A day adjacent to VP Kamala Harris
By: JALIAH ROBINSON
Sep 22, 2022
Student reporters covering the arrival of Vice President Kamala Harris in Columbia are, from left, Terry Benjamin II of Claflin, Jaliah Robinson of Claflin, Midrina Tucker of SC State and Sydaija Smalls of SC State. (Panther photo)
Tuesday Sept. 20, 2022
My day started at 5:30 a.m. I had to be ready to go and present outside of Commons dormitory by 6:45. As I walked across campus, the chill of the air was comforting. Despite the big and long day ahead, I was calm. Outside of Commons, a ride waited for me and three other journalism students.
The drive to the private airport was filled with introductions but for the most part, the radio was conversation enough. For some it fell on sleeping ears and for the others it was background noise. We were mentally preparing for what was ahead in our own way.
No jitters or nervous energy consumed me. As the miles decreased, I was in the zone. I did a mental check on talking points and a visual check of appearance.
We entered the private airport -- where we waited and waited for at least three hours.
The Secret Service entered, and conversations were had. Yes, I made one giggle – they are human after all. Then the place had to be swept and we had to be cleared. Once we were considered clean, we were assigned to the press van and the ball started rolling.
It was a nonstop hustle. Speed walking/running on the tarmac. Hustling into the van and then almost immediately hustling out of it to capture footage of Vice President Kamala Harris walking out of the plane. Then, of course piling into the van once again at an incredible speed. This set the pace of the day. It was no time for heels, and the heat made me realize that it was also no time for a suit. Luckily, I had my flats but there was no saving grace for me in my suit.
The pace didn’t stop while we rode to our first destination. The driver tested the might of the pedal and the sturdiness of the van as we made a 45-minute drive a 20-minute drive. Riding in a motorcade, seeing the emptiness of road ahead and behind, was surreal.
The scenery: a line of cars stopped, people standing and waving on the side of the road armed guards on the bypass. Being on the inside gave a new definition to the words "car ride.”
Once we reached Claflin University, we once again had fire under our feet. But this time, we rushed out of the van to wait. Rushing and waiting was the theme of my day. Outside of Ministers’ Hall, the group started gearing up. Cameras were put on tripods and notepads and pens were in hand. It was go time.
Once the doors opened, we were escorted to the press section. I didn’t realize how many of us were there or how much equipment was packed away until I was at the front of the sea of boom mics and lenses. The roundtable talk between VP Harris and Claflin students went by in seconds. Before I knew it, we were packing and, yes, you guessed it, being rushed back to the van to wait for the rest of the conversation to wrap up.
The next destination was South Carolina State University’s convocation. When we reached the gymnasium, we were taken to a side door that led to an area designated for the press. I sat at a table that read “Reserved for White House pool” and pulled out my laptop to begin recounting the events of the day.
As the speech commenced, I watched the other reporters scribble or type away. When news stories flooded my phone from the events earlier that day, I realized that the experience was coming to an end. Through this experience, I gained new understanding of the life of the press. They embody the phrase “if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.”
When the last words were said and the applause began, I felt grateful for the opportunity but wished that more was done to truly capitalize on the experience.
Jaliah Robinson is editor of The Panther, Claflin’s student newspaper.