‘A shining example’: How an HBCU and sorority helped shape Kamala Harris’ leadership

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kamala Harris will make history Wednesday when she’s sworn in as the first female and first African American and Asian American Vice President of the United States.

Women from various backgrounds are celebrating this moment, but especially women in Harris’ sorority.

“She has transcended all of the barriers that is before us. She has been a shining example that if you want something, you go after it, and you go after it with teal and tenacity,” said Twyla Woods-Buford, Midwestern regional director of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. “And I am so proud of her as a person, but I am also so proud of her as one of my sorority sisters.”

Like Buford, Harris is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. It’s the country’s first black sorority, founded in 1908 at Harris’ alma mater, Howard University, a historically black school. To date, the international organization that boasts more than 300,000 college educated women.

Harris joined the sorority while attending Howard.

The local regional representative for the organization said one of their missions is to develop leaders, and Harris is a prime example.

“It means a lot to us as a sorority because she exemplifies what we are all about, which is service, scholarship and sisterhood,” Buford said. “It means a lot of us because she is a member of our esteemed organization she represents, but she represents a lot of other young ladies of color that may have aspirations. She has said to them, there is no ceiling for you.”

The sorority’s motto is ‘Service to all Mankind,’ a passion Harris said is not only a passion, but a dedication.

Buford said she believes a lot of Harris’ traits were instilled in the sorority. It’s not only making history to have a member climb this high but also gives the Greek brand a new place in history.

“I do think that there may have been misunderstandings or just misinformation, or maybe just no information at all for many people when it comes to what is Greek life and what the Greeks is all about,” Buford said.

“They get the pictures of us strolling and stepping. But what they really need to understand is our real premise is about service and being there for those who are less fortunate, reaching out and providing support.”

A special Inauguration watch party celebrating Harris will be held at Soiree Steak & Oyster House in the 18th & Vine District on Wednesday.

The event, titled “Chucks and Pearls,” will feature special speakers, live music, food and drinks.

“I love to be able to share my space and use it as a platform for local artists, national artists, women that are celebrating businesses, political, and everything. I like to put people on a pedestal, and she’s one of those,” owner and chef Anita Moore said. “The first woman, the first African America woman, person of color to be sworn in, it’s a whole celebration in its own right.”

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