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Inauguration of Kamala Harris: Watershed moment for the nation's oldest Black sorority

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Inauguration of Kamala Harris: Watershed moment for the nation's oldest Black sorority

2021-01-20 01:55:11

By Dwaipayan

The inauguration of Kamala Harris on Wednesday as the first woman of color vice president of the United States marks a watershed moment for the nation's oldest Black sorority, which will witness one of its own reach a pinnacle of political power.

"When our eyes see it, it'll be greater than any camera can capture," said 20-year-old Dejanna Newkirk, a Howard University junior and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the sorority which Harris pledged in 1986.

The organization, founded in 1908, has more than a thousand chapters in all 50 states and more than 300,000 members.

"She literally walked the same steps. She might have slept in the same building I slept in at Howard. She walked the yard. She majored in the same major I am. I'm just thinking, like, the sky is really the limit. There's nothing I cannot do," said Howard senior Zipporah Olukanni, 21, a vice president of the sorority.

"Her grace just embodies what it really means to be a most gracious lady," said Rachel Howell, 21, a senior from Georgia.

The women are part of an elite lineage of AKA alumni that include Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison; actresses Phylicia Rashad and Roxie Roker; Tennis great Althea Gibson; first Black big city mayor Sharon Pratt; and, scores of civil rights advocates, authors, musicians and journalists.

"As Black women, representation and seeing yourself in positions of power and at the highest level was not a familiar feeling. And so, in this moment, it's really powerful for me -- especially as somebody who wants to be a glass-ceiling breaker and be the first to do something as a Black woman," said 21-year-old Abigail Hall, a political science major from Atlanta.

Toluwani Roberts, the sorority's current second vice president, said the inauguration is just the beginning of what will be four years of daily inspiration.

"I personally, I'm interested in education and I hope to go forward and change the state of education in the country. And she's inspired me that anything is possible for me, so long as I put that hard work forward and I have the help of my sisters," Roberts said.

The sisters are not naive about the challenges that lie ahead: a raging pandemic, historic unemployment, a climate in crisis and the nation facing yet another painful reckoning on race. Several acknowledged the likelihood that Harris would be subjected to intense scrutiny because of her race and gender.

All were unflinching in their confidence that Harris will thrive.

"You can't use 'fear' and vice president-elect's name in the same sentence because she is nothing of that sort," said Newkirk. 'She is a very courageous woman. So I definitely believe that we will definitely be here to support her."

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