By Adianna Alston | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY — Hall D of the Atlantic City Convention Center quickly filled up Monday morning with attendees from the NAACP national convention as anticipation turned to excitement for the keynote address to come by Vice President Kamala Harris at the Opening Plenary Session.
Harris has attended the NAACP National Convention numerous times in the past, however, this year holds special historic value and weight as she now attends as the first African American vice president in our nation’s history.
Harris was not the only notable Black female within our government present at the session. Marcia Fudge, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice, both spoke as well.
Harris focused on a series of issues within her speech, beginning with the disparities which disproportionately impact the Black community.
“We see and are prepared to address the disparities that are holding so many people back in our nation,” said Harris, who served as a U.S. senator and California’s attorney general before becoming vice president.
“Disparities that we see in education, in economic opportunity, in housing, health care and more. To address those disparities and to advance the fight for civil rights, President Biden and I have put equity at the center of all that we do. And that begins with our children.”
Harris spoke of some of the initiatives geared towards investing in the youth including the fight to extend the child tax credit which lifted nearly 40% of Black children out of poverty last year. She further mentioned the 5.8 billion dollars that the administration has invested into HBCUs.
Harris also addressed the maternal health crisis in America, stating that it was a matter of national priority.
“Today in America, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes. Native American women are more than twice as likely to die. Rural women are more than one and a half times more likely to die,” Harris said.
“So, we have elevated, for an obvious reason, the issue of maternal health so it will be a national priority and building on the work that we have done together over the years.”
Harris then focused on the topics of gun violence and fundamental freedoms which are in danger such as the right for a woman to make decisions about her body as well as the right to vote.
“In so many communities across our nation, scenes of ordinary life have been turned into war zones by horrific acts of gun violence,” she said.
She called for the repeal of the liability shield that protect gun manufacturers and the renewal of the assault weapons ban.
“Today, we have more guns in our nation than people … There is no reason for weapons of war on the streets of America.”
Harris highlighted the significance of the freedoms of Americans and how they intersect with one another.
“The freedom to vote is the freedom that unlocks all others,” Harris said. “It is a catalyst for economic justice, for social justice, for racial justice and generations of leaders gave their sweat, their tears, their blood, in its defense.”
She noted how these freedoms are under attack and calls out those who contribute to said attack.
“And today, extremist, so-called leaders are criminalizing doctors and punishing women for making health care decisions for themselves, personal decisions that is her right to make in consultation with her doctor, her pastor, her priest, her rabbi, her loved ones — not her government telling her what to do.”
“Many of these so-called leaders are the same ones who are passing laws to restrict the ability of people to vote,” she continued. “Laws that ban drop boxes and restrict early voting; laws that make it illegal to give people food and water for waiting in line to vote; undemocratic laws; un-American laws.”
The room was encompassed with a great sense of hope, pride and unity in response to her words.
Harris concluded her speech by urging people to continue and remain steadfast in the fight for fairness and equality.
“Together we have accomplished much, but we still have much to do.”
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