Vice President nominee Kamala Harris meets Flint business owners, officials

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 2:22 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - The Democrat nominee for vice president spent part of her morning Tuesday visiting with small business owners and elected officials in downtown Flint.

Kamala Harris landed at Bishop International Airport around 11 a.m. for her first visit to Michigan since Joe Biden picked her to be his running mate. She met “Little Miss Flint” Mari Copeny and former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver before leaving the airport.

Harris walked around downtown Flint, visiting with the owners of the Comma bookstore, MagnifiClips barbershop and Bedrock Apparel. All three businesses are Black-owned and she talked with them about losses they suffered from the coronavirus pandemic.

Egypt Otis became Genesee County’s first Black female bookstore owner when she opened Comma Bookstore & Social Hub in Flint a month ago. She was surprised by Harris' visit to her new establishment.

“It was definitely something that I did not think would happen,” Otis said.

While taking the time to tour her new shop, Harris bought a sweatshirt designed by a local artist and Otis’s daughter gave her a local author’s book, too

“I’m very grateful just to be a part of history, and to share this moment with her and for her to see the importance of having a space such as this, especially in this time,” Otis said.

She said the bookstore’s mission is to highlight black and brown authors and artists. Representation is important to the Flint mom, which is why it was so special for her to meet the first Black woman nominated for vice president.

“It’s significantly important for our country to see that and it was just a really cool thing to experience it in person in real time,” Otis said.

After their visit, Harris walked down Second Street in a crowd of local supporters to also meet with Jason Trice, the owner of Bedrock Apparel.

“I was excited to kind of be in the position to speak up for, you know, our community and what we’re gonna try and do at voting time,” he said.

Trice has a few voter registration events scheduled in the coming weeks. He said it doesn’t matter who people vote for, they just need to make their voices heard.

Trice said Harris taking the time to show up in Flint should be an example to young voters.

“And I don’t want to tell people who to vote for, but we need to get out here and vote. Your voice got to be heard or you’re really not saying anything,” he said.

Harris then walked to the Flint Farmers Market while the crowd accompanying her chanted her name over and over multiple times. The market closed for an hour and a half while she browsed inside and bought a few items.

Harris also met U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and former WNBA player Deanna Nolan, who is a Flint native, during the walk downtown. The group attracted a crowd as they moved through the area, but all events with Harris were closed to the public.

“That’s something that they have decided, but that is a largely practice that should be adhered to," said Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley. "Any person that wants to lead this country at the highest level has to be very concerned about the public safety of individuals and residents, and this really shows the fact that they are concerned about the health of the residents in the city of Flint.”

Neeley planned to take part in a small-group dialogue. Some of the big talking points involve infrastructure, bringing better jobs to the area and improving education.

After her Flint visit, Harris planned to take part in two events around Detroit, including one that promotes National Voter Registration Day.

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