Ritchie John Torres, New York City Councilmember for the 15th district, and Mondaire Jones, Democratic nominee for New York’s 17th congressional district, are the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress.
A member of the Democratic Party elected in 2013, Torres is also the first openly gay candidate to be elected to legislative office in the Bronx, and the youngest member of the city council. He serves as the chair of the Committee on Public Housing, and is a deputy majority leader. As chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee, he is focusing on taxi medallion predatory loans, and the city’s Third-Party
Image Credit: Ritchie John Torres – Official NYC Council Photo
by William Alatriste; Mondaire Jones – Photo by Caroline
Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.
Transfer Program. In 2016, Torres was a delegate for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
In July 2019, Torres announced his bid for New York’s 15th congressional district, to succeed Representative José E. Serrano. The 15th district is one of the most Democratic leaning congressional districts in the country. Torres won the November 2020 general election, and will assume office on January 3, 2021.
Mondaire Jones, an American attorney and politician from the state of New York, won as the Democratic nominee for New York’s 17th congressional district in the 2020 election. Jones announced his candidacy for the Democratic primary to represent New York’s 17th congressional district in the 2020 elections against incumbent Representative Nita Lowey, who later announced that she would not seek re-election.
Jones advocated for Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and police reform. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the first LGBTQ Pride parade in June, Queerty named Jones among the 50 heroes “leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people.”
President Joe Biden on Friday temporarily transferred power to Vice President Kamala Harris while he was under anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy for one hour and 25 minutes, according to the White House.
The nation’s first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president broke yet another barrier when she temporarily stepped into the acting role. Harris worked from her office in the West Wing while Biden was under anesthesia, according to Psaki.
“@POTUS spoke with @VP and @WHCOS at approximately 11:35am this morning. @POTUS was in good spirits and at that time resumed his duties. He will remain at Walter Reed as he completes the rest of his routine physical,” Psaki tweeted.
Biden, who turns 79 on Saturday, arrived Friday morning at Walter Reed Medical Center to undergo his first routine annual physical since taking office.
It’s routine for a vice president to assume presidential powers while the president undergoes a medical procedure that requires anesthesia. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney did so on multiple occasions when then-President George W. Bush underwent routine colonoscopies.
To officially transfer the presidential powers to Harris, Biden sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the president pro tempore of the Senate, at 10:10 a.m. ET before going under anesthesia.
The letter reads: “Today I will undergo a routine medical procedure requiring sedation. In view of present circumstances, I have determined to transfer temporarily the powers and duties of the office of President of the United States to the Vice President during the brief period of the procedure and recovery.”
Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution says the President can send a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro tempore of the Senate declaring declaring they are “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.”
In order to transfer the powers back to Biden, a separate letter was sent after the procedure.
“In accordance with the provisions of section 3 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, I hereby transmit to you my written declaration that I am able to discharge the powers and duties of the Office of the President of the United States and that I am resuming those powers and duties,” the letter, which was sent to both Pelosi and Leahy, reads.
Earlier this year, former President Donald Trump’s ex-press secretary Stephanie Grisham heavily implied that Biden’s predecessor underwent a colonoscopy in a secret visit to Walter Reed in 2019, but kept it quiet to avoid transferring presidential power to then-Vice President Mike Pence.
In her book, “I’ll Take Your Questions Now,” Grisham does not use the term colonoscopy but heavily implies that’s what the trip was for. She says Trump’s hospital visit, which stirred weeks-long speculation about his health was a “very common procedure,” during which “a patient is put under.” She also writes that Bush had a similar procedure while in office. Grisham writes Trump did not want then-Vice President Mike Pence to be in power while he was sedated, which was part of the reason he kept his visit private. He also “did not want to be the butt of a joke” on late-night television, writes Grisham.
Biden is the oldest first-term president in US history, and the last comprehensive update on Biden’s medical history came nearly two years ago when his presidential campaign released a three-page summary of his medical history in December 2019.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s primary care doctor since 2009, described Biden as “a healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male,” at the time.
When it comes to running your small business, one of the greatest assets you can acquire to help you succeed is a government contract.
The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world. It buys all types of products and services — in both large and small quantities — and it’s required by law to consider buying from small businesses.
The government wants to buy from small businesses for several reasons, including:
To ensure that large businesses don’t “muscle out” small businesses
To gain access to the new ideas that small businesses provide
To support small businesses as engines of economic development and job creation
To offer opportunities to disadvantaged socio-economic groups
There are a multitude of contracts that can be obtained and further searched into using Sam.gov, but here are a few of the different types of government contracts that could help fund your small business:
Set-aside contracts for small businesses:
To help provide a level playing field for small businesses, the government limits competition for certain contracts to small businesses. Those contracts are called “small business set-asides,” and they help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.
