Kamala Harris holds roundtable discussion in Raleigh
Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris meets with voters in Raleigh and tries to address their concerns while encouraging them to vote.
Ugo. I'm sorry. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. So I guess we'll begin. Good afternoon and welcome. My name is Les Misha Weddington. Or, as many know, Mia's L. A. And I'll be your co moderator for this afternoon's brief Q and A. I am the deputy director of a statewide voting rights organization, a descendant of the Kingdom of the Happyland, hailing in the Blue Ridge Mountains and above all, a black woman, Helling from the great state of North Carolina. Alright, so I'll pass it over to my co moderator. Well, hello, everybody. My name's Devante Wilson. I held from the Ponti Woods of Eastwood, North Carolina. I currently serve as the 75th president of the young Democrats of North Carolina. We are the founding state of the young Democrats of America and also have the wonderful opportunity of serving as a middle school educator. Shout out to Southern, uh, southern middle home of the Dragons. I'm so thankful to be here. And Senator Harris, we wanna kick off of you for opening remarks. Thank you. Thank you. Well, first of all, I just wanna thank everybody for your leadership, for your friendship and for your time. Um to the white family. Thank you for hosting us this historic, this legendary business that you have been running as a family for 53 years. Um, we spoke earlier, and this is just true of so many of our businesses, but in particular this business, which is that our business leaders, our their leaders in business. But there's so much more than that their civic leaders, community leaders, role models, the people who nurture and who take care of the community and create a warm and safe place for folks to go. And there's nothing like going to the barbershop to know what's really happening. I always say to my team, Okay, that's mine. You could talk about polls. You could talk about this and you could talk about that. What are folks in the barbershop talking about? Because that's about real talk. So I wanna thank you all for the honor of having us here today on behalf of myself in Joe Biden. Um, g k. Has he Did he leave already? And Alma Adams? I wanna thank the two incredible. Not only North Carolina and the leaders, but United States leaders. We served together in the in the United States Congress. We are all members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and they each of them are powerful, powerful voices not only for the people of North Carolina but for all people in our country. Someone in their absence. Thank them. They greeted me earlier. Um, Councilman Cory Branch. I wanna thank There you are. Thank you for your leadership and so many others. Um, so listen, I wanted to be here in rally in North Carolina is one of the first trips that I've taken, um, now officially on the ticket as a vice presidential nominee, because one. I love North Carolina and it's so great to come back. But to there is so much about what happens in North Carolina as a bellwether as a measure for what's going on in our country, both in terms of its historical strength but also in terms of the challenges. The other thing we know about North Carolina is this North Carolina is a road to the White House. There is no question about that. North Carolina is a road to reaching a majority in the United States Senate where I now serve. There's no question about that, and So it is you, the leaders of North Carolina that can make a difference and make a decision that is not only about the people of this state but the people of our nation. Because with you, when you walk into that ballot ballot box and that it or dropped that ballot in that box or walk into the polling station with you, you will carry the future of so many others. So I wanted to come here to pay my respects, but also to thank you and to listen to you and to talk with you. Because we are all in this together. We have 36 days to get it done. Early voting in North Carolina starts on Thursday, October 15th. So there's not a minute to waste. And with that, let's get started with our conversation. Thank you. Wonderful. Wonderful. Thank you. Against Inter Harris. We love having you in North Carolina. Eso welcome to sister to Sister meets talk shop where we're engaging African Americans under 40 and critical conversations about the future of our communities. So for the first question up today, I'd like Thio Welcome. Uh, John Verdejo, Uh, for his first question, Senator Harris for this brief Q And a senator, thank you for thank you for coming. North Carolina is an honor honor for you here. Thank you. Um, my question to you. Is this speaking as an Afro Latino? Ah, black Latino or Puerto Rican descent? Latinos have been constantly overlooked until election season. How will the body Harris administration sure that all are included, especially the black and brown community. That's a wonderful question. And it's, um it really does highlight what's at stake in the outcome of this election in so many ways. So let's start with, you know, one of the one of the crises that we're facing as a country, which is the co vid pandemic. I think of it both as a crisis that is about a public health crisis. I think of it as an economic crisis, and in many ways it is about the crisis