NOEL KING, HOST:
Kamala Harris' inauguration as vice president has special meaning for Black women in America, especially women who went to Howard University, her alma mater, and for members of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. NPR's Melissa Block was listening while a group of old friends got together on Zoom to watch the inauguration.
MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: The women pop up on screen, garlanded with pearls in homage to Kamala Harris' signature necklace. The pearl is a symbol of her sorority. Along with her pearls, Rachel Giordani, an educator in New York, sports a bright red Howard sweatshirt.
RACHEL GIORDANI: So I'm representing for Howard University today. I'm just so excited and super proud.
BLOCK: These Black women have been meeting for the last 25 years in a group they call the Brown Girls Book Club. And they wouldn't dream of missing the chance to join together for this moment to watch Kamala Harris become the first woman, first African American and first Asian American vice president. Even before the ceremony, it was an emotional day for Lesley Esters Redwine, an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sister.
LESLEY ESTERS REDWINE: As I talk about it, it just makes me very overwhelmed because this has been a very long fight.
BLOCK: In 2008, these women all came to Washington to watch Barack Obama become president, says Monica Brady, a middle school principal in New York.
MONICA BRADY: And we were so joyful. There was just so much love in our hearts for each other and for the world - so much hope.
BLOCK: Now, Brady says, getting to see Kamala ascend brings new joy.
BRADY: To see us reflected back to us, not just in her brownness because I think sometimes people get caught up in that but her fierceness. She is a fierce woman, and everybody on this line is as well.
BLOCK: And then the women are riveted as they watch Michelle Obama make her entrance in a belted burgundy ensemble, her hair in a sleek, wavy blowout.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Michelle is coming in looking (laughter)...
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Oh, my gosh.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Wow.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Look at Chelle (ph). Today, we fierce.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Forget it. She snatched from head to toe.
BLOCK: At last, the star attraction, Kamala Harris, emerges from the Capitol in a royal purple coat and matching dress.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Singing) Yes.
BLOCK: And jubilation gives way to tears as the women absorb the weight of this moment.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, my God.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Wow.
BLOCK: And then after Harris and Biden are sworn in...
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Oh, there we go.
BLOCK: ...The friends raise their glasses in a toast.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Ladies, cheers.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: All right. So now we drink.
BLOCK: As she considers this moment, Vivian Wallace-Llodra, who works for JPMorgan Chase, says it's important for girls and boys to see in Kamala Harris a woman unapologetically in power.
VIVIAN WALLACE-LLODRA: So that they can realize, yes, this is normal. You know, this shouldn't be a big deal. And I'm just - like, I'm grateful. I am grateful to have made it to this day because 400,000 Americans did not.
BLOCK: My heart is full, Monica Brady tells her friends before signing off. I feel so hopeful.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Love you guys.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: See you Sunday.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Bye.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Bye. Bye.
BLOCK: Melissa Block, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF KEEM THE CIPHER'S "TRANSCEND.")
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