There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.
Competitive set-aside contracts:
When at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.
Some set-asides are open to any small business, but some are open only to small businesses who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.
Sole-source set-aside contracts:
Most contracts are competitive, but sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract. To be considered for a sole-source contract, register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) and participate in any contracting program you may qualify for.
In some cases, sole-source contracts must be published publicly, and will be marked with an intent to sole source. Potential vendors can still view and bid on these contracts. Once the bidding process begins, the intent to sole-source may be withdrawn.
Contracting Assistance Programs:
The federal government uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars each year. There are different programs for different attributes of a small business, such as:
8 (a) Business Development Program: Small Disadvantaged businesses.
Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program: Women-owned businesses
SBA Mentor-Protégé program: Sets up your business with an experienced government contractor
Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program: Provides natural resources and surplus property to small businesses.
Joint Ventures: Allows businesses to team up and acquire government contracts (more info below)
Two or more small businesses may pool their efforts by forming a joint venture to compete for a contract award. A joint venture of multiple small businesses still qualifies for small business set-aside contracts if its documentation meets SBA requirements.
Small businesses that have a mentor-protege relationship through the All-Small Mentor-Protege program can form a joint venture with a mentor (which can be a large business). These joint ventures can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses.
A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses, if a member of the joint venture meets SBA requirements to do so.
If you still have questions or are looking for additional information, visit sam.gov or sba.gov. No matter what your situation is, there are many opportunities available to help your small business succeed.
President Joe Biden’s nominee for a powerful appeals court who is also being watched as a potential future Supreme Court pick cleared a procedural hurdle Thursday in the Senate and is on track for confirmation as soon as next week. The Senate also confirmed Zahid Quraishi as the nation’s first Muslim federal judge. Despite opposition from some Republicans, the Senate agreed 52-46 to cut off debate on the appeals court nomination of U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, meaning her confirmation for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is all but assured.
The Senate has ramped up its approval of Biden’s judicial nominees in recent weeks and the chamber also cut off debate Thursday on Quraishi, a federal magistrate, and confirmed him 81-16 for a judgeship in the District of New Jersey. Quraishi had previously served as a military prosecutor, an Army captain and an assistant U.S. attorney.
But it is Jackson who has received the most attention among Biden’s early picks because she is considered a likely future nominee for the Supreme Court. Her confirmation to the appeals court is expected to take place as soon as Monday.
During the presidential campaign, Biden promised to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court for the first time in U.S. history, and Jackson’s name has appeared in the mix of leading candidates ever since. She was on President Barack Obama’s shortlist for a spot on the nation’s highest court after Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016.
Biden’s first opportunity to follow through on his campaign pledge would likely come if Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, retires sometime before the 2022 midterm election. Breyer hasn’t indicated whether or not he plans to retire this year.
Vice President Harris on Friday described a political moment “unlike any era that came before” as she addressed the graduating class of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
She became the first female commencement speaker in the school’s history. In front of an outdoor audience at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Harris urged graduating midshipmen to defend the country against a number of global threats, including cybersecurity attacks, climate change and biological hazards like the coronavirus.
Comparing the COVID-19 crisis to other “critical moments” that have shaped the nation’s history — including Pearl Harbor, the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Sept. 11 attacks — Harris told graduates that they are walking into a “rapidly changing” world.
“The global pandemic you see, of course, has accelerated what was happening before and has accelerated our world into a new era. It has forever impacted our world. It has forever influenced our perspective,” she said. “If we weren’t clear before, we know now: Our world is interconnected. Our world is interdependent. And our world is fragile.”
The address comes as the Biden administration navigates a number of global challenges, including a probe into the origins of the coronavirus, a fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and cyberattacks from Russia. In March, President Biden asked Harris to lead the administration’s diplomatic efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries to address migration at the U.S. border, though she did not mention immigration in the speech.
The White House also announced last month that the United States would withdraw all remaining troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
With her focus on potential threats to the United States, Harris’s remarks set a different tone from those of former President Donald Trump, who addressed the Naval Academy in 2018. In that speech, Trump told graduates that “we are witnessing the great reawakening of the American spirit and of American might.”
Harris expressed confidence in the U.S. military’s ability to put the country at “a strategic advantage,” citing its role in the development of technologies like walkie talkies, the internet and satellite navigation. She also noted the military’s involvement in the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines — and she praised graduates for getting vaccinated.
“You guys rolled up your sleeves and you got vaccinated and you made it to this day,” she said to a round of applause.
Before Byron Donalds became a congressman, he worked in banking and insurance and was a Florida state representative. Growing up, he says he was an apolitical registered Democrat. But the party’s promises of individual liberty and conservatism made him want to be a Republican.
