Jul 19, 2022

Vice President Harris Delivers Remarks at the 113th NAACP National Convention Transcript

Vice President Harris Delivers Remarks at the 113th NAACP National Convention Transcript
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Vice President Harris Delivers Remarks at the 113th NAACP National Convention. Read the transcript here.

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Karen Boykin-Towns: (00:00)
Good morning.

Audience: (00:00)
Good morning.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (00:03)
My name is Karen Boykin-Towns, and I have the honor of serving as vice chair of the NAACP’s National Board of Directors. How is everyone feeling this morning?

Karen Boykin-Towns: (00:16)
As Atlantic City mayor Marty Small says, “It’s a great day.” But today is also a historic day. Not only are we meeting as a group for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic turned our lives upside down, but we are joined by the first Black female vice president of the United States of America.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (00:46)
As we continue to recover from the worst global pandemic our country has seen in over a century, and Black Americans face unprecedented assault on our civil rights, we are at a critical point in our nation’s history. How we take action, or fail to do so will determine the fate of our democracy as we know it.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (01:13)
But there is a glimmer of hope, a glimmer of hope because we now have representation at the highest levels of government. This is power. We have waited far too long to have a Black woman representing us in the White House. It is imperative that we support her, and uplift her. All of the progress she has made and continues to make for our community, we must support her. Whether it’s to protect Black mothers, ensure that our youth have equal access to higher education, or advocate for us, both at home and abroad, Vice President Harris delivers for us.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (02:04)
Those who know me know how important it is to be a person of action. I am a Black woman raising young Black women. I believe in the power of action. I believe in taking action to empower each other, empower our communities and, most importantly, empower Black people. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is more unstoppable than a Black woman in action. Black women are supreme. However, the unfortunate reality is that as Black women, our greatest achievements are often overlooked. Work that we, as Black women do, is often not raised to the level of importance that it deserves.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (03:04)
Everyone in this room knows this to be a fact. But we at the NAACP know how hard our vice president has been working to address long-standing inequities that previously did not get the attention they deserve. For as long as Black women have given birth in this country, we have been faced with a maternal mortality crisis. As of 2020, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. That is 2.9 times the maternal mortality rate for white women. Black mothers are less likely to have access to the maternal health services they need, less likely to have access to paid maternity leave, and more likely to face the bias and racism from the healthcare professionals they rely on to keep them healthy and safe.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (04:11)
Our cries to protect Black mothers have long fallen on deaf ears. But as a Black woman and fervent advocate for our community, Vice President Harris has and continues to advocate for real systemic change that will make us feel seen, heard, and protected. This is power.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (04:36)
As a senator Vice President Harris introduced not one but two substantial pieces of legislation aimed at addressing the Black maternal health crisis, at both the federal and state levels. The Maternal Care Act and the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act are the type of impactful legislation that we get when we have a woman of action representing us.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (05:04)
Vice President Harris, her work did not stop in the Senate. Since taking office, the Biden-Harris administrations has made maternal healthcare a top priority. In addition to continued advocacy for meaningful legislation, they’re working with federal agencies to develop the White House blueprint for addressing the maternal health crisis, and have established an annual maternity health day of action.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (05:32)
Since she was sworn into office, Vice President Harris has proven exactly why representation matters. Now more than ever, we need women who take action and represent the interest of the entire country not simply a privileged few. Vice President Harris was raised in a family where activism was rooted in action. Our vice president, she has been focused and consistently delivering on behalf of our communities.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (06:08)
Although she may be the first, we must do everything in our power to ensure that Black women can continue breaking glass ceilings. We must cultivate the greatness that exists within each and every one of our children by creating systems that not only provide them with opportunity to access higher education, but instill the confidence necessary for them to take up space in the rooms that we have been shut out of for far too long.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (06:43)
As the first HBCU alum to lead our nation from the White House, Vice President Harris is nothing less than a fierce advocate for the continued success of our HBCUs. And consistently serves as an example of how our HBCUs provides students with a high-quality education, and prepare them for lifelong success. I am a mother of two female engineers from the illustrious North Carolina A&T State University. Can I get an Aggie pride?

Audience: (07:21)
Aggie pride!

