By D. Kevin McNeir
Vice President Kamala Harris recently took center stage at the National Urban League (NUL) Conference, held at the Walter Washington Convention Center in Northwest to address several hundred ardent supporters of the League on issues of tantamount importance to the Black community.
The 30-minute fireside chat, which also featured Birmingham, Ala., Mayor Randall Woodfin, included topics ranging from gun violence, the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and the upcoming midterm elections.
With President Joe Biden still recovering from a bout with COVID-19 and unable to perform many of his duties as he remains in isolation and under medical care, Harris has had to pick up the baton, crisscrossing the county to speak to Americans in cities on both sides of the continental U.S.
And while Harris has become quite vocal in recent weeks about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case and her unabashed support for women to have authority over their own bodies, she also reminded listeners of the importance of the upcoming midterms elections.
The first topic Harris addressed would be the rash of mass shootings that continue to plague the nation.
“We are a nation in mourning as a result of gun violence,” she said adding that Blacks have been disproportionately affected by gun violence in cities across the country.
“Whether it is a mass shooting of 20 odd people in one part of our country or in a given city – 20 people in 20 days dying from gun violence should confirm that it’s something we need to address,” she said. “When I look at the failure of the United States Congress to have the courage to act, I think it is a call for all of us to demand action and demand that they have courage.”
“There is no reason that we have weapons of war on the streets of America . . . what we need to do and what ultimately falls on the shoulders of our mayors to address on a community level, we need to take action at the federal level in terms of passing smart gun safety laws. We need to get rid of and repeal this liability shield for gun manufacturers.”
“One of the things that we got to stop saying is that the way that we’ll keep our children safe in school is if their teacher has a gun. We’ve got to stop that – that’s not the solution.”
Harris believes that one way to address the challenges plaguing our nation and the many inequities faced by people of color remains the ballot box.
“We have to elect people in the next 109 days who will promote safety by understanding the connection between things like reasonable gun safety laws and safety.”
As for the issue of abortion, she said, “All women should have to make decisions about her own body and not have her government tell her what to do.”
And on racial bias within the medical industry, Harris lamented that with the Supreme Court’s recent decision, she fears it will disproportionately impact Black women.
“When it relates to Black women, the facts are clear – regardless of her socioeconomic or educational level,” she said. “She is three times more likely to die in connection with childbirth.”
But more than anything that seemed to invigorate Harris during her remarks would be voting.
“I encourage all of you to vote so we can pass federal legislation and deal with the fact that you’ve got these extremist so-called leaders in places like Georgia, Florida and Texas who are intentionally trying to make it more difficult for people to cast their ballots.”
During her closing remarks, Harris issued a challenge to leaders at the local level, seeking “to remind people of why elections matter.”
“Be prepared and remember what happened in 2020,” she said. “There are still extremists in elected office who are trying to make it even more difficult to vote. But we know what is good and what is right.”
“We’ve got to return to some of the strategies from the past that worked like building community and forming alliances. The National Urban League does and has done this so well for decades. They have been about building communities and reminding people how important they are. We need to follow their example and refuse to let anyone turn us around come November,” she said.
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