repeated shattering of glass ceilings.
With the love of learning that her parents, a biological researcher and a professor of economics, gave her, Kamala earned a degree in political science and economics from Howard University, a historically Black university in the nation’s capital. She has mentored and supported women of color throughout her career, living a core value her mother taught her: “You may be the first to do many things— make sure you’re not the last.” She has also rightly acknowledged and given voice to the truth that her story would not have been possible without the leader- ship of foremothers like Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Fannie Lou Hamer and so many other great women.
It’s from that historic perspective of Kamala’s rise that her greatest value to her country is the most evident. An effective leader gets things done, and Kamala’s career has been a study in just that. But a great leader inspires others to do great things, too. Kamala’s story lends itself uniquely to that lofty task, as she brings the wealth of her lived experience and her truly American story into the spaces where our nation’s most con- sequential decisions are being made.
Yes, the work that Vice President–elect Kamala Harris and President-elect Joe Biden will do in the coming months and years will benefit all Americans. But beyond that, the example Kamala sets for young people—for young Black women in particular—and for all young people of color will reverberate across schoolyards, in classrooms and in living rooms, as those she inspires grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow. She will become a beacon for a whole new generation—“whole” in the sense that all of the members of that generation will be included. And that will be the beginning of truly great things.
Signed by Donna Brazile, Leah Daughtry, Karen Finney, Star Jones and Minyon Moore
Donna Brazile is a veteran political strate- gist who served as former interim chair- woman of the Democratic National Committee. Brazile is a coauthor of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics.
Leah Daughtry, a nationally recognized organizer, political strategist and faith leader, was CEO of the 2016 and 2008 Democratic National Convention Commit- tees. Daughtry is a coauthor of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics.
Karen Finney is a leading Democratic strategist, political commentator and columnist. She specializes in the intersection of race, gender and politics. She served as senior advisor to Stacey Abrams in 2018 and as senior advisor and senior spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Star Jones is an attorney, advocate, award-winning television personality and Democratic National Surrogate and fundraiser.
Minyon Moore, a partner at the Dewey Square Group, was formerly CEO of the Democratic National Committee and served as director of White House political affairs under President Bill Clinton. Moore is a coauthor of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics.