By Chantè Russell, Managing Editor
In the earliest stages of the 2020 presidential election, the race has over 15 Democratic candidates, forcing Americans to choose who they’ll pay attention to. Among the few candidates garnering the most attention is Howard University alumna Senator Kamala Harris. Harris joined HBCU student-journalists on a conference call on Tuesday, October 8 to discuss some of her plans and priorities as a candidate.
Senator Harris began the call by thanking the student media for the work they do, recalling her time at Howard and the impact of The Hilltop.
“I have always relied on, admired and praised the work of our journalists at our HBCUs,” said Harris.
Before accepting questions, the Senator took the call as an opportunity to highlight her emphasis on service, noting that she was shaped by her family and Howard University and continues to live by the University motto of Excellence in Truth and Service. She added that throughout her career she’s had one client: “the people.”
Harris then shifted the conversation to her campaign. Harris said she was prepared to take on Donald Trump, calling him “a man who has used and abused his power and frankly, the power of the presidency.”
“I strongly believe justice is on the ballot in this election,” said Harris. “Justice is on the ballot when the family that owns Walmart earns more in a minute than the average family makes in a year. Justice is on the ballot when we lock up more people in prison than any other country in the world. When students and graduates are drowning in debt and when supposed leaders give big oil companies and their lobbyists free reign to destroy our planet. Justice is on the ballot when we know that black families have one-tenth of the wealth of other families in America.”
Three student-journalists were allowed to ask the Senator questions. The first question prompted Harris to speak on the authenticity of her blackness and claims that much of her campaign has been about pandering to the black community.
“I am a black woman in America. I was born a black girl in America and I am clear about who I am,” said Harris. “There are those who don’t understand, and maybe don’t have exposure to, the range of who we are. Howard and so many of our HBCUs teach us that. I remember all the classes that we took about the diaspora and I think it’s just so important that we don’t let other people try to manipulate our sense of unity by trying to divide us around what might be the various hues of who we are.”
Another student asked Harris to offer a figure on the amount of money she’s donated to Howard. The senator was unable to directly answer the question but said that she does give money and time to Howard. She then listed some of the work she’s done to effect change for HBCUs and the education system as a whole such as advocating for federal funds for HBCU infrastructure, helping to build relationships between Howard and Silicon Valley and advocating for raising teacher pay.
The final question addressed being black in America and whether or not a black woman had a chance at the presidency.
“This [discussion of whether we’re ready for a black woman in the role] is a conversation I have heard every single time in every single election I have, here’s the operative word, won,” said Harris. “It has not been just about me saying ‘No, I don’t hear that.’ It’s also been about showing people what is possible and showing people what can be unburdened by what has been.”