“I thought of Shyamala going to work as a researcher and denied opportunities,” Ms. Porter said, but she “continued to fight.”
“Out of all of that,” Ms. Porter continued, “we all rose, and Kamala rose to become the vice president of the United States. She came from this fertile, activist environment. But the thing I want people to understand is the work it took to be where she is. She went against the tide. She had people who did not want her voice in the room. She had people shutting the door. And look where she is now.”
After the presidential race was called, Carol Moseley Braun, 73, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, found herself making a mental list of the Black women who had come before Ms. Harris. They were Black women who conquered firsts: Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Barbara Jordan. Then, she began to pray.
“I thanked the Lord for this dream come true,” said Ms. Braun, a Democrat who represented Illinois in the Senate from 1993 to 1999. “I believe Joe Biden is exactly what the country needs to heal, and Kamala as his second-in-command is the exactly the right person to help him. There were so many women who paved the way for this to happen, so many who sacrificed, so many shoulders.”
But after the celebration, she said, Ms. Harris will face the difficult task of reaching across the aisle in a country disrupted, cleaved and often intolerant of the changing America Ms. Harris embodies: She is a daughter of immigrants, she is Black and South Asian, and she is in an interracial marriage. “She checks all these boxes,” Ms. Braun said, and those that want to fan the flames of racism and hate just do not know what to do with her.”
The biggest challenge might be the Senate.
“She is going to have to navigate the cult of Donald Trump, which remains in the Senate,” Ms. Braun said. “The word ‘collegiality’ no longer applies. It’s not even something people aspire to. Joe and Kamala have to heal the wounds and make people on the other side feel like they are being heard.”