Vice President Harris’ Remarks to Members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity

Carole Hoefener Center
Charlotte, North Carolina

THE VICE-PRESIDENT: Thank you. Hello Brethren of Omega Psi Phi. It’s good to be with you all.

Just – stopped – so glad it worked. I’m on my way to the airport. I came here to North Carolina to talk about a few things, but I’m so glad to see you. The last time, Dr. Marion, we were all together, it was – what was it like in 2019, Atlantic City?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Atlantic City.

THE VICE-PRESIDENT: That’s true. Atlantic City. And we had a huge group there, and I know for the Conclave it’s probably the first time in two years – right? – that you have been in person.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Four years.

THE VICE-PRESIDENT: Four years in person. Right.

I just attended our sorority’s Boulé. We had this in Orlando just a couple – last week, right? Last week. (Inaudible.)

So it’s so good to see everyone.

And look, I just wanted to come by and say thank you. We have been through a lot in our country over the past two years. And Omega Psi Phi men, as always, as I’ve known you all my life, I feel like I’ve been leaders – national leaders on so many important issues and including what you all have done 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 people around this important election. .

And, you know, now we’re 110 days away from a midterm that’s so important.

And if you don’t mind, I’m going to talk about it a bit, because I’m here too, once again, to come and ask for your leadership and thank you in advance for what I know of you. I already planned to do.

One hundred and ten days of absence. And now — I’m going to be very blunt with you — we need to elect two more senators to the United States Senate who are willing to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Free Voting Act — (applause) — who are ready to take seriously and adopt the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. (Applause.) Who will defend Women’s Health Initiative [Protection] Law. (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 get a few seats, then over the course of our administration, we can really see through what we started.

But thanks to everything you did as leaders, which then inspired other leaders, we won in 2020 because we convinced people based on our good word and standing in the community that it would count, and it did.

You know, I was just over – I was with North Carolina Governor 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% 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 pockets to pay for school supplies, medicine and food their children. We’ve invested over $5 billion in our HBCUs because we know they’re — (applause) — (inaudible).

We have, through our sister Delta, Marcia Fudge – Secretary Marcia Fudge at HUD – taken on one of the long-standing civil rights issues, which has been fair housing, and looking at a very specific issue beyond what we know has been the historical and current issues of things like redlining, but also one of the issues that’s gotten more attention because we’re dealing with it, which is biased home valuations by race, knowing that our families, our greatest source of wealth and intergenerational wealth – that is, passing it from grandparent to children to grandchildren – is home ownership.

However, with home appraisals we always have a problem – you’ve all heard the stories – these stories of a black family trying to sell them a house and then the appraiser comes in and appraises the house for what he knows undervalue the house.

So they have family friends who are white family, so they invite that family to come in and post their family photos and take down the black family photos.

The appraiser arrives and all of a sudden the appraisal is much higher. Racial biases in home valuations, 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 have undertaken, but there is so much more to do.

And so, I’m here to ask you to help us with this because there’s so much at stake.

You look at states like Georgia, like Texas. You look at what some of these people are doing in North Carolina and South Carolina to attack people’s right to vote. And you know why they do that? You can see a direct link between what Omega Psi Phi and so many others have done to increase voter turnout, which was records – (applause) – and the backlash – the backlash – because they’ve seen people , which did not show up before , turned out. And then all of a sudden, after the election, among those who were denying and lying, frankly – excuse me – but lying about who had won the election. By the way, we won. (Applause.)

But then they decided, well, maybe one way to do that is to pass laws that – for example, now in Georgia – make it illegal to give people food and water. line up to vote. Pass laws to make it harder to vote around trying to get rid of drop boxes. Why do we need drop boxes? Well, if you’re a single dad or a single mom and you’ve picked up their three kids — bad kids in the backseat — (laughs) — and you know you want to go vote, you know you can’t not get out and stand in line to vote and wait four hours. But you can pack the kids in the backseat after — the day before — you fill out your ballot, then drive to the drop box, drop it off, and keep driving. Right?

And those are the kinds of things, the details that matter about what we’re up against.

And so, I’m here to thank you and ask that we continue to educate – as the history of this so important fellowship is – to always educate people about what’s at stake, and inspire through the model of your success and leadership, to inspire people to see what is possible, and also to remember who we are, who we have been and who we will be. Because that’s who this organization is.

And one last point 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’re going to talk with our young men. Because I think it’s very important that we don’t leave our young men out of any conversation of national importance.

And I think it’s also important to recognize and accept that you don’t have to give up your faith or your beliefs to accept that a woman, not her government, has to make decisions about her own body. (Applause.)

So it may not be your choice, it may not be your family’s choice, but the government should not be making the decision for them.

And I–and I–I’m here to ask for your help, because it’s our sisters and our daughters and our mothers and our aunts. It’s 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, that is, women black women in this country are still three times more likely than other women to die of pregnancy-related problems. A lot of it has to do with ilabi- — inability to access the kind of care she needs.

And so when we think about how black women experience the healthcare system in America, we know that’s a problem for all of us. And that’s something we should weigh to address.

Not to mention – you know, my goddaughter is 17 right now and applying to college. And she knows she engages AKA wherever she goes. (Laughs.) With all due respect to everyone else.

And – but she is – she was – I was talking to her the other day, and she was like, ‘Aunt, I’m not – I now have to look at what states I’m looking at in terms of where I’m going to apply for college. It’s real. Right?

So I would like to ask us to think — because I would like your help, in terms of — on my — on my stage and my platform. Let’s make sure we don’t exclude anyone from this important conversation, because this is a very real issue in our country.

And I cannot emphasize this more than to share with you my experience as vice-president, that is to say: I have traveled around the world. I was just yesterday, or it was the day before yesterday, with President Zelenskyy’s wife, Madame Zelenska. I met him two days before the invasion of his nation when I was in Munich to give an important conference there on 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 spoken — I’ve had at least 80 conversations in person or on the phone with presidents, prime ministers and kings, some of whom I’ve hosted at the official residence of the Vice President.

We as Americans see ourselves as a leader. We walk into these halls with our chins up, shoulders back, proud – openly proud of the fact that we come from a democracy, one of the largest in the world – however imperfect, however imperfect .

And people all over the world look up to us because we’re a role model. And each of us knows what it’s like in our personal life to be a role model. It means people are watching everything you do to see if what you do is consistent with what you say.

And they see right now that the Supreme Court of the United States — Thurgood’s court — has taken a constitutional right, which was granted, to the American people, to American women.

So when we look at an issue like this, when we look at an issue like the right to vote and what’s happening in our country, let’s also understand that this is not just an attack on the rights that we were the leaders, but this is an attack on our democracy. And in this way, it also extends to an attack on our position in the world when we walk into these different rooms talking about the need to protect human rights and to defend democratic principles or the state of right.

So we have a lot of work to do. And this brotherhood has always been at the center of all these questions. 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 talk to you for a minute. Thank you all. (Applause.)

END

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