of longstanding disparities in our country that have been only exasperated, only highlighted, which speaks thio the crisis of systemic racism in our country. So on your point right now we are looking at the fact that black folks and Latinos are three times is like, likely to contract this virus and equally three times as likely and twice as likely to die from it. And when we look at those disparities, we know that it's connected with the fact that there's a reflection between those numbers and the pre existing conditions that existed before the virus hit. This virus is, ah, Predator. In many ways, it praise on people who have pre existing conditions. So when you look at the Latino community, when you look at the black community and you know that similar in many cases in terms of the pre existing conditions, things like high blood pressure, things like diabetes are riel. And so part of the the perspective that Joe and I share is one to acknowledge those racial disparities and then address them. And that's about a plan that we have. For example, by the way, Donald Trump has no plan. Let's just start there. So it's not even like we're contrasting plans. He actually does not have a plan, but our plan, which includes what we need to do around testing around treatment, and I pray every night that we get a vaccine as soon as possible that it's safe and about distribution of that vaccine. It's about addressing the fact that we need to grow what Barack Obama and Joe Biden created with the Affordable Care Act, and we need to expand it. So even more people have coverage that we need to deal with the expansion in a way that we're dealing not only with the health care from the neck down, but let us also realize we need to also expand health care from the neck up. That's called mental health care. Uh huh. Which particularly is an issue for us in our Latino in our black communities, especially when you look at the high rates off undiagnosed and untreated trauma, right? I mean, think about it for a moment. Just step back on that point. Poverty is trauma inducing. We need to diagnose, and we need to treat it. It is it is trauma inducing that you experience all of the effects of poverty, including violence and communities. All of these things must be addressed and done in a in a manner that is conscious of the disparities based on race based on historical disproportionate distribution of resource is one of the biggest issues that we face again in terms of disparities, I could go into the history. North Carolina knows it better than most, but one of the issues is what is a challenge in terms of access to capital. So the whites, I'm sure they have long stories about what they did to be smart around, acquiring capital to build up your business, knowing that a lot of the traditional sources of access to capital were unavailable to black and still are unavailable to black and brown communities. So Joe Biden and I have a plan that is about, ah, $150 billion that is gonna be focused on low interest loans and access to capital with an emphasis on black and brown communities knowing that our businesses have always traditionally been again the source of our economic life, blood and vitality. So those are a couple of things I can go into the topic of criminal justice. I think we're gonna talk about that in a minute. Um, education, the disparities There. You look at the fact that our Children are supposed to be learning from home right now, but in poor communities in black and brown communities, urban communities as well as rural communities. Access to broadband is a realist. You I know it's a real issue here in North Carolina. We're talking about how our Children should be learning from home. But first of all, you that requires that you have affordable access to broadband. If you have access at all, then if you have more than one child, do you have access to the technology? Are you gonna have that many laptops? So many of our families who have access to WiFi It's on their cell phone. A child can't learn remotely on a cell phone. These air riel issues that will have long term impact on our communities if we don't see it and address it. And that's part of the plan we have. So I appreciate your question. Thank you. Thank you so much, Senator Harris. And again, just your answer to that being a middle school teacher at a title One school, Definitely. All the points that you have made are definitely spot on, especially about mental health, which is so important in the African American community. We want to turn it over now to our next question. Mr Laban Barnes. Good evening and welcome back to North Carolina. And as a proud public school teacher in during public schools, I got a shout out to school for creative studies before I get in trouble. Yeah, my question to you is, how will the Biden Harris ticket propel young men to be ableto have a seat at the table of leadership snatched. All right, so first of all, it requires that you see young men and seeing young men leaders. Um, you know, I find myself It was actually after the Briana Taylor grand jury decision that came down last week. I was reminded of one of the many things that my late mother had and one of them is. She would say to me, Kamla, don't you ever let anybody tell you who you are? You tell them who you are. So when I say that to you, I'm not suggesting I will tell you you are a young leader. And