'Failing Not An Option': VP Harris Relies on Black Women's Support Amid 'Toxic Management' Claims
15:22 GMT 08.12.2021 (Updated: 16:34 GMT 08.12.2021)
After an exodus of staffers, such as Kamala Harris’ long-time aide Symone Sanders, communications director Ashley Etienne, director of press operations Peter Velz, and deputy director of public engagement Vince Evans, there has been a slew of media reports suggesting that the vice-president’s leadership style is questionable.
US vice-president Kamala Harris
hosted a private meeting in her office on Monday with around 20 members of Black Women Leaders & Allies, Politico reported
The gathering, both in-person and via Zoom, brought together a coalition of groups focused on civil rights issues as Harris hopes to recruit new staff and fine-tune her VP role.
Attendees also offered their opinions from voting rights to other issues facing Black people in the country, according to officials cited by the outlet.
However, most importantly, the Black community, claimed the insiders, sought to offer more help to serve as the VP’s “ambassadors” where they could.
6 December 2021, 12:26 GMT
Harris, being the first coloured woman to serve in the executive office, has been seen by many women who attended the meeting, as symbolic. With the VP receiving a great deal of criticism, fending off accusations of being a "bully" and having a toxic management style, those at the meeting purportedly shared a desire to prove Harris’ detractors wrong.
“Her failing is not an option… One thing we talked about is ensuring that she has ambassadors who can actually speak to this. Kind of connecting to her personally... who is Kamala? The entire person, the politician, the leader, the wife, the mother. Connecting [all of] that does make our mission as black women fighting for this work even more important than ever,” Shavon Arline-Bradley, president and chair of D4 Women In Action, was cited as saying.
This comes as accounts of internal discord tearing the vice-president’s office apart have flooded the media, fed by an exodus of key aides.
“Stories [about Harris] focus more on style than substance. Naturally, there’s an element of creating a new construct. That’s part of what she’s doing — [along with] the team. And she’s doing a lot more than she gets credit for,” a source was cited as saying.
One of the issues Harris focused on at Monday’s meeting was changes on voting rights reform from agencies including the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Bureau of Prisons, according to women who attended the meeting. Increased voter engagement was high on the list of recommendations the group purportedly made to Harris.
“So those are some of the ways we make sure people have access to the ballot, access to registration, access to information,” said Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, who helped to arrange the meeting.
The assembled group also touched on provisions within the larger Build Back Better Act
that specifically targets families, women and children. The next day, on 7 December, Kamala Harris convened the first ever Maternal Health Day of Action Summit, where she urged nationwide action to solve the maternal health crisis.
“Regardless of income level, regardless of education level, Black women, Native women, women who live in rural areas are more likely to die or be left scared or scarred from an experience that should be safe and should be a joyful one,” Harris said in her remarks.
The meeting on Monday was described by some insiders as a “recalibrating” by Harris.
“There are communities of stakeholders and validators that would like to lift the vice-president and amplify what she is doing… Folks want to know what will help and what will hurt her,” Rachel Noerdlinger, a communications strategist attending the meeting was cited as saying.
The report comes as a person who worked for Kamala Harris before she assumed the vice-presidency told The Washington Post that aides in her office had to endure a "constant amount of soul-destroying criticism".
This comes on top of allegations of a toxic work environment fuelled by the departure of Symone Sanders, Harris' chief spokesperson, Peter Velz, the director of press operations, and Vince Evans, deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.
7 December 2021, 10:14 GMT
However, in response to criticism, Harris allies reject attacks purportedly triggered by her ground-breaking profile as the first coloured woman to hold the vice-presidency.
The White House weighed into reports of purported dysfunction in Kamala Harris' office and the exodus of staff, with press secretary Jen Psaki saying it was “natural for staffers… to be ready to move on to a new challenge after a few years."