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Tears flow in Birmingham-area after Biden-Harris win

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A jubilant Jarvis Mitchell, Hoover resident, was in downtown Birmingham on Sunday one day after Joe Biden secured enough Electoral College votes to become the 46th U.S. President. (Sydney Melson, The Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

When former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris were elected as the president and vice-president elect, Alabama state Representative Juandalynn Givan cried and thought about little Black girls currently living in public housing and the four little girls killed in a Birmingham church bombing.

“The fact the [four girls] were killed here in Birmingham [in 1963] and will never ever realize the impact of having the first Black female elected in one of the highest offices in this country as vice president made me emotional,” said Givan. “I thought about the little girls throughout various housing communities, I thought about all of these young girls who live in the Birmingham area and even the world who may have thought this dream would be unattainable… I thought about a dream deferred that had come into fruition.”

Biden, a Democrat defeated Donald Trump, the incumbent Republican, to become the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, after surpassing the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the election.

Givan was one of several local and state leaders emotional after Biden and Harris secured the votes to win the 2020 presidential election.

Alabama Democrat Senator Doug Jones said Biden, his friend of 40 years, is the best person for the job.

“Joe is the right person to begin to heal the deep divisions that have been exposed and exploited over the past several years,” said Jones, who lost his Senate seat last week to Republican Tommy Tuberville.  “But more than that, I know [Biden] is a man of integrity to his core and cares deeply about our country and its people.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson said she also “cried like a baby” after Saturday’s results and was not only excited by the Biden-Harris ticket but also for “people who live in the United States . . . I feel like a change is coming and an opportunity for our voice to be heard out of four years of [what] we have been through. This is our chance to make some major moves in this country.”

Tyson, who was instrumental in mobilizing voters in Jefferson County and surrounding areas, registering offenders at both the Birmingham and Bessemer Jails and helping to organizing Saturday voting, said she was pleased by the Black voter turnout.

“This shows that we do vote,” she said pointing to long lines of African-American voters in cities like Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia, “that has never happened. We are the underdog and people think we won’t vote, but this time everyone was waiting on our vote. All of the mail-in votes they were waiting on were in the Black areas and it shows that we do go out and vote.”

State Rep. Rolanda Hollis, who also worked with Tyson to organize the Saturday voting in Jefferson County, said Biden’s message of unity during his first address as president-elect on Saturday night, was one reason why so many are excited.

“If you listen to what the president-elect said that he was going to do by uniting the country, doing an economic stimulus package, creating a plan to deal with COVID-19, health care and everything else I was in agreement with,” she said. “The main thing is to help with COVID because like myself, I haven’t seen relatives since February, we’re wearing a mask everywhere we go and we can’t hug like we usually do and it has put a damper on life in general.”

While Hollis is excited about their win, she said the real work begins now. “The easy part is over, now it’s time for everybody to pull up their sleeves when the work really comes in. We just have to be patient and let the chain of command happen so we can have our country back and healthy.”

Terri Chapman, 30, grew up in Birmingham’s West End community and serves as executive vice-president of the Alabama Young Democrats and a vice-president with the Young Democrats of America.

The Biden-Harris victory signals that the country is getting back on the right track, Chapman said. “People are excited to get rid of Donald Trump. A lot of things were at stake with this election like health care . . . it seems with Biden-Harris at the helm we saved a lot more than just the office we saved our rights.

“A lot of people were really disgusted with [Trump’s] handling of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added. “I think [voters] want real experienced people who know what they’re doing and who actually care about [all] people . . . and that’s what we have with Biden-Harris,” she said.

Jefferson County Commission President Pro-Tem Lashunda Scales, who was the first Alabama candidate to sign-up as a Biden delegate for U.S. President and early supporter said the Biden-Harris win shows what they stand for.

“In politics you learn very quickly, you listen to what representatives say, however, you watch very closely the actions that they take,” she said. “In my view, Biden proved a long time ago his commitment to diversity both in race and gender. [Saturday] signifies glass ceilings breaking for women in cities and states across the country. Citizens acted responsibly by voting in large numbers. The overall outcomes represent true democracy at work.”

Linda Verin, a local fundraiser for the Democratic Party, who spent a lot of time orchestrating virtual and online events for Biden’s campaign and hosted a fundraiser for Harris said she hopes to see less rancor coming out of the White House.

“I think that Trump has been very destructive to our country, he started out when he announced his candidacy saying all Mexicans are murderers and rapist and he just got worse from there, and that’s the definition of prejudice,” Verin said,  “and I hope with Joe and Kamala in office that they can bring back some semblance of order and structure.”

Birmingham City Councilor Wardine Alexander also hopes for a return to some political civility and was pleased by Biden-Harris’s speech about unity Saturday night.

“They want to bring this country back together,” Alexander said. “I think their election is time for us to take pause, even though different parties have different goals and aspirations for the country. . . so just reaching across the aisle and realizing we can work with those who may have a different political opinion than ours, but we want to make things better for everyone and . . . make this a country for everyone.”

Birmingham City Councilor Crystal Smitherman said Biden-Harris victory is a symbol of hope.

“I really like that he said this is a time to heal. I think with everything going on with George Floyd (killed by Minneapolis police in May), Breonna Taylor (killed by Louisville police in March), the protests, Confederate statues and even this pandemic, I think [the president and vice-president elect] really have the ability to turn things around but I keep in the back of my mind it is still our job to hold them accountable as well.”