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'This Is Really Happening!' A Dallas-Based Sorority Sister Celebrates Kamala Harris

The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority class of 1986 are photographed at The Yard, one of the main quadrangles on the campus of Howard University. Most of the women wear pink T-Shirts.
Courtesy of Jill Louis
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The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority class of 1986 are photographed at The Yard, one of the main quadrangles on the campus of Howard University. Kamala Harris is fourth from the left on the back row, wearing sunglasses.

When Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate, Dallas attorney Jill Louis' phone blew up with text messages.

Harris and Louis were members of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha together at Howard University, an historically Black college in Washington, D.C.

"It really gave me kind of an interesting slow motion feel of, This is really happening, and it even took some time for it to wash over me — what it would mean for our country, our personal life, her personal life going forward," said Louis, who's also a member of KERA's board. 

Louis and Harris' friendship started 34 years ago when they were selected to join Alpha Kappa Alpha at Howard. They met the night they both "made line," or class — which is the group of women that pledge a sorority together during the same school year semester. It was the first time the class' 38 women were brought together. 

Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters Kamala Harris (left) and Jill Louis (right) are photographed on July 7, 2018. Harris wears a tan pant suit and Louis wears a pink dress.
Credit Courtesy of Jill Louis
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Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters Kamala Harris (left) and Jill Louis (right) are photographed on July 7, 2018.

"That night was a whirlwind," said Louis. 

Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded at Howard in 1908. AKA sisters pride themselves as a service organization.

Louis remembers spring of 1986. 

"We spent a lot of time together working on projects, like going to a retirement home and singing and putting up a performance for them, putting together a Black history presentation," Louis said. 

One of her clearest recollections is sitting on the floor of a friend's three-bedroom apartment in Washington D.C., "discussing with Kamala her mixed heritage and what it meant to have South Asian heritage and then living and growing up in the African American culture," Louis said.

They had serious discussions about the interplay of Harris' culture and how often she had to prove herself as a member of any one of the groups.

For Louis, strong leadership is incredibly important this election, for a leader "to be able to say, 'This is the way forward for our economy, our health care system, for our education system," she said. 

Louis said people need direction so the nation can move forward, past the pandemic. And she has faith Harris will continue to fulfill their sorority's motto, "service to all mankind." 

The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority class of 1986 at Howard University. 38 women squat for a photo. They are dressed in business attire.
Credit Courtesy of Jill Louis
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The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority class of 1986 at Howard University. Kamala Harris is third from the left on the back row, looking over her shoulder. Jill Louis is in the middle of the back row, also looking over her shoulder.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow her on Twitter @_martinez_ale.

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