Madam Vice President Kamala Harris


On January 20th, 2021, Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female, first Black American and the first South Asian American vice president. As she stated in her acceptance speech, she “may be the first, but will not be the last.” 

Harris was born on October 20th, 1964 in Oakland, California. She is the daughter of immigrants. Her father, Donald Harris, was born in Jamaica, and her mother, Shyamala Goplan Harris, from India. While growing up in Oakland, Kamala attended both a Black Baptist church and a Hindu temple. Her mother made sure that her daughters were connected to their roots, taking the time to visit her grandparents in India during the summer but also making sure that they were connected to their African-American heritage.

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

After the divorce of her parents, Kamala and her sister Maya were raised by their mother. Harris recalls that she “had a stroller-eye view of the Civil Rights movement” since her mother often took her to marches. Attending these marches inspired her to pursue a life fighting against injustice. 

Harris’s career of fighting against injustice began at the age of 13 in Montreal when she and her sister led a successful demonstration in front of their apartment building in protest of a policy that banned children from playing on the lawn. 

Kamala later went on to earn her undergraduate degree in political science and economics at Howard University, a historically black university. She then attended the University of California Hastings College where she earned her law degree. 

After passing the bar in 1990, Harris joined the Alameda County prosecutor’s office in Oakland as an assistant district attorney focusing on sex crimes against children and domestic violence cases. In 1998 Harris moved to the San Francisco District Attorney’s office where she led the career criminals unit. 

Several years later in 2003, Harris became the District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco, becoming the first-ever female and African-American District Attorney in the state of California. During her campaign for District Attorney, Harris spoke strongly against seeking the death penalty for any of the cases she covered. In addition, she pushed for legislation to strengthen the laws on the sexual exploitation of minors and worked to provide San Francisco its first-ever safe house for children escaping sex work. 

After serving two terms as the District Attorney, Harris was elected as the first African-American and first-ever woman to serve as California’s Attorney General in 2011. During her time as Attorney General, she made it her goal to protect the state’s most “vulnerable” people. In 2015, under Harris’ authority, California became the first state to adopt a body camera program. Training for the program focused on areas that emphasized: “respect, listening, neutrality and trust.” 

“As Attorney General, my Department of Justice became the first statewide agency to mandate body cameras and launched the first implicit bias program in the country,” Harris said. “I’ve spent my career working to reform the criminal justice system.” 

Harris held the position of Attorney General until 2017 when she became the first African-American to represent California in the U.S. Senate. Much of her time as a senator was focused on the DREAM Act, legislation that sought to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. 

In addition, Kamala focused on justice-related issues. Harris voted for the First Step Act, the most notable justice reform bill to get through Congress in decades. Signed into office by President Trump, the First Step Act gives nonviolent offenders a chance to reenter society as free law-abiding citizens. 

Harris was also one of the main sponsors of a bill that would make lynching a federal crime. The bill was aimed to recognize historical government failures that allowed for lynchings to continue and prevent lynching from being continued in the United States.

“Black lives have not been taken seriously as being fully human and deserving of dignity,” Harris said. “And it should not require a maiming or torture in order for us to recognize a lynching when we see it and recognize it by federal law.”  

After taking the vice-presidential oath, Harris took to the Senate, swearing in three new senators, as well as resigning her own Senate seat. 

“In many ways, this moment embodies our character as a nation,” Harris said. “It demonstrates who we are. Even in dark times, we not only dream, we do. We not only see what has been, we see what can be. We shoot for the moon. And then we plant our flag on it. We are bold, fearless and ambitious.”