until I anoint you young leader, you are. You are already a young leader and I'm talking about the fact that I recognize that and I see that and I honor that, it means then, creating not only access but an open door with constant access so that your role of leadership can inform the decisions that I make and that we make. So that's about being not only able to walk through the door, but having a seat at the table on issues again. Like what we're talking about around access to capital. You You are both teachers. Um, Title one Funding Joe and I have a part of our plan for Title one. Funding is that we will triple title one funding and for everybody. Everybody knows Title one funding is about funding that goes toe inner city schools, two schools that have low tax base cities that have the our schools that have the highest rates of need. It's about what we need to do in terms of leadership, on issues that are about education, not only K through 12 which you are both leaders as educators, but also what we need to do around creating access toe employment opportunities based on providing the education that is necessary to have those kinds of jobs. The way I think about it is we got a stop talking just about higher education. I I like to say instead, let's think about it as education after high school and making sure that there are paths that are available for education after high school because the good jobs most of as we go forward are going to require education after high school. And for some, that's gonna be the ability to at some point, then walk across the stage with a diploma and a four year degree. But for others that's gonna be getting the education so they could get the certificate to qualify for the job that requires that skill. I'm gonna need your help figuring out how we make that relevant. How we how we actually created a ZA policy. In a way, it hits the streets because the policy on high means nothing if it doesn't hit the streets, and that's where access in terms of really leaders who are on the floor on the ground will make all the difference if we're gonna be relevant. And I could go down the list of the of the policies that make that so. But also it's about encouraging. Um, you, if you're interested in running for office, it's about being mentors. You know, my mother again, I'll give you another one of her saying she had a lot of them, but she would say to me calmly, You may be the first to do many things. Make sure you're not the last and you can look at both Joe Biden's career and mine to know that mentoring and legacy are very much a way of how we think about our responsibility is leaders. So thank you for that. Thank you, Thank you, thank you. Live on for such a critical critical question. So next is we keep this ball rolling. I'll like to introduce Mr Marcus Bass for the next question. Senator Harris, Welcome to North Carolina. Thank you for putting yourself out there as a black woman in such a pivot away. We see so much uncertainty in this moment. But one thing we're sure of is that leadership is needed. My question. The perception among many young black and brown voters is that a Biden Harris ticket may not be reflective of a hard line on the true reforms necessary and our criminal justice and social economic systems the better than 45 message alone with six weeks to go, needs a sharper hard line for the base of voters. Protest ing in this moment right now. How will abide in Harris ticket move past the lesser of two evils narrative being used to promote them to young black voters and get in tune with the issue base of the criminal justice community? I appreciate the question and the point. So first of all, the premise of your point is something I couldn't agree with more, which is we have to earn the votes. Nobody is supposed to vote for us. We need to earn it. The other point that I think you're raising is something that I agree profoundly with, which is let's step back and decide how we're going to declare a win and how we're measuring the wind. How do we define the wind? Because here's what I mean. If you define the wind as just simply beating Donald Trump, then the job is over the day we get sworn in. But if you define the winners, winning toe actually confront the issues, then the job begins. The day were sworn in, so I couldn't agree more with the spirit with which you make the point. Now, specifically on topic I know is a former prosecutor and let me give you the background on that. My parents met when they were active in the civil rights movement, marching and shouting. There is not a black man. I know B. He a relative or friend who has not been the subject of some form of racial profiling, unreasonable stop or excessive force. I grew up understanding how the system works. And it was the very distrust that so many have today that propelled me to become a prosecutor because I decided, Well, there are many ways to deal with the system. I'm gonna choose to go in the system to see if I can help reform it from the inside. Which is why I created some of the first in the nation initiative, for example, one that focused on young men who were arrested for drug sales and getting them jobs and counseling. It became a national model. So I'm committed to this. This is part of my life's work. Joe and I are very specific about what we will do as a start ban chokeholds and corroded holes. George Floyd would