Caribbean American Kamala Harris creates history, sworn in as US VP

Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States
Kamala Harris is sworn in as U.S. Vice President during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021.
Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS

Caribbean American former United States Senator Kamala Harris created history on Wednesday as she was sworn in as US vice president by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, became not only the first Caribbean American to hold the US vice president office but also the first Black and Indian American to do so.

She was sworn in 212 years after John Adams became America’s first vice president

In taking the oath of office, Harris repeated after Justice Sotomayor.

“I, Kamala Devi Harris, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” she said. “That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

“That I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,” she added. “That I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So, help me God.”

Shortly after Harris took the oath, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had competed with outgoing President Donald J. Trump for the presidency four years ago, expressed delight with Harris’s ascension.

“It delights me to think that what feels historical and amazing to us today — a woman sworn in to the vice presidency — will seem normal, obvious, ‘of course’ to Kamala’s grand-nieces as they grow up,” tweeted Clinton, the only woman ever to receive a major party’s presidential nomination, posting a photo of Harris with the two little girls. “And they will be right.”

In November, after four years of tumultuous rule by Republican Trump, Democrats Joe Biden and Harris were elected president and vice president, respectively.

After surpassing the requisite 270 electoral votes to clinch the presidency, major television networks and the Association Press declared Biden on as the next president of the United States.

“Wow, democracy prevails,” exclaimed veteran New York State Assemblyman Jamaican N. Nick Perry in a Caribbean Life interview. “Every American alive today can breathe a full sigh of relief. Nobody has any time or need for a concession by this man (Trump) so unfit to hold the office.

“We have reclaimed our country, and now we have someone dignified, qualified and fit to lead us,” added Perry, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn.

“There is icing on this cake for all Jamaicans, because we can’t be more proud of the fact that the US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has strong Caribbean roots,” he continued. “May God bless and keep our new president-elect and vice president-elect safe and healthy, as we prepare to march them into the White House. God bless America!

Perry and other Caribbean American legislators had urged the Caribbean community here to flood the November 3 US general elections in casting ballots for Biden and Harris.

“In our lifetimes, we have heard before, ‘this is the most important election ever’, but never has this been truer than this 2020 election,” Perry told Caribbean Life, stating that four more years of Trump’s presidency would “see the destruction of America’s democracy, as we know it, and as the founding fathers tried to create.

“After only four years, one would have to be totally blind to not see and hear the awful noise of the breaks and cracks of our Democratic system of government that no one imagined could have occurred,” he added.

Sunday night Harris recognized the contributions of Caribbean Americans in a virtual message commemorating her expected, historic inauguration.

“Those contributions are reflected in the lives of so many Americans with Caribbean roots – from Eric Holder and Colin Powell to Shirley Chisholm,” Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, told the star-studded virtual concert that was pioneered by Guyanese-born entrepreneur and advocate, Felicia J. Persaud, and presented by Persaud-owned Invest Caribbean and the Caribbean American Action Network, (CAAN).

Persaud is also founder and chief executive officer of Invest Caribbean, the global private sector, investment agency of the Caribbean.

Holder, a former US Attorney General, traces his roots to Barbados; Powell, an erstwhile US Secretary of State, is the son of Jamaican immigrants; and the late Chisholm — a former US congresswoman representing Brooklyn, who was the first woman to seek the nomination of a major party (Democratic Party) for US president — was the daughter of Barbadian and Guyanese immigrants.

Senator Harris told viewers that she was “proud to be with you, as a vice-president elect with roots in the Caribbean.

“President-elect Joe Biden and I look forward to working with you every step of the way to usher in a brighter future for Caribbean Americans and all Americans,” she said.

“Thank you for the efforts that so many of you have many of you have made throughout the course of the campaign to get us to this moment,” she added. “You did the work. You helped lay the groundwork for this historic occasion. Now, because of you and so many others, our country is on a path to heal and rebuild.”

In her introductory address, Persaud hoped that Harris, “the US’ first Black Caribbean American vice-president, makes it possible for the Caribbean region to take its rightful place as a strong partner with these United States.

“We are here to resolve tonight that Caribbean immigrants in these United States will no longer be taken for granted; will no longer be ignored and left behind; will no longer have our votes taken and then dismissed like we are nothing,” she said.

“Our challenge to you, dear vice-president-elect, is that you become a fighter for the Caribbean; that you use your Caribbean ancestry and your Caribbean heritage to make a mark in history – and not simply be just another US vice-president,” she added. “Kamala Harris, we celebrate you, but we are also going to be watching you.”

Harris, a former California Attorney General, officially resigned on Monday from her US Senate seat in California, culminating her four-year US Senate career.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom named the state’s secretary of state, Alex Padilla, as Harris’s replacement.