Pearls Are a Senator’s Best Friend

From Senator to Vice President Elect, Kamala Harris has kept her pearls right where they belong. Image credit to .

Zoe Wolf, Staff Writer

Gemstones are considered to be the earthly embodiment of our human population. Rubies symbolize nobility, diamonds signify wealth and purity, and jade illustrates love; but pearls, pearls treasure a deeper sea of undertones unlike any other bead under our surface. Representing the total nature of quintessence, the cut stone goes much further beneath its shiny surface.


It’s rush week, and nothing screams anticipation like the brisk air young Kamala Harris takes in on Howard University’s Campus. Upon recruiting into Alpha Kappa Alpha, a necklace stringing together 20 satiny pearls is clipped around her neck; formally becoming a member of not only the sorority, but the Pearl Necklace Foundation. 


This foundation started with the sorority originating in Howard University itself, setting afoot the beliefs and philosophy of Senator Harris and later leading up to the woman we see on the big screens today. 


The Vice Presidential candidate graduated from college in 1986. To this day, she has never been seen without the gemstones hanging over her shoulders, though on some occasions, in different colors. 


“There is just one piece of jewelry that is equally becoming to everybody, lovely with almost every ensemble, appropriate for almost any occasion, and indispensable in every woman’s wardrobe… long live the pearl necklace, true or false, from our first date until our last breath!”, Fashion Author Genevieve Antione Dariaux said. 


Why Pearls?

It is very common for a sorority to share a signature accessory or piece of clothing. This distinguishing factor allows members of the house to identify other representatives without having to find out verbally. In this scenario, the sorority is within a historically black college. Thus, the white gleaming pearls provide an obvious, elegant contrast against the sisters’ complexion, distinguishing them among the other students. 


Along with the connotation of the gems themselves, this clever choice distinguishes Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters in an empowering manner that props them up for future success.


In modern AKA house of traditions, Morgan Cross (the current president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority on Howard University grounds), remarked that the tradition behind the twenty pearls holds strong. The necklaces are still worn and displayed off-campus.


“I feel like now it’s more about members wearing merchandise now, something that has our letters on it”, said Arielle Cohen, a junior at Syracuse University and member of Gamma Phi Beta. “I’ll always have people in public come up to me and say ‘Oh my god I’m also in that sorority’ and we’ll end up having a conversation which I think is really cool.”


“In all matters, your Greek letters will stick with you.” – Howard University

Some sororities have certain reputations that others simply do not, such as religious backgrounds or athletic groups. These notions tend to ultimately shape a student into a graduate, and a graduate into a successor in a matter of years. 


In an interview with Howard University’s administration program via phone call, they mentioned that Kamala Harris is not the only notable alumni who has “bloomed from sororal influence”.


“Taraji P. Henson was a member of Delta Sigma Theta and graduated from it in 1995. Zora Neale Hurston graduated in 1928 from the Zeta Phi Beta house. And of course, Chadwick Boseman, affected by his Greek letters, led him on his path to an outstanding career. ” 


In two other interviews, both Morgan Cross and Averell “Ace” Smith (an American Political Advisor associated with Kamala Harris) both explained the same concept through email: sorority effects aren’t strictly ethical.


“In the future, all of this will definitely help me achieve different positions, and it’s prepared me for all different things. Seeing all the things my sisters have done all over campus has made me see more of what I can do, like with this writing”, Arielle Cohen ,who attends the biggest writing-communications program, said.

Vice President elect Harris standing tall and strong with her bright white pearls. Image credit to

Influences That Sorority Activity Builds as a Whole

Since the mid-1950s, Alpha Kappa Alpha has evolved into a politically charged, social working union, persistent in challenging undergraduate diverse females to take on international discrimination. Strategies range from social communications to data-based analysis; or in Harris’ case, both.


“I’m proud to say the sisters and I have really come together, especially during this time, to stay true to our core and who we are as a sorority. This means gripping onto willpower, respect, and strength… something the pearls have represented to this day,” said Cross.


Both Kamala and Morgan reported the pearl necklaces follow the same tradition they always have: twenty individual pearls hung over the shoulders of any member (or alumni) in the AKA. 


Some have seen the Senator wearing black pearls rather than white, to which she responded, “as long as I am wearing those 20 pearls it doesn’t matter what color they are, as long as they’re matching my shirt.”


Arielle Cohen also mentioned “…being in one of the best comm. initiatives in the country and because of the huge alumni program we have, of course, it pushes me to follow in their tracks.” 


Kamala Harris may have hung up her cap and gown, but she will never forget the days to which her sorority tradition kickstarted the political steps that put her on the pedestal she stands on today. 


“In 2010, I spoke with Kamala about our college careers and her pearls. She told me about the political accomplishments her and her sorority achieved while there, like Africare’s Distinguished Service Award in ‘86, I believe”, Smith mentioned. “A jumpstart to where she is now.”


In 1986, AKA was recognized with the award for encouraging awareness of and participation in the nation’s affairs. 


Next time you see our Senator, try to pay attention to her choice in accessories and notice the glistening white gemstone


“We have a little joke we say”, Arielle told me.“It’s not four years, it’s for life.”