Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential election, has chosen California Senator Kamala Harris, who is of Jamaican descent, to be his running mate. Harris brings considerable experience to the ticket, both for the government positions she has held and for her ability to win elections.
The moment the announcement was made members of the Jamaican diaspora as well as Jamaicans at home lit up social media with expressions of joy and delight. Jamaicans.com posted a full feature about Senator Harris and her Jamaican heritage.
In 2010, Harris became the first woman, first African American, first Asian-American, and first Jamaican-American to be elected to serve as Attorney General in the State of California. In 2014, she was re-elected to the position by a large margin. In 2016, Harris broke a color barrier that had existed in California since it achieved statehood in 1850, becoming the first black person to represent the state in the United States Senate. Continuing as Senator today, she is only the second black woman in US history to serve in the upper chamber of Congress.
Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California, the daughter of Donald Harris, a Jamaican-American, and Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast cancer specialist. Her father is an economics professor at Stanford University. Her mother immigrated to the US from Chennai, India, at the age of 19 to attend the University of California in Berkeley. She has a younger sister, Maya, who married Tony West, a former Associate Attorney General of the US. Their parents divorced when Kamala was young, and her mother had primary custody of the girls. Kamala and her sister were raised in Berkeley and Oakland in California and in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where her mother worked as a researcher at the Jewish General Hospital and taught at McGill University. In Berkeley, the family resided in a primarily black neighborhood, and the girls sang in a Baptist church choir. Dr. Harris, who died in 2009, took her daughters on visits to India every other year.
Kamala Harris graduated from Westmount High School and then attended Howard University in Washington, DC. She joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Alpha Chapter and earned her law degree, the Juris Doctor, from the University of California’s Hastings College of Law in 1989. She was admitted to the State Bar in 1990.
Harris made a bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2019, and in the first 24 hours following her announcement, she tied with fellow candidate Bernie Sanders in receiving the most donations raised in a single day after a candidacy announcement. More than 20,000 people attended the formal launch of her campaign in Oakland on January 27, 2020. Harris ultimately withdrew from the primary citing a shortage of funds and a drop in the polls. She endorsed Joe Biden for president in March of 2020.
In March 2020, Biden committed to choosing a woman as his running mate, and his short-listing of numerous women of color to fill that role was historic in itself. Never before had a nominee of either major party placed several well-qualified women of color under serious consideration. This was also notable as, before Harris, only two women have ever run as vice-presidential candidates on the tickets of the two major parties in the history of the US.