Karen Boykin-Towns: (07:27)
I can see how the vice president’s accomplishments quickly became their accomplishments. I can see how the strong presence of HBCU alums in the White House clearly show my daughters, our children, and the entire world that successful HBC graduates are far from unique. They are the norm.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (07:53)
I want to take a moment to share a personal story with you all. At Essence Fest a couple of weeks ago, my younger cousin had the opportunity to personally meet Vice President Harris. While they were taking a photo together, the vice president took time out of her busy schedule to talk to my cousin who is a rising sophomore at American University. The vice president reminded my cousin about the need for Black women to be represented in STEM, most especially coding. That moment the vice president took to speak to this young woman, speaks to the care and concern that she has for all Black women and girls.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (08:33)
During their conversation, the vice president instilled a great deal of confidence in her to reach for even higher heights. It was inspiring to see her in action, caring for the future of our youth, even those whom she does not know personally. Vice President Harris has always been a fierce advocate for expanding access to STEM programs for underrepresented youth, especially young Black women and HBCU students.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (09:02)
Her advocacy was made clear through the legislation she introduced as a senator, and has been built upon throughout her time as vice president from the establishment of foundational policies that will expand STEM education for underrepresented students, to the numerous events and discussions that she has hosted with HBCU students and families from across this country.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (09:29)
Throughout her career as a public servant, Vice President Harris has prioritized initiatives, programs, and high-quality education curricula that will directly benefit our community and therefore our futures. This is action. This is power.

Karen Boykin-Towns: (09:48)
Now, on behalf of the NAACP, it is my distinct honor to introduce to you the native of California, a member of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, where my fellow national board member, Reverend Dr. Amos…

Karen Boykin-Towns: (10:03)
Francisco, where my fellow National Board Member, Reverend Dr. Amos Brown serves as senior pastor, a member of Alpha Capa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. A fellow member of the Links Incorporated, the 49th Vice President of the United States of America, Kamala Harris.

Kamala Harris: (10:25)
Good morning everyone. Good morning. Good morning. Have a seat, please have a seat. Oh, it is so good to be here with all my sisters and brothers. Let me just thank vice chair, [inaudible 00:11:16] for that incredible introduction. It means so much. My team was back there and said, “My goodness, over the years, we’ve actually, we’ve done some things.” And it’s nice to know that it is having the impact that it is having. So I want to thank you [inaudible 00:11:34] vice chair for that introduction. It really means a lot.

Kamala Harris: (11:37)
President Johnson, thank you for your years of dedicated partnership and leadership. Yes. On the issue of voting rights and so many more issues that challenge our nation and its people. I have worked with president Johnson over the years where we have been in small rooms, where we have been in the Oval Office, where we have been in large rooms, such as this. He is the same person wherever he is. And he is a person who is always fighting for the people and the best of who we can be as a nation. And I admire and respect the hard work and determination that you put into this most important position as the president of our NAACP. Thank you.

Kamala Harris: (12:38)
So to the board of directors, chapter presidents, [inaudible 00:12:43] and NextGen leaders, and the entire NAACP membership, to secretary Marsha Fudge, who is with us today, to my pastor, Reverend Dr. Amos C. Brown, to all of you, greetings, greetings. I just want to, if you don’t mind for a moment, take a moment of personal privilege to talk about Dr. Brown. He has been on this journey with me every step of the way, from when I first thought about running for public office almost two decades ago.

Kamala Harris: (13:22)
And he has been such a voice of leadership, moral leadership and leadership in our nation. And so I want to thank you Dr. Brown, for all that you are, all that you are. So as many of you know, I am a proud lifetime member of this organization and I have had the distinct pleasure of addressing this conference many times over the years. And I am honored today to address you for the first time as Vice President of the United States.

Kamala Harris: (14:09)
And I stand today on the shoulders of the legendary lawyers of this organization, Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, Constance Baker Motley, who were of course among the greatest heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. Just last March, I stood in the rose garden at the White House with miss Michelle Duster, the great granddaughter of a founder of the NAACP and one of our nation’s greatest journalists, Ida B. Wells. And we were there to address some very unfinished business, business of this organization, which was to watch president Joe Biden sign the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act.

Kamala Harris: (15:01)
I was proud to introduce that act when I was in the United States Senate, along with Senator Corey Booker, New Jersey’s own and Congressman Bobby Rush, who I think is here, but has been a great leader over the years. This legislation was a result of years of determined action by Civil Rights organizations, including the NAACP, even though it took a staggering 122 years to finally make lynching of federal crime.

Kamala Harris: (15:41)
But it must be said, even though it took that long, the NAACP was never deterred and always determined. Core to the identity of this organization is the unwavering commitment to move our nation forward, no matter how long it might take. For more than a century, the NAACP has fought to ensure the wellbeing of Black communities and by extension, all communities in our country. This organization has fought to secure for all people, the rights guaranteed in our nation’s constitution.

Kamala Harris: (16:27)
Driven by the ability to see America as it can be, unburdened by what has been, this organization and the people who make up this organization, well, we see a nation in which the promise of opportunity, of justice, of freedom can be made real for all people. And I bring you greetings from our President, Joe Biden, who wants to make clear that he and I, of course share in the vision of the NAACP.

Kamala Harris: (17:10)
You see, we see and are prepared to address the disparities that are holding so many people back in our nation. Disparities that we see in education, in economic opportunity, in housing, healthcare, and more. To address those disparities and to advance the fight for Civil Rights, President Biden and I have put equity at the center of all that we do, and that begins with our children.

