Harris seizes historic moment in accepting VP nomination

Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday, cementing her place in history as the first Black woman on a major party ticket and promising she and Joe Biden will rejuvenate a country ravaged by a pandemic and riven by racial and partisan divides.

In an address capping the third night of the virtual Democratic National Convention, the California senator evoked the lessons of her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a biologist and Indian immigrant, saying she instilled in her a vision of “our nation as a beloved community — where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from or who we love.”

She spoke of her Jamaican immigrant father and getting a ”stroller’s eye view” of the civil rights movement as her parents protested in the streets in the 1960s. She specifically noted her birth in Oakland’s Kaiser Hospital — perhaps a nod to the way President Donald Trump has stoked baseless and racist “birther” theories about Harris’ vice presidential eligibility.

“There is no vaccine for racism,” Harris said. “We have got to do the work.”

Harris addressed a party that has staked its future on bringing together a racially diverse coalition of voters. She was preceded in the convention program by Barack Obama, meaning the nation’s first Black president introduced the woman trying to be the first Black person to hold the vice presidency. Obama said Harris was an “ideal partner” for Biden and was “more than prepared for the job.”

Harris is a former district attorney and California state attorney general who joined the Senate in 2017. She promised to speak “truths” to the American public. She said she and Biden, who tapped her as his running mate last week, believe in a country where “we may not agree on every detail, but we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect.”

Democrats are hoping Harris can galvanize their party’s faithful — who are divided between progressive and moderate wings — and win over swing voters still deciding between Biden and Trump. But she also was introducing herself to a national audience that may not have been paying close attention to the race until now.

Harris spoke at a convention center in Biden’s home state of Delaware that was empty except for socially distanced reporters and a few campaign staffers. She was introduced by her sister, Maya, her niece Meena and Ella Emhoff, her stepdaughter who calls her “Momala.”

Harris blistered Trump, something she’s expected to do frequently as she campaigns with Biden in the coming months — though in-person events are expected to remain impossible as the virus rages. She recalled her days in the courtroom when she would declare “Kamala Harris for the people,” recalling a slogan from her presidential campaign, and noted, “I know a predator when I see one.” She didn’t mention the president by name then but didn’t spare him later.

“Donald Trump’s failure has cost lives and livelihoods,” Harris said. She later added, “Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons. Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose.”

In sweeping remarks that touched on the legacy of Black women who paved the way for this moment, Harris noted that this week marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Except that right, Harris said, came much later for most Black women, who helped secure that victory yet were still prohibited from voting.

“Without fanfare or recognition, they organized, testified, rallied, marched, and fought — not just for their vote, but for a seat at the table,” Harris said. “We’re not often taught their stories. But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”

Harris ran down a veritable who’s who in Black women who played historic roles in politics.

“Mary Church Terrell and Mary McLeod Bethune. Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash. Constance Baker Motley and Shirley Chisholm,” Harris said while rattling off the names of the civil rights leaders. “We’re not often taught their stories. But as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”

She also spoke about her beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha — the historically Black sorority she pledged at Howard University — as well as the “Divine 9” — historically Black Greek-letter fraternities and sororities — and shouted out her “HBCU brothers and sisters.”

Biden is scheduled Thursday night — the final night of the DNC — to formally accept his own nomination to be the Democrats’ candidate for president.

-The Associated Press contributed to this story.