When Jotaka Eaddy watched Kamala Harris take the stage on Saturday night as Vice President-elect, her reaction was one of “pure joy.”
“I thought about the rich legacy of Black women that made this moment possible who are no longer with us,” says Eaddy, the founder and CEO of Full Circle Strategies. “I thought about the Black women of Delta Sigma Theta who marched for suffrage in 1913. I thought about Fannie Lou Hamer. I thought about Shirley Chisholm, and how she was mistreated. I thought about all the Black women that have been organizing together—you just are grateful to be able to witness such a moment in your lifetime.”
In winning the presidential election alongside Joe Biden, Harris marked a massive set of milestones in American politics: she will be the first woman—and notably the first Black woman and first Indian-American woman—in history to serve as Vice President in U.S. Eaddy’s response to that accomplishment marries two themes of this election. First, the resonance of Harris’s presence on the Democratic ticket. And second, the work Black women did to get her to the White House.
Eaddy is the founder of #WinWithBlackWomen, a collective that worked to elect the Biden-Harris ticket throughout this campaign. She is one of the 91% of Black women whose support proved crucial to Democrats in winning the 2020 race.
Of all demographics, Black women most consistently support Democratic candidates. Their turnout and loyalty has inspired others supportive of the Biden campaign to express public gratitude for helping Democrats defeat President Trump.
That acknowledgement comes with mixed emotions for Black women, many of whom are moved to see Harris in the nation’s second-highest office—but want more than simple praise every four years for how they vote.
“We consistently get out and recruit people to vote. But I think about Breonna Taylor—when things like that happen and it comes time to get justice, we don’t get that. But when it’s time to put democracy on our backs, people are in awe and amazed of what we as Black women do,” says Ashley Hicks, a 34-year-old Washington, D.C. resident and senior director at an education technology company. “After that wears off, we’re back to square one of being mostly ignored and not appreciated or valued for what we bring to American society.”
This time, at least, the Black women who helped the Democratic ticket win were fighting for a fellow Black woman (and for Hicks, a fellow Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sister). Among the #WinWithBlackWomen collective, the group of almost 200 influential Black female leaders urged Biden, earlier in the presidential contest, to choose a Black woman as his VP “not because we wanted a Black women on the ticket, but because we knew it was a pathway to victory,” says Eaddy.
That prediction rang true for voters like Ashley Bankhead, a 28-year-old Washington, D.C. resident and account manager. “Seeing more of these Black women in politics, it makes me more engaged,” she says. “Seeing people in political leadership roles who also look like me makes me care more, makes me want to show up and make sure I’m voting.”
The history-making nature of this electoral victory made a difference in how some Black female voters felt about their decisive influence—and emphasized how crucial it is for Black women to support each other, says Minda Harts, the author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table.
“This showed the collective power Black women have to help each other rise,” says Harts. “When we collaborate, we can change history.”
With Harris in the White House, some are hopeful that the gratitude for Black women may not fade for the next four years this time around. It’s a message Harris herself brought home during her acceptance speech on Saturday. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” she said onstage, “because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
“That message resonates with me,” says Harts. “It’s about bringing others along with you. I know that visual on that stage in Delaware will signal to CEOs, to companies, to board members, that you can sponsor women of color, you can sponsor Black women—and look how we can change history.”
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