Kamala Harris: (17:47)
The great Thurgood Marshall once said that, “Every child has a right.” I will now quote, “To an equal start in life and an equal opportunity to reach their potential.” I believe to move our nation forward, we must fight to make sure all of the children of our community have that equal opportunity of which he spoke. And that is why together, all of us here fought to extend the child tax credit, which lifted nearly 40% of Black children out of poverty last year alone. It is why we passed a tax cut to give working families up to $8,000 a year, to give folks more room in their budgets, to buy for their children food, medication, and school supplies. It is why we are fighting to make sure home healthcare is accessible and affordable, because we all know we have far too many children, for example, in our communities who have disabilities and their parents need support, they need help.

Kamala Harris: (19:10)
And so this is the work we are doing. And finally, because we know that when we invest in the education of our children, we are really investing in the future of our nation. That is why as Madame Vice Chair mentioned, we invested an historic 5.8 billion, that’s with a B, billion dollars in our HBCUs, so they will remain the center of academic excellence. Leaders of the NAACP, to move our nation forward we must also, as has been discussed, make sure that our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, and our aunties have the healthcare that they need to thrive.

Kamala Harris: (20:03)
-aunties have the healthcare that they need to thrive. And that is why we are leading the fight to address the maternal health crisis. Today in America, black women are three times as likely to die from pregnancy related causes. Native American women are more than twice as likely to die. Rural women are more than one and a half times more likely to die. So we have elevated, for an obvious reason, the issue of maternal health so it will be a national priority. And building on the work that we have all done together over the years, for the first time, I was proud to convene women from around the country at the White House to discuss this critical issue.

Kamala Harris: (20:55)
And we took action then, because it can’t just be about words, to provide resources to hire and train doulas, to advance culturally competent care and to research the contributors to maternal mortality because included in those contributors are racial bias in the healthcare delivery system. Included in those contributors are the stressors that black women face in life. And we need to research and make clear and speak honestly about all of those issues, again, as a national priority.

Kamala Harris: (21:40)
In addition, we worked with states to expand Medicaid postpartum. Because the way it had been working, Medicaid was covering two months postpartum. Now, she just gave birth to a human being so we are now extending and working with states that it will be expanded to 12 months of postpartum care. And that will benefit over a quarter million women. Leaders of the NAACP, to continue to move our nation forward, we must also take action to address the economic inequities that are holding back so many people in our nation, which is why together we are fighting to build more opportunity for wealth in our communities. For example, we are investing billions of dollars in my minority and women entrepreneurs. We are addressing systemic inequities in home ownership, which of course is an issue this organization has been fighting for for years as integral to the Civil Rights Movement. And as you know, it is because of a clear history of segregation, restrictive covenants, and redlining that long denied black homeowners, the opportunity to take full advantage of the wealth building power of home ownership. That inequity continues today in the home appraisal system.

Kamala Harris: (23:34)
So I am proud that our administration led by secretary Marsha Fudge is working to eliminate racial bias in home appraisals so that black and Latino families can fully realize the true value of their homes and pass that value to their children and grandchildren. Home ownership Is one of the greatest sources in the community of intergenerational wealth. However, we know that still, in this ongoing fight for civil rights on housing, that we are hearing the cases of, for example, a black family trying to sell their home and they get the appraisal and they just know it is not the true value of their home. And so you’ve heard the stories about how they’ll then encourage friends of the family, a white family, to come in and then the white family will put the pictures up of their family. And then that appraisal gets done and it’s for a much higher value. Same house, same neighborhood.

Kamala Harris: (24:54)
So this is a real issue. And with the leadership of Marsha Fudge, we are dealing with that. And finally, we know that to protect this progress, the progress we have achieved so far and to ensure justice for all, we must have better representation on our federal courts. And with your support, I am proud to say that our administration has appointed the most diverse group of judges in the history of the United States. Including a woman who I have come to know and admire who is the first black woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Kamala Harris: (25:57)
We got to stand for that one. So leaders of the NAACP together, we have fought hard to move our nation forward. And yet we must recognize there are those who are fighting to drag us backward. Extremist, so-called leaders, who are attempting to undermine our democracy and assault our most fundamental freedoms. The freedom to be safe from gun violence, the freedom to make decisions about our own bodies and the freedom to vote. So I will address them in turn. First, the freedom from gun violence. So recently I visited Buffalo, New York to attend the funeral of an 86 year old grandmother who went to the grocery store after, as she often did, spending the day with her husband who was in a nursing home. Mrs. Whitfield. I went to Highland Park, Illinois, where there were strollers and lawn chairs scattered up and down a street where there was supposed to be a parade for July 4th. There, as in Uvalde, Texas, as in Greenwood, Indiana just last night, and in so many communities across our nation, scenes of ordinary life have been turned into war zones by horrific acts of gun violence. Mass shootings have made America a nation in mourning. And it’s not only the mass shootings. We see it in our communities every day and it is no less tragic or outrageous. Think about it. Black people are 13% of America’s population, but make up 62% of gun homicide victims. This issue of the need for reasonable gun safety laws is a real issue. When we are talking about the civil right, the right that all communities should have to live in a place that is safe without weapons of war running those streets. And understand the number of guns manufactured in this country tripled over the last 20 years. Today, we have more guns in our nation than people. So earlier this month, the president signed the first federal gun safety law in nearly 30 years. And it was an important and necessary step. But we need to do more. We must repeal the liability shield that protects gun manufacturers and we must renew the assault weapons ban. An assault weapon, like many things, there’s a design, there’s a purposeful design. Well for the assault weapon, the design is to kill a lot of human beings quickly. There is no reason for weapons of war on the streets of America.