“I believe that if you have a system of government, which we mostly have in the United States, where most issues actually stay at the local and state levels and at the federal level, we deal with the things that, frankly, states can’t do on their own,” Donalds said in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
During the campaign and as a congressman, Donalds has held controversial views on Covid-19 safety protocols — not getting the vaccine or wearing a mask when we met up. He contracted Covid-19 last October.
A rising star in the party and one of two Black Republicans in the U.S. House, Donalds says he doesn’t believe that systemic racism exists. “One hundred years ago, if you had told me there was systemic racism in the United States, I would’ve said absolutely there was,” Donalds said. “Systemic and institutionalized racism today in the United States. No, no.”
A new wave of Black women are breaking barriers as they ascend to mayoral seats in cities with deeply rooted histories of racism and inequality.
On Tuesday, Tishaura Jones will be sworn in as the first Black female mayor of St. Louis after winning the election earlier this month.
Her victory came just two weeks after Kim Janey was appointed Boston’s first Black female mayor following the resignation of Marty Walsh, who is now the US Labor Secretary. Janey recently announced she would run for a full term in this year’s mayoral election.
With the ascension of Jones and Janey, there will be a historic high of nine Black women serving as mayors of the nation’s 100 largest cities. Other major cities led by Black women include Atlanta, San Francisco; Chicago; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; New Orleans; Washington, DC; and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Political observers say the growing number of Black female mayors signals they are gaining electoral strength and appealing to voters in races that have been historically won by White men. They say Black women have proven they are relatable with an ability to lead, organize and engage new voters. Black women are also speaking out against the racial disparities in their communities at a time when the nation is having to reckon with systemic racism and police violence against Black people.
Kimberly Peeler-Allen, a visiting practitioner at the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University, said as more Black women rise to political power, the electorate is seeing the importance of having diverse voices making decisions.
“Black and brown women are running with a message that is a totality of their life experiences, which transcends race or gender,” Peeler-Allen said. “And there are people who are saying ‘she may not look like me but I know we share the same experience, because she is wrestling with credit card debt, or she has a family member with addiction or she’s a small business owner, she’s a veteran.'”
Peeler-Allen said she believes the advancement of Black women in all levels of government could also be inspiring more to run for office.
In the last few years, Kamala Harris became the first Black female vice president, Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’ first Black woman elected to Congress, and Tish James was elected New York’s first Black female attorney general.
Stacey Abrams narrowly lost her bid to become the nation’s first Black woman governor in 2018, but is now a powerful advocate for voting rights for people of color. Some political analysts view Abrams as a viable candidate for Georgia’s gubernatorial election in 2022.
Creating equity in St. Louis
Both Jones and Janey have vowed to make racial equity a priority while reflecting on their own lived experiences as Black women.
Jones said during her victory speech that she would not stay silent or ignore the racism that has held St. Louis back.
She told CNN she wants to address the exodus of Black residents in recent years and why they don’t feel welcome in St. Louis. The city’s Black population dropped from 51% to 45% in the last 10 years.
Jones said she wants to revitalize the northern part of the city where she grew up because the neighborhoods have been neglected.
“I am ready for St. Louis to thrive instead of just survive,” Jones said on CNN “New Day” earlier this month. “We need to provide opportunities for everyone to succeed, no matter their zip code, the color of their skin, who they love or how they worship.”
Kayla Reed, executive director of the grassroots racial justice group St. Louis Action, said she believes Jones can relate to the plight of Black people in St. Louis because of her lived experience as a single mother from a marginalized neighborhood.
The city, Reed said, struggles with segregation, disparities in education, employment and housing, overpolicing and violence in the Black community.
Reed said Jones has embraced the demands of a racial justice movement that started in 2014 when unrest broke out in nearby Ferguson following the police killing of Michael Brown. Ferguson elected its first Black woman mayor Ella Jones last year.
Jones is listening to the concerns of organizers and giving them a seat at the table, Reed said.
“She understands the unique inequality that our communities face,” said Reed, who campaigned for Jones and sits on her transition team. “And it gives her an advantage to think through creative, innovative solutions to shift outcomes and conditions.”
On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris made history by becoming the first woman Vice President of the United States, being elected with her running mate, President Joe Biden.
In addition to being the first woman to hold the office, Harris is also the first Black and Indian American person in her position.
Growing up in Oakland, Harris was raised by two immigrants. Her father, Donald Harris, was originally from Jamaica and is an economics Professor at Stanford University and her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who immigrated from India, was a civil rights activist and a breast cancer researcher. Before passing in 2009, Gopalan raised Kamala and her sister on the words, “Don’t sit around and complain. Do something,” a motto that has guided Harris throughout her life.
