On January 20, Kamala Harris did what no woman before her had done: she put her hand on a bible and took the oath of office to serve as vice president of the United States.
For millions of people across the US, Harris’ moment at the inauguration felt like the beginning of a new chapter in American history. Harris is not just the first woman, but also the first Black and first South Asian-American politician to become the country’s VP.
But looming over the moment were the events of just two weeks prior when a mostly white, pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol building in an attempt to negate the votes of 81 million Americans – including Black voters in swing states who had helped deliver the election for Joe Biden and Harris.
Still, that didn’t stop millions of people from across the country, and the globe, from witnessing Harris’ historic moment from the safety of their homes. They wore pearl necklaces and Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers – a nod to Harris’ signature style – and tagged their photos on social media #ChucksAndPearls2021.
Insider asked readers to tell us how they spent Inauguration Day and to reflect on Harris’ early days as vice president. They shared their joy at the progress her ascent represented while acknowledging that the fight for social justice and racial equality that helped usher Harris to the podium was far from complete.
The responses were many and varied: people sat glued to their large-screen TVs, wore symbolic colors, and followed along with their children.
Merissa Green, a resident of Winter Haven, Florida said she was taking the day to “enjoy what our great grandmothers and ancestors never got the chance to see or be.”
We’ve collected some of the best responses from Insider readers below. These responses have been edited for length and clarity.
‘Today we have HOPE’
“Some, like me, are still chasing a dream. But today, we have HOPE. When one ascends, every black woman still waiting for her moment feels she has ascended. For every sista who was the first, reach back so you won’t be the last.”
– Merissa Green, from Winter Haven, Florida. She wore pearls and purple chucks to view Harris’ inauguration.
‘The hard work is not done’
“To see a black woman rise to that height and in our government just renewed and restored my stake in our country, because quite frankly, it’s been squashed the past four years and everything that’s gone on.”
“Our hard work is not just this past year’s hard work. Barbara Jordan goes back to Shirley Chisholm goes back to Sojourner Truth goes back to Harriet Tubman.”
“[Harris’ Inauguration] also lets me know that the hard work is not done. Because historically, if you look at the progress of minorities in general, and black people specifically, it’s kind of three steps forward, two steps back.”
“And so I know that [despite] the pride that I feel, there is an uncomfortably large proportion of our society that is angered and even more resolved, to make sure that there is no equity. And equality. So I don’t fool myself. Yeah, we can all revel in the day that her swearing-in brings and President Biden’s swearing-in brings, but we cannot fool ourselves to think for one second it’s not gonna be a hard-charged, uphill slog going forward.”
– Janet Galbraith, 55, from Texas, who wore pearls and Converse sneakers to honor Harris on Inauguration Day.
‘So powerful you had to see it, no matter how you had to see it’
“As women, we need to honor other women. We need to honor and respect the women who have worked so hard to get here. And I just was so grateful to see it.”
“I wore my Native earrings. I belong to the first Native American sorority in the country [Alpha Pi Omega] and I wore my own colors. We had some of our sisters who were wearing pearls honoring her. We were wearing our shirts for sure, we were wearing our colors.”
“I watched it on my 60-inch TV. Right there in my living room. Full, powerful. I wanted to be there so bad, but that was what we could do.”
“60-inch screen TV. Enjoyed every moment of it.”
“Enjoyed the music, even not having the ability for people to gather to celebrate that moment. That would have been a devastating thing in most situations, but I think with the situation that led up to that day…that moment was so powerful you had to see it, no matter how you had to see it.”
“It just was so powerful for me to see this woman, who comes from the intersectionality of not only being a woman, but being a woman of color, and a woman that is multiracial, as am I, and knowing that we have a possibility of that being commonplace by the time my granddaughters can go to university and decide what they want to do and not have to face the assumptions that you are not qualified. That’s something that I’ve had to deal with all my life, that I know Kamala has to deal with all of her life: the assumptions that people make because of the bias that goes on in this world.”
– Denise Henning, 62, is a member of the Cherokee Nation and Mississippi Choctaw and a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
‘This feels like a point where everything has stopped, and as we restart as a country.’
“I took [my three children] to the office with me. We have TVs around the office, and we were able to watch the inauguration.”
“My oldest one was very into the inauguration and was listening to the speeches. He’s 14. It was a real moment to watch this with the kids, and have the opportunity to watch it with the kids. Normally under nonpandemic conditions, they’d watch it at school.”
“What I wanted him to take away was the stark contrast of all of the historical perspective of all the white men and then having Kamala’s picture as the next vice president.”
“I think that this feels like a point where everything has stopped, and as we restart as a country we have a choice in the direction in which we go because we don’t have that momentum behind us pushing us and staying in the same kind of path we’ve been forging for ourselves. I think this is an opportunity to rethink our business, our pleasure, our friends, and, politically, what we should do going forward.”
– Tiffany Devereux, 46, of North Carolina, an entrepreneur whose business had been affected due to the pandemic.