For Black Women, a Transcendent Moment

Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris. Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images.

In Maryland, a state with an all-male congressional delegation, and where all three independently elected statewide officials are white males, the news Saturday that California Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D) would become the next vice president of the United States hit like a jolt, prompting unbridled joy among Black women in politics.

In interviews, statements and social media posts, Black women in Maryland celebrated the history-making moment.

“Yes, I’m having champagne in the middle of the day,” former U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D) wrote in a Twitter post.

Harris, 56, is making history in multiple ways: She’s the first woman elected on a national ticket. She’ll become the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent to serve as vice president. She is the first graduate of an HBCU — Howard University — to be elected to national office. She is the child of immigrants, from Jamaica and India.

For all these reasons, Harris’ ascension resonates.

“I cannot believe that someone just like me is the next vice president of the United States!” said state Del. Wanika B. Fisher (D-Prince George’s) — who like Harris is half Black and half Indian.

During her speech in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday night, claiming victory alongside President-elect Joe Biden, Harris recalled her mother, who immigrated to the U.S. as a 19-year-old college student.

“I am thinking about her and the generations of women — black women, Asian, white, Latino and Native American women, who paved the way for this moment that we celebrate tonight,” she said.

Harris wasn’t the only Black woman looking back on Saturday. Several Black women posted pictures on social media of the late New York congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972.

Harris herself called Black women “the backbone of our democracy.”

Biden thanked Black voters for having his back throughout his long political career — and vowing to do the same for them when he’s president. He said that by embracing Harris, voters were “bending the arc of the universe toward moral justice.”

“Don’t tell me it’s not possible in the United States,” he said of Harris making history. “It’s long overdue.”

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2018, attended the event with her daughter and husband, Collin O’Mara, the former Delaware Secretary of Natural Resources.

Vignarajah, like Harris, is of South Asian descent. The former policy director for First Lady Michelle Obama, Vignarajah tweeted a familiar refrain: “Fired up and ready to go!”

O’Mara and daughter Alana, who was on his shoulders, were captured cheering by CNN’s cameras during the event.

Del. Stephanie M. Smith (D-Baltimore City) noted on Twitter that she is a graduate of the University of Delaware Biden School of Public Policy.

“The barriers broken and work ahead are both exhilarating and sobering,” she said.

As other Black women in Maryland politics were posting pictures of Harris and other historical figures on social media Saturday, Del. Melissa Wells (D-Baltimore City) posted a picture of Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who launched an unprecedented voter registration and turnout drive around the country.

Wells called Abrams “the real MVP of this election and our democracy” and “the future of the Democratic Party.”

Several pundits on Saturday mentioned both the burgeoning political partnership between Biden and Harris and the fact that the electoral process largely went smoothly throughout the country, even with a record turnout during the COVID-19 pandemic. House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) — herself a history-maker as the first woman and first African-American to serve as a presiding officer in the Maryland General Assembly — touched on both themes in a statement.

“We counted every vote and chose leaders with integrity to run this great nation,” she said. “Democracy truly won today.”

Baltimore City State’s Attorney, Marilyn J. Mosby (D), on Twitter, was even more succinct: “My faith in my country is restored,” she said.

Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.