The historic selection of Kamala Harris as the Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate resonates in the Caribbean

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In her detailed article, which takes the pulse of Caribbean voters in the United States as well as broader perceptions in the minds of Caribbean people far and wide, Janine Mendes-Franco (Global Voices) calls Kamala Harris’s candidacy ‘A big moment for Caribbean people in America.’

The August 11 announcement that Joe Biden, the Democratic party’s candidate for the presidency of the United States, had chosen Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, has sent waves of celebration throughout the Caribbean.

Harris’ father, an economist and professor emeritus at Stanford University, was born in Jamaica when it was still under British rule — and although she identifies as American, Caribbean netizens still claim her as a descendant of the region. So, too, do Caribbean people of Indian descent, as Harris’ mother, a breast cancer scientist, was born in Madras, India.

From Trinidad and Tobago, writer Ira Mathur, herself of Indian descent, felt that the choice allowed “so many of us [to] see ourselves represented.” She wrote on Facebook:

From Madras and Jamaica with love to America […] from the West Indies to South Asia we couldn’t feel prouder or have more hope for a Trump shattered America.

In a piece for CNN, writer Fredreka Schouten contemplated what the move meant for “islanders” like herself:

I, too, am from the Caribbean […] but descended from people who came from all over what the late Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite once called ‘a whole underground continent of thought and feeling and history.’ We carry the archipelago within us, looking and listening, always, for bits of what we left behind […] the habit — a preoccupation, really — with detecting the Caribbean heritage in the people around us.

To the nation, Shirley Chisholm represents the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first to pursue a major-party nomination for the presidency. To me, she’s also the daughter of a seamstress from Barbados and a factory worker who came from Guyana. Colin Powell, the first African American to serve as Secretary of State? His parents hailed from Jamaica. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, Barbados roots. [. . .]

[. . .] Jamaican social media users also found Harris to be a unifying force, and a firm vote of confidence came from Wayne A. I. Frederick, the Trinidad-born president of Howard University, Harris’ alma mater. Posting a photograph of himself and Harris at a graduation ceremony, Frederick said on Facebook:

Today is an extraordinary moment in the history of America and of Howard University. Senator Kamala Harris’ selection as the Democratic vice presidential candidate represents a milestone opportunity for our democracy to acknowledge the leadership Black women have always exhibited, but has too often been ignored. […] As Senator Harris embarks upon this new chapter in her life, and in our country’s history, she is poised to break two glass ceilings in our society with one fell swoop of her Howard hammer!

Harris’ unique experience as a multiethnic child of immigrant parents who were very involved in the activist movements of the 1960s — she was part of the second class of students to be desegregated through busing — undoubtedly helped shape her identity and worldview. [. . .]

As the writer Schouten attested:

Who knows what will happen in the months ahead. But for the islanders keeping score — always reconstructing that continent of islands, if only in our minds — Harris will remain the first daughter of the West Indies on a major-party presidential ticket. [. . .]

For full article, see https://globalvoices.org/2020/08/13/the-historic-selection-of-kamala-harris-as-the-democrats-vice-presidential-candidate-resonates-in-the-caribbean/

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