OAKLAND, Calif.—Sen. Kamala Harris is proud of who she is and, based on the messaging of her nascent presidential campaign, she wants you to know it. She’s a proud child of Jamaican and Indian immigrants turned civil rights activists, a proud “daughter of Oakland, California,” and most emphatically, a proud black woman.
Indeed, throughout one short week on the campaign trail, Harris’ public appearances have been unapologetic in their blackness. To start, Harris not only announced her candidacy at Howard University—the former California attorney general’s alma mater and one of the country’s oldest historically black colleges—she did so on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, roughly 47 years after Shirley Chisholm announced her historic run for president. (Some have speculated that Harris even borrowed the colors used by Chisholm’s campaign for her own campaign insignias.) And if Harris’s campaign announcement left any lingering questions as to her black identity (including those awkwardly asked by news pundits), her campaign launch rally on Sunday sought to end the debate.
The opening national anthem, belted by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir to the tune of clanging tambourines, was more spiritual than officious. The following musical performance—a drum-clad rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” by Oakland band Samba Funk—urged attendees not to simply sway and clap, but to dance. And the opening prayer, a political invective against poverty and discrimination, did not manifest bowed heads or clasped hands. Instead, it took the form of bouncing feet, raucous claps, and roaring “hallelujahs.” One supporter in attendance described her excitement for Harris as reaching “to a spiritual level.” Another described the rally as “a healing.”