Remarks by Vice President Harris To Members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
Carole Hoefener Center
Charlotte, North Carolina
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good afternoon to the Brothers of the Omega Psi Phi. It’s good to be with you all.
I just — I stopped by — I’m so happy that this worked out. I’m on my way to the airport. I came here to North Carolina to talk about a few things, but I’m so happy to see you. The last time, Dr. Marion, we were all together was — what was it 2019, Atlantic City?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Atlantic City.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. Atlantic City. And we had a huge group there, and I know for the Conclave this is the first time probably in two years — right? — that you’ve been in person.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Four years.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Four years in person. Right.
I just attended our sorority’s Boulé. We had that in Orlando just a couple — last week, wasn’t it? Last week. (Inaudible.)
So, it’s so good to see everybody.
And listen, I just wanted to come by to say thank you. We’ve been through a lot in our nation over the last couple of years. And the men of Omega Psi Phi, as always, as I have known you my entire life, I feel have been leaders — national leaders on so many important issues and including what you all did to elect Joe Biden and to elect me as Vice President of the United States. (Inaudible.) (Applause.)
And I think — I mean, when I was at the Boulé in Orlando, I was talking about how our sorority, with so many of our sister sororities — the Divine Nine as a whole — really organized folks around that important election.
And, you know, now we’re 110 days out from a midterm that is so critically important.
And if you don’t mind, I’ll talk just a little bit about that, because I’m here to also, yet again, come to you to ask for your leadership and to thank you in advance for what I know you’ve already planned to do.
A hundred and ten days out. And right now — I’ll just be very frank with you — we need to elect two more senators in the United States Senate who are willing to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act — (applause) — who are willing to take seriously and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. (Applause.) Who will stand up for the Women’s Health
Initiative [Protection] Act. (Applause).
Two votes, right here in North Carolina — Cheri Beasley — (applause) — who can win (inaudible).
I was just in Pennsylvania — John Fetterman — right? — who can win. And if we pick up some seats, then during the course of our administration, we can really see through what we got started.
But because of all that you did as leaders, who then inspire other leaders, we did win in 2020 because we convinced people based on our good word and standing in community that it would matter, and it did.
You know, I was just over — I was with the governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, and we were talking about it. Our administration was able to extend the Child Tax Credit, which is why we were able in the first year to lift over 40 percent of Black children in America out of poverty.
We were able to pass — (applause) — a tax cut for working families of up to $8,000 a year, which means more money in their pocket to pay for school supplies and medication and food for their children. We put over $5 billion into our HBCUs because we know they are — (applause) — (inaudible).
We have, through our Delta sister, Marcia Fudge — Secretary Marcia Fudge at HUD — taken on one of the longstanding civil rights issues, which has been fair housing, and looking at a very specific issue beyond what we know has been the historic and current issues of things like redlining, but also one of the issues that has received more attention because we are handling it, which is racially biased home appraisals, knowing that our families, our greatest source of wealth and intergenerational wealth — meaning passing it from the grandparent to the children to grandchildren — is homeownership.
However, with home appraisals, we still have an issue — you all have heard the stories — those stories of a Black family trying to sell them home, and then the appraiser comes in and appraises the home for what they know is undervaluing the home.
So they have friends of the family who are a white family, so they invite that family to come in and put up their family pictures and take down the Black family’s pictures.
The appraiser comes in and, all of a sudden, the appraisal is much higher. Racial bias in home appraisals, which then directly impact the ability of a Black family and, by extension, the community to pass on intergenerational wealth. These are some of the things we’ve been taking on, but there’s so much more to do.
And so, I’m here to ask you to help us with this because there is so much at stake.
You look at states like Georgia, like Texas. You look at what some of these folks in North Carolina are doing and South Carolina are doing to do to attack the right of people to vote. And you know why they’re doing it? You can see a direct link between what Omega Psi Phi and so many others did to increase the voter turnout, which was record highs — (applause) — and the backlash — the backlash — because they saw folks, who weren’t turning up before, turned out. And then all of a sudden, after the election, among those who were denying and lying, frankly — excuse my word — but lying about who won the election. By the way, we won. (Applause.)