be alive today if they had been banned. We will create a national policy for a standard for use of force. What's that about? Well, excessive force right now, when it happens in many jurisdictions, the question to ask is, Was that used to force reasonable? Well, as we all know, you could reason away just about anything. The more fair and just question to ask is, Was that use of force necessary? Joe and I also have a plan to have a national registry around police officers who have broken the law. Why? Because in many places where there has been excessive force is an example. Because the birth earlier point I made is so high. Sometimes those cases just go by administrative process. So there's an administrative process and the person gets fired. Well, there's nothing that then follows that person when they moved to a different jurisdiction and go get hired there. So we're talking about a national registry. We intend to get rid of the federal death penalty to decriminalize marijuana and expunge people's records who have been convicted and to get rid of the private prisons. Why is that important? Because let's be clear about the business model on the private prisons, and this relates This also relates brother to the private detention centers the business model there is that certain human beings are making money off the incarceration of other human beings. Right? So these are some of the specific things that we will do as a start. But there is a lot of work to be done, you know? You know, I do. National news, press conferences, Whatever I say. Look, I know having worked inside the system, we have to re imagine public safety and how we do public safety in our country. Because here's the thing. You go into any upper middle class suburb in America, you will not see the kind of police presence you see in other communities. But what you will see. Well funded public schools, high rates of home ownership, access to the capital for small businesses, people who have jobs that allow them to get through the end of the month without worrying about whether they can feed their Children access to healthcare, including mental health care that is affordable, healthy communities are safe communities. And so that's part of what Jill and I'm talking about. So when the conversation we had about access to capital, you know, I didn't even get into I was that Shaw earlier. That was my first trip. My first visit when I came to the state this morning. But I'm a proud graduate of Ativan. Hbcu Howard University. Yes. I don't have any bites in here, not one, huh? But we also are gonna put $70 billion into HBCU 70 because we know our HBC use. Like Shaw and so many, the North Carolina has the largest number of HBCU students of any state. We know that that is a pathway, thio national and international leaders in all the professions and part of that 70 billion is also that investing, you know, because the question about young leadership, right investing in so many of our HBC use that have research components, right, Because we want to have a presence when we're talking about researching and figuring out how we're going to develop things like a I you know what a I is artificial intelligence, You know, the other way you can think of it is machine learning. Let's break that down for a minute because it's so important. Machine learning machine, learning that the educators No, that often. What you learn is a function of who's teaching you so the machine is gonna learn based on who's teaching it. We need to make sure everyone is present in teaching the machine how it makes decisions about who does what and who could do what investing in HBC use around things like research and development. It will have a profound impact. So these are some of the ways that we think about it that are about the criminal justice system. But it is also about the investment that we need to make a healthy communities. I talked about home ownership again. North Carolina You know, the history of redlining, the history folks being denied access even when they built up and save the capital to being able to buy in neighborhoods where they would appreciate the value of their home. We're talking about a $15,000 tax credit, and this is again for young leaders of $15,000 tax credit for new home owners toe help for down payments and closing costs because, especially for us and for most Americans, home ownership is their greatest source of wealth and intergenerational wealth, right. But we need to give people a leg up on being able to actually just close on that place Thio to develop that intergenerational wealth. So those are some of the things and I appreciate your question. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Senator Harris at this time, Laurie Jones. