Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student…
Kamala Devi Harris (a.ka. Kamala Aunty) has broken barriers for not just women but Black and South Asian Americans with her win as Vice President of the United States. A proud Indian and Black woman, she takes on this role with grace, and as she says, though she may be the first she will truly not be the last.
It is phenomenal to believe that the rising generation of children will never live in a world where a woman has not led the nation. Little Brown and Black girls will never grow up in a world where they feel they can’t reach their dreams. Kamala Aunty has shown us the path to the top, and whether you agree with her political positions and choices or not, it is undisputed that her rise to the top is deserving of respect.
Asian Americans honoring the new vice president shared the same sentiments at the AAPI inauguration ball. The hour-long livestream even on Biden’s Inauguration YouTube channel was hosted by IMPACT, the Indian American Advocacy and Political Action Committee, and RUN AAPI, an AAPI youth voter outreach campaign. RUN AAPI is founded by Asian American actress Chloe Bennett, known for her role in Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ and Asian American producer Brad Jenkins.
The AAPI inauguration ball was an effort to place America’s greatest strength at the forefront, its diversity. The official inauguration events included the APPI, Black, and Latino communities with various leaders, entertainers, performers, and grassroots organizations within each community being represented.
“In the spirit of America United, the committee is excited to add three events to the official inaugural activities schedule that will showcase one of our greatest strengths as a nation, our diversity,” said PIC CEO and President of Delaware State University, Dr Tony Allen. “This programming will honour acts of resilience, heroism, and commitment to unity from the Black, Latino, and AAPI communities as the coalitions that make up our nation come together to celebrate a new chapter in our history.”
The AAPI inauguration ball included AAPI organizers and political leaders as well as celebrities, musical performances, and cultural performances. Bennett and Jenkins kicked off the event as hosts, cheering the success of Harris and the rise of a new and (hopefully) brighter day with the Biden administration. The event started with a lovely performance by singers of Hawaiian descent singing ‘This Is Me.’ The performance even included groups performing traditional Hawaiian dances. IMPACT founders Raj Goyle and Deepak Raj also spoke of the historic moment.
The line-up also included OMB Director-designate Neera Tanden and Congress members Ami Bera, Grace Meng, Ro Khanna, Judy Chu, Pramila Jayapal, Andy Kim, and Raja Krishnamoorthi. Everyone’s favorite ice skating queen, former Olympian Michelle Kwan. Asian actors Kal Penn, John Cho, Kumail Nanjiani, Nik Dodani, Parvesh Cheema, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Lilan Bowden, Lou Diamond Phillips, Daniel Dae Kim, and Chloe Bennett also shared their joy and their experiences growing up in America. The event had performances by Japanese Breakfast, Raja Kumari, and Ari Afsar.
Pakistani-American actor, filmmaker, and comedian Kumail Nanjiani spoke of how his family had felt “welcomed” when they immigrated to America but under the Trump administration ripped those feelings of safety away. Speaking of his mother, Nanjiani said “She says things like ‘They don’t want us here, where are we going to go?’ … I’ll tell you, this election has restored my mom’s faith in America. She feels proud to call America home again.”
Sharing the same sentiment as Nanjiani, Asian American actor John Cho said “I never thought that those ideals that drew our family across an ocean needed protection. That we as citizens and our leaders needed to work to keep those ideals real and alive.”
Cho’s “Harold and Kumar” partner in crime, Indian American actor Kal Penn said “there’s been a lot of good cries, you know what I mean? A lot of good inspirational cries.”
Disney’s “Andy Mack” star Lilan Bowden also reports she shed tears over this win. Bowden said “the AAPI vote surged, and we turned out more than ever before and I have to say on election night I shed tears. Not only because I’m looking forward to better times ahead but for the first time in my life I got to see a woman a color, who is also of Asian American descent take the podium.”
Like Bowden, Nepali fashion designer Prabal Gurung also spoke of how personally impactful it is for him to see an Asian American woman in the form of Kamala Aunty take the stage. “Being born in Singapore, raised in Nepal, and living in India, Australia, and London; I came here because for me, like so many immigrants, American represented a land of endless possibilities,” Gurung said. “I see an image of Kamala Harris in a sari and I think of my nieces who can now look to the highest officer in the world and see themselves represented. Our visibility matters.”
It has been a long time coming and Asians across the nation finally feel seen and heard. “Prodigal Son” actor Lou Diamond Phillips said, “this year we have seen Asian Americans turn out in bigger numbers than ever and take our seat at the table.”
Asian American actor, Daniel Dae Kim shares his delightful surprise, stating “I have to admit there are times I thought this day will never come, but here it is.”
The lovely event wrapped up with some inspiration worlds from Harris’ niece, Meena who shared her pride and joy that her daughters can break barriers like her aunt.
“Every young girl, like my young girls, will live in a country that’s history will forever be changed,” Harris said. “They will know that their dreams, their ambitions, their stories, can and will continue to break barriers. As my aunty says, she may be the first but she will not be the last. women like Ella Baker, Rosa Parks, Marsha P. Johnson, Patsy Mink, Yuri Kochiyama, Dorthy Height, thank you, thank you, thank you. we stand on your shoulders.”
Vice President Kamala Harris ended the event with a few words herself sharing her pride as an Asian American woman, her gratitude for the Asian population that has come out to support her endlessly, and her love of her people. Kamala Aunty hopes to continue with her commitment to the vision of a “stronger, more united America that provides an opportunity for all.”
As Kamala Aunty says, she may be the first but she will not be the last Asian woman to take charge and change the world.
Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student who was born and raised in New York City. There is very little she loves more than Harry Potter marathons, pizza, 90s Bollywood, bagels, falooda, and her family. She hopes to use her powers for good by spreading mental health awareness and positivity in the South Asian community through her love of writing.