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Kamala Harris 'welcomed home' in Zambia; may help boost Biden 2024 run

Vice President ‘ historic tour to Africa has drawn to a close – and her trip has been described as a hopeful political boost to get black US voters backing Biden.

Harris was ‘welcomed home’ in many countries, including Zambia, where she once visited as a little girl when her grandfather worked there.It caused the president of the country, Hakainde Hichilema, to describe her presence as being ‘like a homecoming’ while calling her a ‘daughter of our own country’.

Aside from some tactful international diplomacy in which billions of dollars of U.S.investment was promised, it is hoped the visit may resonate with black Americans as Biden gears up for a second term.

In Ghana, President Nana Akufo-Addo told Harris ‘you’re welcome home.’ In Tanzania, a sign in Swahili told Harris to ‘feel at home.’ 

The greetings were a reflection of the enduring connections between the African diaspora in the United States and Africans themselves, something that America’s first black vice president fostered during her trip. 

Although her historic status has led to extreme scrutiny and extraordinary expectations in Washington, it was a source of excitement over the past week. 

Vice President Kamala Harris addressed young people gathered on Black Star square in Accra, Ghana, on Tuesday

Vice President Harris laughs during a state banquet in Accra, Ghana, last Monday

 

Harris tweeted a picture of herself as a young girl in Zambia, juxtaposed to one from this past week

Vice President Kamala Harris posts video of women and girls proudly greeting her during her trip to Zambia on Saturday

‘She is the ambassador we need at the moment,’ said Tracy Sharpley-Whiting, who chairs African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University.’That´s a joyous thing.’

Harris´ background did not spare her from difficult conversations about U.S. foreign policy and she was pressed in Africa about visas, Best Private University investment and funding to deal with climate change. 

There’s also skepticism over whether the United States will follow through with its commitments and over its attempts to 

But at every stop, Harris was warmly embraced.

‘Kamala Harris!Kamala Harris!’ young girls shouted on the tarmac when she landed in Lusaka on Friday. She approached them with her hand on her chest in gratitude. ‘The VP is here! The VP is here!’

The historic trip allowed her to reconnect with black Americans, the support of whom is  crucial for her and President Joe Biden’s 2024 bid for reelection.

The tour to three African countries was loaded with references and imagery that will send strong signals to black voters in the U.S.and likely resonate across the African diaspora. 

She spoke at symbolically important sites while also referencing US civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis.

Harris’ time in Zambia was particularly special as she visited the site of her maternal grandfather’s home in Lusaka, where her grandfather lived as an Indian public servant in the 1960s.

Harris was welcomed by girls in Zambia, and told to ‘feel at home’

P.V.Gopalan was working with the newly independent Zambia government six decades ago on refugee resettlement and lived at 16 Independence Ave., where Harris visited as a little girl.

The home no longer exists; rather, an office building now stands on the plot of land. 

Harris on Friday said it was ‘very special’ to go back, and she described her grandfather as ‘one of my favorite people’ with a lasting influence on her life.

At Cape Coast Castle, a former slave-trading post in Ghana, Harris delivered an emotional address about the painful history of slavery and her own ties to Africa, going mostly off-script from prepared remarks, according to a person familiar with the planning.As she toured the site, she was seen wiping away tears and shaking her head.

‘It’s so meaningful for a number of reasons, n, and the .

Harris made an addresses at Independence Square in Accra, Ghana – the first stop on her tour

Ghanaians gathered to hear Harris made an address in Ghana

Harris laid a wreath at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.The castle in was one of around 40 ‘slave castles’ that served as prisons and embarkation points for slaves en route to the Americas

Vice President Kamala Harris smiles as she arrives in Accra, Ghana, last Sunday

Harris is pictured delivering a speech on sustainable farming solutions at Panuka Farms, in Chisamba District, Zambia in Saturday 

Harris speaks with farm manager Harold Mweemba, at Panuka Farms, in Chisamba District, Zambia

Harris is pictured visiting the State House in Lusaka, Zambia on Friday

But anyone tuning in would have seen Harris hanging out with actor Idris Elba and actor-singer Sheryl Lee Ralph at a recording studio in Accra, Ghana’s capital, or collecting business cards from young entrepreneurs in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, or .Sometimes she felt comfortable enough to discard her prepared remarks, a rarity for a politician who sticks closely to the script in Washington.

Although Africa remains a poor continent with almost half the population , Harris´ itinerary was aimed at portraying it as young, dynamic, innovative – and primed for American business opportunities, particularly with leaders from the diaspora.

The most glamorous event was a state banquet at the Ghanaian presidential palace known as the Jubilee House, where black American celebrities, business people and civil rights activists gathered.

In her toast, Harris paid tribute to attendees who ‘represent the glorious beauty of the African diaspora’ and she spoke about ‘our shared destiny.’