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for coming out to North Carolina again. Um, my question for you is what resource is will be made available for small black owned businesses and for start up businesses, especially in the light of challenges faced in the recovery time from the public pandemic. Yeah, that's wonderful. So that's about 150 billion going for for low interest loans as well as for capital for reinvestment. There's also a big part of what we're doing that's about basically helping people start back up so small businesses, to your point, who have you know, I've seen numbers that as many as 50% or half of black owned businesses during the course of this pandemic have suffered to the point of shutting down. And the concern I have there is to shut down and never to reopen. So there's a big part of the plan that Joe and I have That's about helping people restart. So that's about rehiring and building back up. Also with I mean here, the white family will probably appreciate the helping businesses have the capital to restart in a way that they can also get the grant funding. Thio do things like build plexiglass barriers in their businesses. Right? Thio equipped their workforce with P pes and US because otherwise that's extra money out of there. Cocky not to mention what we need to do for our teachers to give them that extra support and our frontline workers. But those kinds of things, um, in the in the p p p, which is the paycheck protection program not to be confused with PPE, which is the personal protective equipment for the P P P plan. The last numbers I saw 90% of black minority women owned businesses did not get the benefit of it. Right. So another component of our plan is also about reinforcing and strengthening community banks. Right? So C. D. F i s the community development financial institutions. So they have more assets because what we know is that when our entrepreneurs decide they wanna open a business and go get alone, it's the community bank that will know them? No, no. The culture of the community and also give the kind of the assistance is at an entrepreneur A non Traore needs to run a business because if we're just relying on the big banks to do that, that's not gonna happen. So that's a component of our our plan as well, Which is just reinforce and put more resources into the C. D. F. I is the community development financial institutions because they're the ones on the ground so that our businesses have really access in a way that is culturally competent. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much again, Senator Harris, thank you so much for taking the opportunity to answer our questions this afternoon. So far. Last question. Uh, I like to ask Miss Robin Sanders, uh, to give the remaining question for this afternoon. I'm gonna take off my mask. Hi, Senator Harris. My name is Robin Sanders. I'm here with my twin sister, Ashlyn. Um, I'm in my last year of law school right now, and I'll be clerking when I finish. Um, and I will one day run for public office on Guy Can't. Yeah, and I'm honored. Thio, vote for you in this election. Um, I'm deeply troubled by the state of our nation, specifically in with respect to the law and the criminal justice system. Um, as has been stated here today, um, there have been ceaseless murders and executions of black Americans on video. And the most recent travesty in my mind is the Briana Taylor murder. Um, and my question involves accountability and equal protection. Because as I watched Daniel Cameron deliver his press conference, I couldn't help but be disturbed by the perversion of the law. Um, he stated that the Constitution affords equal protection to all citizens, but yet in the same breath urged that Briana Taylor would not receive justice even though the law was clearly broken in that case, Um, so my question is, what are the priorities of the Biden Harris administration to not only demonstrate that, you know, there's a real need for policy change, but what about the accountability piece and the equal protection piece? Because black Americans deserve equal protection under the law and due process. So that's my question. That's right. That's right. That's right. And you must run for office just first get through law school, pass the bar and thank you, Um, to you and your sister both eso you could I couldn't agree with you more. Um, here's here's how I think and talk about it. There is a phrase that's used often in the criminal justice system, which is there needs to be accountability and consequence, accountability and consequence. And that phrase is almost entirely and totally and Onley used in connection with the person arrested and not in connection with the system itself and the actors and players within the system. And that's part of what is broken and unjust about the system. So, to your point on the accountability and consequence piece, if we are gonna be true to those words, we just honored the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, equal justice under law. She who follows in the path. You know that my one of my personal heroes, Thurgood Marshall, equal justice under the law, the fight that were continually waging, which we will one day when, especially when you become a lawyer, we have to agree that there has been a failure tohave equal application of accountability and consequence in the criminal justice system. So That's why, as we were discussing earlier, we have in our plan those things that going to be about accountability and consequences on the case of Briana Taylor, it was a gut punch for all of us to hear that. You know, I've talked toe make a Palmer, her mother starting months ago in most recently, just a couple days ago. Um, you know, what I said is what we started to talk about. That Briana Taylor's life. We will never allow other people to measure. We know the measure of her life and the value of her life. But we still have to fight for the system to recognize, as we often and always say, black lives matter. Um, I have said