Feb. 27 (UPI) — Vice President Kamala Harris called Black history makers ‘visionaries’ Saturday during a virtual celebration of the 40th annual Black History Month.
Harris, the first U.S. Black, South Asian-American and female vice president, was a little girl when Rep. Steny Hoyer, representing Maryland’s 5th Congressional District, launched the annual breakfast to celebrate Black History Month with community leaders, elected officials and local residents.
Harris thanked Hoyer, who hosted the virtual celebration in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and whom she considers a friend.
“We celebrate Black History Month in January, in March, in April, and all year round. But, yes, every February we take a time, and a more formal time, to remember and honor those who came before us,” Harris said in her remarks for the celebration. “And they are and were the visionaries. They were the innovators. And why do I say ‘innovators,’? Because they had the ability, in their moment in time, to see what can be unburdened by what had been. They were the innovators and, of course, the barrier breakers and, of course, the history makers.”
“They were clear-eyed about the present and what needed to be done at that moment to create the future for which they had a vision,” Harris added. “And so they told the truth then about what they saw at the time that they lived. And they worked to build a better future, a future unburdened by what had been.”
Harris added that it’s “on their broad shoulders that we stand.”
She also made an analogy comparing history to a relay race where each generation passes the baton after running their course, while transitioning to also discuss current ‘visionaries’ of the moment.
“And so the baton is now in our hands, and what matters is how well we run our portion of the race,” she said.
Harris also discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, saying two in three Black Americans know someone who has been hospitalized or died from COVID-19.
She also highlighted Dr. Kizzy Corbett, a Black scientist — who is also a University of Maryland, Baltimore County, graduate — who helped develop the Moderna vaccine.
“The one I got,” Harris added referring the to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, “and many of us did — that is saving countless lives.”
She also referred to Black nurse, Sandra Lindsay, who was the first person in the country to get vaccinated, amid concern from Black folks about how they’ve been mistreated historically with the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, where African-American men were deceptively left untreated for syphilis.
Harris, who was also the first Black person and first woman elected district attorney of San Francisco, 2004-2011, also said that one of her personal heroes was the late civil rights activist Thurgood Marshall, who was also the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
The phrase “equal justice under the law” is engraved above the front entrance of the U.S. Supreme Court building, Harris said. “But now we are also talking much more rightly about equity, understanding that we must be clear-eyed about the fact that, yes, we want everyone to get an equal amount — that sounds right — but not everyone starts our from the same place.”
“And since we didn’t start in the same place, some folks might need more: equitable distribution,” she added.
Some previous speakers at the Black History Month event have included former President Barack Obama, the late Congressman Lewis, the late civil rights advocate and Congressman Elijah Cummings, Director of the Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lonnie Bunch, and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.
The event was virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.