But then they decided, well, maybe a way to do it is to pass laws that — for example, now in Georgia — make it illegal to give folks food and water if they’re standing in line to vote. Passing laws to make it more difficult to vote around trying to get rid of drop boxes. Why do we need drop boxes? Well, if you are a single father or a single mother and you got them three kids back — bad kids in the backseat — (laughter) — and you know you want to go vote, you know you can’t get out and stand in line to vote and wait for four hours. But you can pack them kids in the backseat after — the night before — you filled out your ballot, and then drive over to the drop box, drop it off, and keep driving. Right?
And these are the kinds of things, the details that matter about what we are up against.
And so, I’m here to thank you and to ask you that we continue to educate — as is the history of this so important fraternity — to always educate the people about what is at stake, and to inspire through the model of your success and leadership, to inspire people to see what is possible, and to also remember who we are, who we have been, and who we’re going to be. Because that is who this organization is.
And one last point that I’d like to raise is the issue of choice, because I need your help — and I’m just having a candid conversation here — about how we are going to talk with our young men. Because I think it is very important that we not leave our young men out of any conversation that is of national importance.
And I think it’s important to also recognize and agree that one does not have to abandon their faith or their beliefs to agree that a woman, and not her government, should make decisions about her own body. (Applause.)
So it may not be your choice, it may not be the choice for your family, but the government shouldn’t be in the business of making that decision for her.
And I — and I — I’m here to ask for your help, because it is about our sisters and our daughters and our mothers and our aunties. It is about seeing that, also on the issue of maternal health — it’s something I’ve been working on for years — the issue of Black maternal mortality is real, which is that Black women are still, in this country, three times more likely than other women to die from pregnancy-related issues. A lot of it which has to do with an ilabi- — inability to have access to the kind of care she needs.
And so, when we think about how Black women are experiencing the healthcare system in America, we know it’s an issue for all of us. And it’s something that we should weigh in to address.
Not to mention — you know, my goddaughter is 17 right now, and she’s applying to college. And she knows she’s pledging AKA wherever she goes. (Laughter.) With all due respect to everybody else.
And — but she’s — she was — I was talking to her the other day, and she was like, “Auntie, I’m not — I got to now look at which states I’m looking at in terms of where I’m going to apply for college.” That’s real. Right?
So I would ask us to think — because I would like your help, in terms of — on my — at my stage and my platform. Let’s make sure that we’re not leaving anyone out of this important conversation, because it is front and center as a very real issue in our country.
And I can’t emphasize it more than sharing with you my experience as Vice President, which is: I’ve been traveling around the world. I just was just yesterday, or it was the day before, with the — President Zelenskyy’s wife, Madam Zelenska. I met him two days before the invasion of his nation when I was in Munich giving an important talk there about the integrity of what should be a global priority around sovereignty and territorial integrity.
But what I can tell you is this: I’ve probably talked to — I’ve had at least 80 conversations in person or by phone with presidents, prime ministers, and kings, some of whom I’ve hosted at the official residence of the Vice President.
We, as Americans, hold ourselves out to be a leader. We walk into these rooms, chin up, shoulders back, proud — openly proud of the fact that we hail from a democracy, one of the greatest in the world — flawed though it may be, imperfect though it may be.
And people around the world watch us because we are a role model. And each of us knows what that’s like in our personal lives to be a role model. It means people watch everything you do to see if what you do is consistent with what you say.
And they’re right now seeing that the United States Supreme Court — the court of Thurgood — took a constitutional right, that had been recognized, from the people of America, the women of America.
So when we’re looking at an issue like this, when we’re looking at an issue like voting rights and what is happening in our country, let’s also understand it’s not only about an attack on the rights that we have been leaders on, but it is an attack on our democracy. And in that way, it also extends to an attack on our standing around the world when we walk into these various rooms talking about the need for protecting human rights and standing up for democratic principles or rule of law.
So we got a lot of work to do. And this fraternity has always been front and center on all of these issues. And so, again, I’m here to say thank you, thank you, thank you. Enjoy the Conclave.
And thank you, Dr. Marion, for inviting me to come by and speak with you for a minute. Thank you all. (Applause.)