Kamala Harris: (30:03)
Weapons of war on the streets of America. We must also take steps to protect other fundamental freedoms, including the freedom for a woman to make decisions about her own body. And on this subject, it’s important to note that, to support a woman’s ability, not her government, but her to make that decision does not require anyone to abandon their faith or their beliefs. It just requires us to agree, the government shouldn’t be making that decision for her. And think about it. For the first time in generations, the United States Supreme Court, the highest court of our land, the former court of Thurgood Marshall, took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America, from the women of America. We know NAACP, that our country has a history of claiming ownership over human bodies. And today, extremists so-called leaders are criminalizing doctors and punishing women from making healthcare decisions for themselves, personal decisions that is her right to make in consultation with her doctor, her pastor, her priest, her rabbi, her loved ones. Not her government telling her what to do. And these so-called leaders, so-called claim that, “Well we just think that this is a decision that should be made by the folks in the states. People in the states can vote on this.” But at this moment, many of those same so-called leaders are the same ones who are passing laws to restrict the ability of people to vote. Laws, they’re passing laws, the same people. Laws that ban drop boxes and restrict early voting. Laws that make it illegal to give people food and water for waiting in line to vote. Undemocratic laws, un-American laws. I asked my team to… Remember Venn diagrams, those three circles, right? And then let’s just see where they overlap. So I asked my team, I said, “Do a Venn diagram on two circles for me. And in particular, the overlap of states that are attacking the freedom to vote and attacking women’s freedoms over their own bodies.

Kamala Harris: (33:57)
There are 10 states that are doing both. Here’s the point, our freedoms are all connected. Consider the freedom to vote. The freedom to vote is the freedom that unlocks all others. It is a catalyst for economic justice, for social justice, for racial justice. And generations of leaders gave their sweat, their tears, their blood in its defense. Earlier this year, many of us were together in Selma, Alabama, as we have been before. This year to commemorate the 57th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, standing there shoulder to shoulder with leaders who return to the Edmond Pettus Bridge every year, it was clear while we honor the history of the movement, we must recognize the dream of the movement remains unfinished. So no matter how many times they push us back, we will continue to march forward.

Kamala Harris: (35:16)
And we will pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Freedom to Vote Act. Friends, freedom, Liberty, and democracy are on the ballot this fall. And we need to make sure that our voices are heard. There is a midterm coming up in about, I think it’s 113 days, maybe 112 days. 112 days, we’re not going to be able to get these days back. So each one of these days, we must with a sense of urgency, ensure that the American people know their vote matters. It is their voice that, the right to vote is something that the leaders of this organization and its founders knew to be at the core of all of the other rights and freedoms to which we are entitled.

Kamala Harris: (36:25)
So we know what we need to do. And in particular, to protect the freedom to vote and a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, we need people who will defend our rights up and down the ballot, from district attorneys to state attorneys general, from local sheriffs to governors, and we need two more votes in the United States Senate. We will not, and the president has been clear, we will not let the filibuster stand in our way of our most essential rights and freedoms. So leaders of the NAACP, together, we have accomplished much, but we still have much to do. To move our nation forward, President Biden and I ask for you to do what you have always done, continue to build coalitions of Americans of all ages and races and backgrounds, continue to do so with the knowledge that we have so much more in common than what separates us.

Kamala Harris: (37:40)
Continue to activate and organize communities in every state, continue to use your power to fight for our shared vision of America. And as I often will refer to her, the great Coretta Scott King, who joined the NAACP as a young college student once said, “The freedom must be earned and won in each and every generation.” Today, and I look at the young leaders here in particular. Yes, today it is our collective term, but we’re counting on you all. Because today we have been called to create a more fair, more equal and more just America. So today, let us recommit to answering the call. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

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