Making friends

Today I went to Senator Harris’ campaign rally. It was exciting to think that I might be seeing America’s first female president.

With a couple of dozen vying for the job, some of whom are much better funded, her odds of making it may not be great, but I think she could do it.

I was also looking forward to hearing Bakari Sellers moderate the town hall-style meeting. He’s an impressive figure in his own right, and I fully expect to see him in a federal office soon.

To me, though, the rapport between the two was as compelling as the rally.

An Orangeburg icon and a gifted orator, Mr. Sellers delivered his introduction expertly. He called out folks by name, offering each a wide smile. He gave a deep bow to SCSU and all HBCUs, and he talked about Dr. King’s “fierce urgency of now.”

That’s when it stopped being an ordinary political rally.

Mr. Sellers went on to explain that there are two dates that have sealed his personal commitment to Senator Harris’ campaign and to the causes she is championing.

The first was February 8, 1968, the date of the Orangeburg Massacre, in which highway patrol officers fired on civil rights protesters, killing three students and injuring 27, and for which incident his father was sentenced to prison.

The second was January 7, 2019, the day his wife gave birth to their twins, Stokely and Sadie. He halted for a moment. His head dipped down, and he closed his eyes so that he could regain his breath and his composure.

When he spoke again, Mr. Sellers explained that Senator Harris was the only candidate in the race who was fighting, literally, for the lives of black women like his wife, who nearly died the day their twins were born.

A fact of which I was unaware until today, is that — irrespective of income or education — black women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Apparently, healthcare professionals simply don’t take the concerns expressed by black patients as seriously as they take the concerns they receive from white patients.

Apparently, too, Senator Harris has proposed legislation aimed specifically at reducing this disparity. Naturally, Mr. Sellers is doing whatever he can to make sure she succeeds.

This is the stuff of friendships that last and, perhaps, of campaigns that succeed.