When Kamala Harris made a campaign swing through Durham last September during her ill-fated run for the White House, Janine Rouson wasn't just in the audience that night, she made a personal connection with the now presumptive vice-presidential nominee.
"I said I went to Howard University. And she got this bright look on her face," Rouson recalled. "And I said I pledged AKA Sorority, Alpha Chapter, and she got this great look of recognition. And then I said I'm a member of the Links. And she said, 'oh my goodness!' And the look on her face was just so wonderful as we found those three things in common as we talked. It was quite special."
Like Harris, Rouson and Shauntae White, both who live in Raleigh, are Howard University alumni. They believe Harris' connections to enduring Black institutions like the AKA's and The Links will help make inroads with Black voters and her connection to historically Black Howard could help elevate all HBCUs.
"I think that all HBCUs really can celebrate this moment, that we produce some good stuff here," White said.
Rouson added, "I am just as proud for all HBCUs as I am for (Harris) being (from) Howard."
There was rapid response from Republicans about Joe Biden's pick for a running mate. The NCGOP called Harris an "out-of-touch California liberal." President Donald Trump's campaign immediately issued an ad blasting the California senator as a "phony."
President Trump sarcastically called Harris, "My No. 1 draft pick," seeming to relish the opportunity to take Biden and Harris on in November.
"I think I'm being realistic in saying she's still got to work for it," Rouson said about the challenges facing the new Democratic presidential ticket. "We have to work for it."
On the effect Black women voters will have on the election, White said, "We certainly are a large voting bloc, for those of us who are Democrats. And I would say that if anybody can make it happen, Black women can."
Rouson and White also reflected on the meaning of the moment -- the first Black woman (though Harris is also recognized as an Indian American) ever on a major presidential party ticket.
"I literally jumped up and down," Rouson said. "My husband and I have three daughters; we have a granddaughter. And for them to see this -- I'm overjoyed. I am absolutely overjoyed."
White said, "I think it really is an opportunity to borrow the phrase we've heard the past four years, 'Making America Great Again' in terms of being a reflection of really the diversity in our society."