many times in many speeches and many situations, but America has yet to value the sanctity of black life and has yet to treat black life as fully human. Okay, And her case couldn't be a more recent example of that. So accountability and consequence needs to happen. What would we do? So it's everything that I talked about earlier, and as a former attorney general I was elected is only the second black woman. I think in the history of our country to be elected and attorney general of any state I created when I was attorney general, I actually implemented pattern and practice investigations of law enforcement agencies. Joe and I have a commitment to doing that, which is that the United States Department of Justice, under our leadership, will have the responsibility for seriously engaging in pattern and practice investigations. Putting resource is into not only the pattern and practice of discrimination of excessive force, but also putting resource is into the consent decrees, right? So after a court has found that there is a problem, there usually is a responsibility to fix it. But if you're not supervising that, that's called the consent decree. It's likely to not happen. The other thing we're gonna do is not only as has been done in the distant past, which is toe have pattern practice investigations of law enforcement agency that's gonna include prosecutor's offices, because that needs to happen Also, In addition, I do believe that in the Briana Taylor case, there needs to be a civil rights investigation of what they did by the United States Department of Justice, and we're just gonna have to keep fighting and we're gonna keep saying her name, but we say her name not just to speak her name. We say her name to motivate action, and that's what's most important. Wonderful. Thank you so very much. Senator Harris for coming to the great Tar Heel state of North Carolina and a lot of the issues that we touch today. My grandmother has a saying Real change is hard change, but it's necessary change. And that is the epitome of the campaign that we see. And so we're just so thankful. And we want to turn it over to you for closing remarks. Thank you. Well, I'm just honored to be with so many leaders, I appreciate the candidate and the and the direct conversation we've had. Um, I hope to have many more. There's so much to get done. There's so much to get done and we can get it done. I do believe that, but they're everything that we've talked about in so much more is at stake in this election. I mean, not to mention the man paid $750. Come on now, on top of all of that, adding insult to injury. Um, but there's so much at stake. And when I think about all of our leaders of every generation, I'm here to ask you for your help. Joe and I need your help. I guess my final point would be about voting, brother. Here is this Vote 2020 mask on. You know, um, North Carolina has a specific in a particular history with this issue that has been going on since the ancestor work fighting Shaw, right. Southern Christian leadership, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which John Lewis led and shed his blood on that Edmund Pettus Bridge. In fact, that was the last big public event I attended before the pandemic was toe walk across three Edmund Pettus Bridge with John Lewis. So there is the historical piece of this of all of those who marched and died and shed their blood. There is the piece of it that is about what happened in 2013 when the United States Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act with Shelby v. Holder and as you in North Carolina. No legislatures, then, and in North Carolina's case with surgical precision, passed laws to prevent and to make it difficult for black people to vote. So we've got the reason to vote, which is to honor the ancestors like John Lewis. We've got the reason to vote, which is knowing that there are people who are putting so many powerful obstacles in our way when we have so much at stake. And then here's the other piece that I would just add to close out our thoughts. You got to sit back at some point and ask, Why are so many powerful people trying Thio stand in our way to vote? Like Why? Why are they trying to make it difficult? Why are they trying to confuse people? Why are they trying to suppress the black vote? And here's the answer, I believe because they know when we vote, things change. They know when we vote, things get better and they're scared of that. And so I say, let us not ever let anybody take our power. Not now, not ever Let us not let anyone stand in the way of the power of our vote, no matter how difficult they are trying and they are trying. So let's make sure everybody in North Carolina votes early. Early voting starts Thursday, October 15th Let's let our voices be heard. Yes, in the name of the ancestors. Yes, because there is so much at stake. And yes, because we're not let anybody messing with our power. Thank you all. Thank you. Okay. Thank you, everyone, for joining us this evening. We're gonna take individual photos. So at this time of you will be seated, we'll call you up one by one. Will make sure that we stay socially. Distance from the senator as we begin the photo line. All right, We'll be socially. She would be socially distanced for you as well. And so we're gonna start our moderator since they're right here in front. Uh huh. Please keep your mask on. Yes.