Kamala Harris’ Historic Win and the Women Behind Her
A look at the women who spearheaded the power of voting initiative that led to the history-making election.
As we settle into the new year, we approach a turning point in our nation’s history. The last year brought us every obstacle under the sun, piling on the challenges as we collectively sought to rid our world of what plagued it. Injustices seemed like they resurfaced, but they were always there, idling, awaiting the moment that we would be ready to face them.
From the lowest valleys of 2020, we emerged with the faith that from here we can only go up. This hope, however, would not be possible without the tireless work of Black women across the country who tenaciously wielded their voices to inspire change—the same change that led us to historic wins in Georgia, and the election of our country’s first vice president woman of color.
The fight against voter suppression
Stacey Abrams and a band of activists dedicated themselves to fighting voter suppression in Georgia. Abrams spearheaded two voting rights organizations, including Fair Fight, which focuses on the impact of voter suppression that occurs through insufficient voter registration, impeded ballot access, or the erroneous counting of votes. To put it in context, the organization reported that 53,000 registrations were held hostage in the “pending” stage from the 2018 election in Georgia—and 80% of those registrations belonged to people of color. Tens of thousands of voters waited in hour-long lines due to insufficient voting sites, while missing work and sometimes having to leave without the opportunity to first cast their votes. Conditions like these are what suppress voices within BIPOC communities.
Abrams, alongside women such as Helen Butler, executive director for the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Nsé Ufo, CEO of The New Georgia Project, and Tameika Atkins, executive director of ProGeorgia, fought tirelessly against voter suppression over the course of the past two years. Their collective efforts undoubtedly helped to secure Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ win in the crucial race in Georgia, making Biden the first Democrat to win Georgia in almost three decades.
Mobilize power through public platforms
Celebrities also harnessed the power of their platforms to inspire the masses to exercise their right to vote. Yara Shahidi was able to launch the voting initiative “The Clock Is Ticking,” a two-part series on Freeform’s Instagram. It ran up until election day to empower young adults to use their votes and their voices to tackle issues affecting their lives and communities. Last year, Michelle Obama appointed Kerry Washington, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Shonda Rhimes to join Janelle Monáe and others as co-chairs of When We All Vote, a national, non-partisan organization aimed at increasing participation in elections, including voter registration and turnout.
Black women fought to mobilize voters in America, including our CEO, Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, and founder, Halle Berry. Through their shared vision, rē•spin was able to develop a collaboration with I am a voter, a nonpartisan initiative, to donate proceeds from each sale of the I am a voter legging to their movement, which aims to create a cultural shift around voting and our civic engagement.
Our country’s next steps
The culmination of their ceaseless efforts to rally Americans and inspire disenfranchised voters across the country led us to this moment. We are two days away from Inauguration Day where Kamala Harris will take the oath of office as vice president, and take her place in history as the first woman of color in the White House. Born to Indian and Jamaican immigrants, the former senator spent most of her career breaking barriers. While Harris acknowledges the strong women who came before her, paving the path to where she is today, Harris herself has opened doors for future generations of women to follow in her footsteps.
This country has come a long way, but still has a long way to go. Upon seeing injustices and tragedies occurring, we may think that this isn’t the country we know—but those injustices are what we are founded on. Nearly 60 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the speech that would become one of the defining moments of the civil rights movement. It called for equality and to right the wrongs of the past. What we must do is collectively take what we’ve learned from history, from what we’ve read, and what we’ve lived, and use these lessons to rē•spin our future for humanity as a whole.
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop… I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.” – Martin Luther King Jr.