This moment requires nothing less than the radical reimagining of America that Black women have always championed.
“This is a historic moment in American political life. Historic for myself, for my people. For the first time in the history of this nation, a political party has chosen a Negro woman for the second highest office in the land.”
Charlotta Bass, an activist and the first Black woman to own and operate a newspaper in the United States, spoke these words in 1952. She was the first Black woman to be nominated as vice president of the United States. As a nominee with the Progressive Party, her slogan was “Win or lose, we win by raising the issues.” The issues, as she saw them, included housing rights, labor rights, voting rights, and addressing police brutality and harassment.
The recent announcement that Senator Kamala Harris will serve as the Democratic nominee for vice president alongside Joe Biden highlights how Senator Harris stands on the shoulders of women from Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer to Amelia Boynton, Shirley Chisolm, and Charlotta Bass. Harris is one link in a very long chain of Black women, women of color, and women of conscience who have pushed this nation toward a more perfect union. This struggle has been a matter of survival and preservation, both for ourselves and our communities, in the face of racist, patriarchal power structures that have made every attempt to threaten and invalidate our very existence.
Regardless of political party, we who are the heirs of these witnesses must always stand first on the issues. But the issues that matter to our communities are not separate from questions of representation. As Alicia Garza wrote in a recent Glamour article, the nomination of Kamala Harris for vice president is “incredibly significant, as a woman, much less a Black woman, has never served in this role in the 244 years since the country was established.”