Vice President Kamala Harris delivered remarks at the NAACP National Convention in Atlantic City on Monday where she urged attendees to vote for Democrats during midterm elections in the fall — recalling America’s history of racism and bigotry.
Harris, who has served in the role since January 2021, voiced support for abortion rights and tighter gun restrictions, and promised to reduce high rates of maternal mortality for people of color and people living in rural areas.
She also said the Biden Administration wants federal lawmakers to pass measures protecting the right to vote, especially in communities of color.
“The freedom to vote is the freedom that unlocks all others,” Harris said. “It is a catalyst for economic justice, for social justice, for racial justice. And generations of leaders gave their sweat, their tears, their blood in its defense.”
Harris denounced Republican officials in some states for passing laws that limit access to the polls and lambasted the Supreme Court for overturning Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a person’s right to an abortion.
She did not mention any states, lawmakers, or Supreme Court justices by name.
“The United States Supreme Court, the highest court of our land, the former court of Thurgood Marshall, took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America…” Harris said in reference to the Roe v. Wade ruling. “We know, NAACP, that our country has a history of claiming ownership over human bodies.”
“Extremists, so-called leaders, are criminalizing doctors and punishing women from making healthcare decisions for themselves. personal decisions, that is her right to make in consultation with her doctor, her pastor, her priest, her rabbi, her loved ones, not her government telling her what to do,” she said.
People, young and old, came from near and far to attend the week-long convention, which convened in person for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeff Carter, Englewood resident and president of the NAACP Bergen County chapter, attended Harris’ speech alongside delegates from the organization.
“It’s even more important that we show up and show out,” Carter said. “They’re trying to turn back the clock on all the civil rights that have happened for the last 50, 60, and 70 years. So we have to fight that as hard as we can.”
Some who attended said they had not been too impressed by the Biden Administration’s performance since taking office.
“If they don’t fulfill, we will meet them at the polls. Fulfill your promise or you aren’t going to be back in there,” said Alejandro Ibrahim, a rising senior at North Carolina Central University.
“We need something tangible so that we can actually get what we want. We’ve asked for too much. We support the Democrats. We support some Republicans, it’s time we get tangibles. Enough is enough,” Ibrahim added.
He attended Harris’ address with classmates Tiaja Perry and Francisca Altenor.
“I would like her to address her promises during her campaign regarding student loan debt forgiveness,” Perry said.
The students said they want elected officials to create solutions to gun violence, inequities in education, and gerrymandering.
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge and NAACP President Derrick Johnson were among the program’s speakers.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka gave a speech to close the ceremony that read more like a poem.
“We have one of the most progressive governors and the strongest chapter of the NAACP in the country,” Baraka said. “But we are the fourth most segregated and have one of the largest wealth gaps in the nation. Our children languish in these prisons and reparations is still a dirty word in New Jersey. We have work to do. We have democracy to win and we have a long road to travel on.”
This year marked the NAACP’s 113th National Convention and runs until Wednesday.