Harris was greeted by traditional dancers as she arrives in Accra, Ghana

Harris walked around at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, which served as a prison for slaves

Vice President Kamala Harris and First Gentleman Douglas Emhoff listen to a guide as they toured Cape Coast Castle in Ghana

Harris  and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff grew emotional during a tour of the Cape Coast Castle

Akufo-Addo, the president, honored Harris with a local touch.

Harris delivered remarks after touring the Cape Coast slave castle in Cape Coast, Ghana

‘Since you were born on a Tuesday, I´m sure you would not mind the Ghanaian name Abena, the Akan name for all Tuesday born females, to your name,’ he said.

Raising his glass, Akufo-Addo toasted ‘the honorable Kamala Devi Abena Harris.’

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said there was a ‘festive and family’ atmosphere to be there with the first Black vice president in U.S.history.

‘It´s a moment of pride,’ he said. ‘And it´s a moment of opportunity.’

The trip could be Harris’ last foray overseas before the 2024 campaign begins in earnest. President Joe Biden is expected to announce his reelection run, and Harris will be a prime target for Republican attacks.

Some of that is the result of Biden´s age – he would be 82 when starting a second term in 2025 – and Harris´ status a heartbeat away from the presidency.

On Wednesday Harris conducted a roundtable of women entrepreneurs to discuss economic empowerment, inclusion, and leadership in  Ghana

Harris visits Panuka farms outside Lusaka, Zambia, on Saturday.Pictured left is Bruno Mweemba, the farm’s founder

Harris mets with traditional leaders at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana in the early part of last week

But like President Barack Obama before her, Harris has faced racism and questions when it comes to her heritage.

Her father was born in Jamaica, where most black citizens trace their heritage to Africa through the slave trade, making it likely that

Her mother was born in India, and the vice president was raised in California, contributing to a multicultural background that defies easy characterization. (It was her mother’s Indian father who worked in Zambia decades ago, helping to settle refugees in the newly independent African country.)

But Harris wrote in her book, ‘The Truths We Hold,’ that her mother was clear-eyed about what it meant to raise two daughters in the United States.’She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women,’ Harris wrote.

Harris wrote that when she arrived at Howard University in Washington, a predominantly Black institution that has educated generations of Black political and cultural leaders, she thought, ‘This is heaven.’

‘There were hundreds of people, and everyone looked like me,’ Harris wrote.’The campus was a place where you didn´t have to be confined to the box of another person´s choosing.’

Harris was greeted by Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema in Lusaka, Zambia on Friday

Harris, left, and Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan speak during a news conference following their meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Thursday

People welcomed Harris at the airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

A sea of supporters sporting crisp white t-shirts and hats with her smiling face on it as she posed in front of an American flag.People waved the American and Tanzanian flags as citizens danced to the traditional music

Harris shares a light moment with Tanzanian climate entrepreneur, Gibson Kiwago at the SNDBX Space, a space for freelancers, entrepreneurs, builders, innovators and creatives

Harris was San Francisco’s district attorney while Obama was running for president, and she defended him when his racial identity was questioned.He´s the son of a white American mother and a Kenyan father, and he spent part of his youth in Indonesia.

that Obama ‘is opening up what has been a limited perspective of who is an African American.’

‘We are diverse and multifaceted,’ Harris said.’People are bombarded with stereotypical images and so they are limited in their ability to imagine our capacity.’

Harris faced the same strain of commentary during her own presidential campaign in 2020.

‘I think they don´t understand who black people are.I´m not going to spend my time trying to educate people about who black people are,’ she said in a radio interview at the time.

The relationship between the African diaspora and Africans on the continent has been complicated by the history of slavery.African Americans often aren´t sure of their roots because their ancestors were kidnapped and traded. According to the vice president´s office, Harris hasn´t traced her heritage back here, either.

Nevertheless, Sharpley-Whiting said the bond to Africa remains strong for many black Americans.

Zambia’s Vice President Mutale Nalumango leads a welcome reception for U.S.Vice President Kamala Harris, at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, Lusaka, Zambia last week

US Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema (R) are seen at the State House in Lusaka, Zambia

Harris meets Tanzania Vice President Philip Mpango before departing from the Julius Nyerere Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 

Harris addresses youths gathered on Black Star square in Accra, Ghana

‘They recognize it as the place where their ancestors started, and they recognize the resilience of those ancestors,’ she said.

when she visited Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, one of dozens of forts in West Africa where enslaved Africans were imprisoned and then loaded onto ships bound for the Americas.The Caribbean – including Jamaica – was one of the destinations.

‘I’m still processing a lot of it,’ she told reporters the following day. She lingered on the experiences of pregnant women who were imprisoned there – their babies were taken from them and the women were sent off across the ocean.

‘The brutality, the inhumane treatment of human beings is profound,’ she said.’And the lasting trauma of that cannot be denied.’

But she soon turned to another topic when asked what she wanted black Americans to take away from her trip to Africa.

The message, she said, wasn´t just about ‘how the diaspora came to be.’

It´s about ‘the resilience, the strength, fortitude, the brilliance, the excellence.’

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