The vice presidential candidate got her own shoe and talked about racial inequality in America with the owner of a Charlotte sneaker shop.
While there’s a long list of fiercely contested issues Americans disagree on, most of us can find common ground on a few things: music, food, and shoes.
In her multi-stop trip to North Carolina last week, Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris stopped at Social Status in Charlotte to buy and talk kicks. Harris was a guest on a new episode of “Sneaker Shopping,” a YouTube series by Complex Networks, a pop culture media outfit based in New York City.
During the episode, Harris talked about everything from her footwear choices as an undergrad to how COVID-19 has affected small businesses like Social Status that are owned by people of color.
“Very rarely were we wearing tennis shoes,” said Harris of her time studying political science and economics at Howard University. “We dressed up on Fridays to walk the yard and in between that we were protesting apartheid on Capitol Hill.”
When asked what big clothing brands could do for frontline workers during the pandemic, the California senator spoke about what small businesses could look forward to under a Biden-Harris administration. “Paying for PPEs for their employees, that can get expensive,” said Harris. “We’re going to provide grants to help small businesses do that kind of thing, knowing that’s a real expense that they may not be able to afford as they’re trying to reopen.”
The vice presidential candidate also described how COVID-19 has accelerated America’s systematic inequalities, something she noted in Asheville hours before arriving in Charlotte. Both Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden blame Trump for making these problems worse by his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to George Floyd and Jacob Blake’s killings by police, the economic downturn of the pandemic reignited the movement to support Black-owned businesses, she said.
RELATED: Cardinal Votes: Your Guide to Voting in North Carolina in 2020
“They’re part of the economic lifeblood of their communities,” said Harris. “Small business owners in our communities are also civic leaders, not just business leaders. Part of what Joe (Biden) and I are saying is we’re going to intentionally focus on minority-owned businesses around getting low interest loans and access to capital so they can grow.”
Social Status owner and fashion entrepreneur James Whitner also appeared in the episode to introduce a new shoe inspired by Sen. Harris. Designed by New York artist Nina Chanel, the shoe is a white high-top Converse with “2020” written on the outside and interchangeable pin buttons that include messages like “vote,” “Black joy”, and “stop hate.”
Originally from Pittsburgh, Whitner brought his dream of opening a streetwear store to Charlotte in 2004.
Social Status now has eight locations across the country, including three NC stores in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro.
At the end of the episode, Harris purchased one pair of the sneakers and the remaining 21 pairs were donated to students at Johnson C. Smith University, an historically Black college in Charlotte.
Harris said the Biden-Harris ticket plans to support HBCUs ,which have been disproportionately funded by states.
“I’m a proud graduate of a HBCU,” said Harris. “Joe and I, we’re committed to putting $70 billion into HBCUs to help them grow and to help them nurture all these bright minds. It’s so important that we recognize the historical significance of our HBCUs, and the role that they play right now.”
With just a week left in this election, Harris urged young viewers and potential first time voters to use their voice.
“Don’t let anybody take your power from you. Your vote is an expression of your power. It’s an expression of your voice,” said Harris. “I don’t want us to win this election without you. I want you to be a part of this.”