As South Asians celebrate, Kamala Harris says she’ll ensure a pathway for community

By Arul Louis

New York: On the eve of her taking over as the path-breaking first vice president of Asian descent, Kamala Harris assured her fellow Americans celebrating her victory that she will ensure a pathway is open for the community — and that is a lesson she learnt from her mother.

She said at a celebration by Asian Americans on Tuesday, “My mother Shyamala Gopalan arrived in the US from India, she raised my sister Maya and me to know that though we may be the first, we should not be the last. And I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career.”

The Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Ball is one of the traditional galas held around the inauguration ceremony and this year’s events were held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Asian Ball held a special significance for the community this time as one of their own was becoming the vice president, the second most powerful position in the nation. Americans of Asian origin expressed their joy and congratulated the community for contributing to her election.

Performances and speeches by Asian American entertainers were the highlight of the event which also featured members of Congress and community leaders.

Harris said, “Your continued faith in me has brought me to this moment. When I accepted the nomination to be your vice president, I did so fully committed to realizing the vision of a stronger, more united America that provides an opportunity for all.”

The pan-Asian event on the theme “Breaking Barrier” was sponsored by Indian American Impact Fund, which aims to produce more political leaders from the community, and RUN AAPI, a youth organization.

IMPACT co-founder Raj Goyal was jubilant about the rapid rise of someone with Indian heritage to be the vice president.

He said, “We never knew how quickly we may see a ‘desi’ at the national level. When I was elected to the Kansas legislature in 2006, it was unimaginable. We’ve come so far in such a short period of time.”

Hollywood actor Kal Penn and hip hop artiste Raja Kumari participated.

The founder of Indiaspora, M.R. Rangaswamy, said he had met Harris  when she was the San Francisco public prosecutor and “seen her grow from strength to strength” and now she is going to be the new vice president in a “historic administration”.

Neera Tanden, who will be a member of the cabinet as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said, “Not only can we celebrate an incredibly diverse cabinet, but also that we have the first vice president from Asian descent.”

IMPACT’ Executive Director Neil Makhija said, “Our community turned out in record numbers. We really made our voices heard. And we changed the course of history” with Biden-Harris election.

Representative Ro Khanna said, “I can’t stress what an amazing moment this is for our community, and frankly, for a multiracial democracy in America.”

Representative Pramila Jayapal said that she was excited to see “the first woman, the first South Asian American, and the first black American to ever be elected to this position of public trust.”

Pakistani American comedian-actor Kumail Nanjiani said that after the alienation felt by people like him and his family, finally his mother “feels proud to call America home”.


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