Bookstore and barbershop owners greeted Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris in downtown Flint on Tuesday afternoon as the California senator kicked off a Michigan campaign swing.
Harris chatted briefly with the owners of three Black-owned businesses: MagnifiClips, Comma Bookstore, and Bedrock Apparel, before walking down several blocks in Flint, waving and stopping briefly to speak with supporters. Former Detroit Shock and WNBA great Deanna Nolan led the tour of the downtown area.
“We don’t lack for good ideas. We don’t lack for entrepreneurial spirit,” Harris said.
The visit to Flint, and the California senator’s subsequent stops in Detroit later Tuesday, signify the importance of Michigan to the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The Black-owned businesses in Flint were chosen because the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted such businesses, the campaign said.
The first stop was outside the MagnifiClips barbershop, where Harris was greeted by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who waited for her wearing a Biden-Harris black mask. They greeted each other with an elbow bump.
Harris did not take formal questions from the press and her conversations with voters were difficult to hear, as everyone wore masks. But the campaign said Harris met with the business owners to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on small businesses. Earl Jones and Tim Tyler opened the MagnifiClips barber shop this march, but had to close it down after one week due to the pandemic and related executive orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to the campaign.
Toward the end of the conversation, Harris was speaking about loans and tax credits in the campaign’s Build Back Better plans.
At the Comma Bookstore, a girl of about 10 handed Harris a copy of a book called “Oh, Brother, Little Brother.” Harris posed with her for a phone photo taken by Stabenow.
The senator ended her visit to Flint with a trip to the farmer’s market, where she bought two ears of corn and some jalapenos.
Earlier, Harris, after arriving in Flint around 11 a.m., had a private meeting at the airport with what the campaign said were “community leaders.” The campaign did not provide the names of those who attended the meeting.
The leaders spoke with Harris about the ongoing Flint water crisis, the coronavirus pandemic and its economic toll on the city, according to the campaign. Harris said the federal government needs to do more to improve local infrastructure, acknowledging the ongoing issues with lead water pipes in Flint.
Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, who joined Harris for part of her tour through the city.
“We know we have a lot of disparities in our country, pushing back against the dominant tendencies of a society that always didn’t like Black and brown people in its fullness. We know we have implicit bias, but now we’re experiencing explicit bias more so than we’ve done before,” said Neeley, who previously served as a Democratic representative in the state legislature.
“With this ticket, I think they’re talking about inclusion, more inclusion, and how to stand together and work together as one nation under God.”
Harris’ visit came against the backdrop of disagreements over the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, the majority of Michigan businesses were required to close in accordance with coronavirus-related orders from Whitmer. While many businesses have since reopened, at least on a limited basis, hundreds went out of business and unemployment figures ballooned.
Whitmer’s supporters, including Biden, credit the governor with saving lives and ensuring ongoing safety with her actions. But critics, including some small business owners, say they needed to be allowed to operate sooner without more financial assistance from the state or federal government.
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