Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris spent time in Detroit on Tuesday to participate in ‘Shop Talk’, a question-and-answer session with Detroiters and Black male leaders on racial justice and the importance of voting in the upcoming presidential election.
Tuesday was also National Voter Registration Day; panelists expressed grave importance over the 2020 presidential election.
“The outcome of this election will determine, I believe, the course of this country for generations to come,” said Harris.
Harris wasn’t alone in her beliefs.
“We want people to be registered,” said Rev. Wendell Anthony, Fellowship Church. “We want you to take your souls to the polls and to vote like your life depends on it because it does.”
Socially distanced in front of Headliners Barber Shop, a Black-owned business with roots in Detroit for 18 years, Harris spoke to the history of Detroit and her appreciation for the city.
“…It was very important to me and to us that we be here on 7 Mile Road, which history teaches us for those who don’t know, is one of the most significant roads of Black businesses in America, black-owned businesses in this neighborhood, Black homeownership for generations. It was very important to us and to me personally to be here…,” said Harris.
Harris says the downfall of Black businesses is a symptom of a larger problem.
“There are so many issues at play that relate to the impact of this pandemic, on the city of Detroit, on the state of Michigan, in the United States,” said Harris. “We are here owning Black businesses, understanding that Black businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the economic toll this virus has taken, but let’s also be clear that this pandemic in many ways has been an accelerator, in that in many ways, it made worse what was bad to start with in terms of who was getting resources, who was given access to resources or not.”
The VP hopeful isn’t wrong. COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on Black businesses around the country. In April, the Michigan Chronicle reported on the coronavirus in relation to at-risk Black businesses in Detroit.
Looking to include the crowd in her open discussion with Black leaders, Harris addressed the audience directly with various talking points.
“Let’s talk about the impact that the pandemic has had in terms of the fact that Black folks are three times more likely to contract the virus, twice as likely to die from the virus,” said Harris. “And that’s not surprising, because again before the pandemic we knew there were gross health disparities; when we look at the fact that children are 20% more likely to have asthma, 40% as a general matter folks are more likely to have high blood pressure, Black women are three times more likely to have Lupus, a Black woman three times to four times more likely to die in connection with childbirth than White Women…and so what did this pandemic do? It has been an accelerator and we need to address the pandemic, but we also need to address the long-standing disparities.”
Race and inclusion have been major themes in this year’s presidential election. Harris makes history as the first Black and South Asian woman to be on a major party’s ticket. The announcement of Harris as the 2020 Democratic vice presidential candidate was made Aug. 11. Other topics of discussion included education, affordable childcare, and more. Detroiters can find out more about the Biden-Harris campaign HERE.
When asked about her plans to confront police brutality if elected, Harris emphasized the need for accountability and consequence in the criminal justice system.
“…I was a prosecutor in my career and I’m going to tell you, one of the problems with the criminal justice system is that there’s no consequence and accountability for police officers who break the rules and break the law consistent with those who do,” said Harris. The former prosecutor listed off objectives such as: ending the chokehold, implementing a national standard for police use of force, authorizing a national registry, and eliminating the United States cash bail.
Anthony Donald Jr., owner of Headliners Barber Shop, and Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist participated alongside Harris and Anthony during Tuesday’s event.