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Posted by Caribbean World Magazine on 25 January 2021 | 0 Comments

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25 January 2021
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From the conservative cultural influences of Brahmin India and Jamaica to an historic role in US Government, Kamala Harris is inspiring girls and women all over the world from Capitol Hill. 

Her appointment to Vice President to Joe Biden has made US history as the first person of colour in that role. Yet Kamala Harris is no stranger to trailblazing - she’s been doing it all her life. Throughout her entire career she has been paving the way for women, African American women, and South Asian American women in politics and this is in no small part undoubtedly due to what she learned from her immigrant parents. I’m thinking about [my mother] and about the generations of women – Black women, Asian, white, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy. What a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his Vice President. But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”    Kamala’s victory speech 

Fighting injustice is Kamal’s passion and one first inspired by her mother, Shyamala, an Indian-American immigrant, activist, and breast cancer researcher. Harris’s parents made sure she was always in touch with her heritage, attending an African American church in Oakland as well as a Hindu temple and she has remained close to her family in India and Jamaica, embracing both her South Asian and Black identities. 

“My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters,” Harris later wrote in her autobiography, “and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women. 

Kamala visited India as a child and was heavily influenced by her grandfather, a high-ranking government official who fought for Indian independence, and grandmother, an activist who traveled the countryside teaching impoverished women about birth control. Even when she was young, Kamala had a stroller-eye view of the Civil Rights movement and learned the kind of character it requires to stand up to the powerful. Her father, a Jamaica-born educator, faced discrimination and hardship and these experiences shaped Kamala, who resolved to spend her life advocating for those who could not defend themselves. After Harris’s parents divorce when she was 7, she moved with her mother and sister to Quebec, where she stayed until she returned to the US to attend University and begin her career. 

Today both Indians and Caribbean’sare claiming Kamala Harris for themselves on account of the family’s heritage. Her mother’s Indian background and father’s Jamaican heritage ensure that she reflects the very definition of American as a US-born citizen of the Land of The Free. Her roots have fundamentally shaped her, from her mother Shyamala Gopalan’s Tamil Brahmin family, which afforded her the Indian equivalent of white privilege due to the birthright caste system and gave her mother choices due to the education she received.Shyamala was just 19 when she arrived in the U.S. and she quickly became very active in the civil rights movement, meeting fellow immigrant Donald J. Harris, who is now professor emeritus of economics at Stanford University. Marrying outside class, caste and ethnicity was extremely unusual in ultra-conservative India the 1960s. Even more unheard of was the divorce that followed after just a few years - a revolutionary step. 

In 1982, Harris choice of University was the historically black Howard in Washington DC, where she secured an internship for California senator Alan Cranston, chaired the economics society, led the debate team, and graduated with a degree in Political Science and Economics. From there, she went on to law school at University of California where she served as the President of the Black Law Students Association. In 1990, she officially became a lawyer, beginning her career as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, CA. In 2002, she ran for District Attorney of San Francisco with a promise never to seek the death penalty. She ran a forceful campaign and won 56% of the vote, becoming the first person of colour elected as the District Attorney of San Francisco.  

In 2008, Harris announced that she would be running for California Attorney General. She was endorsed by both California senators, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the mayor of LA. She was nominated in 2010, making her the first African American, the first South Asian American and the first woman to be elected into this position. In 2017, Harris was sworn in as Senator for California, the second African American Woman and the first South Asian American senator in history. She currently serves on a number of committees including the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence.

In 2019, Kamala began her campaign for the presidency, dropping out of the race at the end of that year only to then be announced as Joe Biden’s running mate in August 2020. She was declared the 46th Vice President-elect in November 2020, being the first woman, first African American, and the first Asian American to hold that position.

In her family life Kamala is married to husband, Doug Emhoff, a Jewish-American lawyer, and is a stepmother to Ella and Cole Emhoff who affectionately call her “Momala”. She is an enthusiastic cook who bookmarks recipes from the New York Times’ cooking section but loves nothing more than a plate of simpleroastchicken. She collects Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, which are her go-to travel shoes. She reads - a lot, with Native Son by Richard Wright, The KiteRunnerby Khaled Hosseini, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis amongst her favourite books. Kamala is an early riser, typically working out each morning around 6 a.m. on the elliptical or SoulCycle. She’ll start the day with a bowl of Raisin Bran with almond milk and tea with honey and lemon before leaving for work - a routine that she hopes to continue as Vice President of the United States.

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