OAK BLUFFS — Vice President Kamala Harris swung through deep-pocketed Martha’s Vineyard this weekend, hitting two fund-raising events, then enjoying an overnight stay on the island before a scheduled departure to Washington, D.C., Sunday afternoon.
At a grass-roots fund-raiser at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs, Harris walked onstage to Beyoncé's 2022 hit “BREAK MY SOUL” in a tan blazer and white pants and gave a high-energy speech highlighting accomplishments of the Biden-Harris administration and underscoring what is at stake in the 2024 presidential election.
Throughout the speech, she wove in nods to the administration’s accomplishments, including the cap on insulin pricing, investments in high-speed internet, promises to remove lead pipes in communities, and funding for clean-energy investments.
“Elections matter,” she said. “Real people are benefiting because of the work you have done.”
Harris was in Massachusetts last month, when she visited Boston to address the NAACP’s annual convention. During that trip, she made a surprise visit to Roxbury Community College in Boston, where she joined a town hall-style meeting.
Ahead of the vice president’s speech, those who introduced her — including her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison — underscored the significance of the event taking place in Oak Bluffs, which is known for being the country’s oldest summer community for Black vacationers.
More than 600 supporters filled the wooden stands and purple chairs set up in the warm gymnasium, fanning themselves with “reserved” signs and holding complementary aluminum water bottles to their faces.
Tickets for the grass-roots event started at $50, with a $3,300 donation for preferred seating, $6,600 for priority seating, and $10,000 for “co-chair” status, which “includes photo,” according to the invitation.
Ayana Morris, a 37-year-old real estate developer from Newark, sat in the wooden bleachers with her 6-year-old son, Akhari, who played games on her cellphone. Morris was already on the island for a vacation in Chilmark.
“When she and Biden won, I’m sure every Black woman across the country, and I as well, felt like it was a moment for all of us,” Morris said. “I thought I would jump at the chance, I wanted my little one to be along for the experience.”
A few seats away, Michelle Owens, a financial advisor from North Bethesda, Md., was eager to hear Harris speak.
She said she hopes the vice president leaves attendees with “an actionable thing.” Owens said for her part, she plans to ensure all 18 of her nieces and nephews are registered to vote for the 2024 election.
“Until it’s over, I’m worried every day,” said Owens, 67, who is vacationing with friends in Oak Bluffs. “I can’t imagine a life, a world, a country with Trump as the president again.”
During her speech, Harris emphatically spoke about what is at stake in 2024, highlighting Republican-led initiatives like expansion of abortion restrictions and rollbacks of gun laws. She called some Republicans “extremist, so-called leaders.”
She said Democrats “must be clear-eyed about what is afoot,” and reminded them of how they organized voters to turn out amid a global COVID-19 pandemic.
“It can’t just be about speeches, it has to be about getting stuff done,” she said. “And we have more work to do, especially as we are clear-eyed about the moment we are in, where I believe there is a national agenda to purposefully attack hard-won freedoms and rights in America.”
Harris also made several thinly veiled references to Florida governor and 2024 Republican presidential contender Ron DeSantis.
She alluded to a recent comment by DeSantis, who suggested that Black people benefited from slavery, and spoke about Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law and a recent decision by a Florida school district that some works by William Shakespeare would run afoul of the law.
“I mean talk about ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’” she said. “If it weren’t so terrifying, it would be a comedy.”
She ended by paraphrasing the late Coretta Scott King: “The fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation.”
She was briefly interrupted by two hecklers, both of whom were quickly removed by building security.
Earlier in the day, Harris attended a smaller event at supporter Maria Harleston’s Martha’s Vineyard home.
There, she touched on similar topics in a 20-minute speech to attendees, who included Maryland Governor Wes Moore, former Black Entertainment Television CEO Debra Lee, actor Don Cheadle, civil rights attorney Areva Martin, and comedian Chris Spencer.
Harris is familiar with the island. She came to the Vineyard last August for a fund-raiser after an abortion rights roundtable in Boston. In a 2009 interview with the Vineyard Gazette, she said she visits the Island almost every summer to see family. Maya Lakshmi Harris, the vice president’s sister, owns a home in Katama, the Gazette reported.