by Editor-July 3rd, 2023.
“Coretta Scott King famously said that the fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation. We are that generation she spoke of,” said the vice president on stage Friday at the 29th Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans. “So, fight we must.”
On both days she spoke, the U.S. Supreme Court issued monumental decisions that ended the use of race as a factor in college admissions and blocked the Biden administration’s attempt to forgive a certain amount of student loan debt so as to help lower-earning Americans.
It also ruled that businesses could refuse LGBTQ customers.
“This is a serious moment and fundamental issues are at stake,” Vice President Harris told NPR’s Michel Martin in her first interview after the court decisions at the Essence Festival. “And I do believe that there is a national movement afoot to attack hard won and hard fought freedoms.”
The annual music festival engages Black and African American women focusing on culture, empowerment and societal issues. This year many of the conversations were dominated by the decisions the Supreme Court had made in the hours before.
“I have three degrees. I come from a home where I did not have $500,000. I did not have parents paying for my education” Tomayia Colvin of Houston, TX to NPR at the festival.
Colvin said she graduated with a doctorate in educational leadership, a hefty investment. “We took out these loans, right, with the idea that having a college degree would give us a better life.” Now she worries about what comes next.
“I like her because I feel like she’s getting out there,” said Dwayne and Camille Hodges who host a show in Davenport, Iowa called Wake Up in Praise. “She’s not sitting behind a desk. She’s getting out in the communities, and you know, finding out what’s going on and meeting people and talking to them,” said Camille.
Her spouse believes Harris is starting to address various thorny issues, which impresses him. “She’s not shying away and not talking about them,” said Dwayne Hodges.
Last year at this time, the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade. Since then, Harris has taken on the task of addressing reproductive rights and maternal healthcare from her side of the political spectrum.
As she has traveled the country, Harris said she’s heard countless stories. “The stories are, women having miscarriages in toilets. The stories are women who are in the process of a miscarriage, who are being denied care at an emergency room and going back to the emergency room and being denied again,” Harris said.
When intervied by NPR about student loan debt Vice President Harris had the following to say: Well, the message is, it’s not a slogan.
The message is, first on an issue like student loan debt – to first speak to the issue, itself and the importance of understanding the issue – which is so many of our young people, in particular, are experiencing debt that is out of proportion; that it is weighing them down to the extent that they are wondering if they can ever have a family, if they can ever buy a home.
We are looking at a policy that we believe in; that if implemented, if the court hadn’t acted as it did, would have meant that 90% of the recipients of student loan debt relief, make under $75,000 a year and are barely able to make it through the month with the other bills that they have.
And so, we are going to be creative in the way that we can provide some relief to this population that we have front of mind on this issue.
Vice President Kamala Harris, 58, is the first woman Vice-President of the United States and is of Jamaican and Indian descent.