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
In 1986, Harris earned her Bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics from Howard University, one of the most well-known HBCUs in the country. From there, Harris went on to attend University of California’s Hastings College of Law through the Legal Education Opportunity Program. She graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1989 and was admitted to the California Bar a year later. While attending both schools, Harris was heavily involved in extracurricular activities such as the economics society, the Black Law Students Association, and the debate team.
Harris life in politics began early, working as a deputy district attorney in Oakland for several years until she was elected as California’s attorney general. She was the first black woman to hold that position and oversee one of the country’s largest Justice Departments. While in office, Harris created an environmental crimes unit, promoted criminal justice reform, and helped establish legislature for equality for the diverse races and the LGBTQ communities.
Harris went on to serve in the U.S. Senate in 2017 where she worked on the Committees on Budget, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, and Intelligence. She was also a member on the Black and Asian Pacific American Congressional Caucuses, as well as the Congressional Caucus for Women’s issues. She advocated for the same issues during her time in the Senate, additionally advocating for women’s rights, immigration rights, and the passing of the Justice for the Victims of Lynching Act.
Now, in her position as Vice President, Harris’ campaign continues to bring the rights of all people to the forefront, putting COVID-19 issues, health care, climate change, systemic racism, and the economy as a priority.
Vice President Harris has shown both gratitude and hope since her election to office. On November 7, 2020, Vice President Harris spoke on her victory, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last — because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
When Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence lost her leadership race by a single vote, she looked up the last time a Black woman was elected to sit at her party’s leadership table in the House.
She was stunned to learn it was Rep. Shirley Chisholm of New York — 44 years ago. In the same year the U.S. elected its first Black woman to serve as vice president, the House Democratic Caucus once again elected a leadership team that didn’t include a single Black woman. “When the vote is taken by our body, Black women don’t
(Image Credit – Alex Brandon/AP Photo)
win,” Lawrence (D-Mich.) said in an interview. “I cannot comprehend how, for 40 years, a Black woman has never earned the collective majority vote of our caucus.”
In a caucus that frequently touts diversity as one of its core strengths, Black women have been repeatedly excluded from elected senior positions. And despite the country as a whole undergoing a reckoning over race in recent months, the current leadership team will remain in place for the next two years. It’s an issue several Democrats told POLITICO must be rectified, although no one has a clear idea on how to do that.
“I think it’s something that absolutely needs to be addressed,” said Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) who just finished a two-year term as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “The caucus as a whole is sensitive to it now where I don’t know that they were a couple of terms ago.”
The leadership of the House Democratic Caucus has never been more diverse: White women — Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark — hold two of the top four positions in the House, while House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest ranking African American in Congress, has been atop the caucus for years. Another high-ranking Black Democrat, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), is in his second term as caucus chairman and is frequently discussed as the next speaker.
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris will make history on Wednesday when she is sworn in as the first female Vice President of the United States — but that’s not the only way the Biden-Harris team is making history.
For the first time ever, a special Inauguration Day program, made especially for children, will be live-streamed from Washington, D.C.
(Image Credit – Today)
“Inaugurations are one of the most important American traditions,” soon-to-be First Lady Dr. Jill Biden said in a video posted to the Biden Inaugural Instagram account. “And this year, for the first time ever, we’re streaming a special live broadcast made for students and families across the country. Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans.”
“Join me and host Keke Palmer, along with lots of other special guests, as we come together to make history,” Biden said. “See you at the Capitol!”
Our White House will feature commentary from historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Erica Armstrong Dunbar, as well as excerpts of student voices from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs’ “We the Young People” programming.
While specifics of the event have not been revealed, highlights to look forward to include a Nickelodeon-produced segment on presidential pets and trivia questions from Vice President elect-Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff.
Inauguration Day 2021 will look vastly different than in previous years. Instead of in-person spectators, a field of 200,000 flags stands in honor of the upcoming swearing in and packs the space traditionally filled with Inauguration Day crowds at the National Mall.
Dr. Biden ends the short social media clip with a jubilant smile saying, “See you at the Capitol!” It’s a feat only feasible this year thanks to technology.
History was made and made again during the 2020 election. From the most votes cast in a presidential election in U.S. history to a wave of new, young, novice, minority, and LGBTQIA+ representatives in Congress, the litany of firsts made an immediate impact, widening representation among our elected leaders and laying out a new landscape of inclusion and diversity.
It was the election of Kamala Devi Harris, however, to the second-highest office in the country –
making her the highest-ranking woman in the history of American politics – that tipped the scale and underscored its historic relevance.
Though undeniably her highest accomplishment, Harris’ newest title, Madam Vice President, is just the latest in an enduring, ceiling-shattering career of firsts.
This trailblazer is no stranger to making history.
Paving the Way
Long before her ascension to the vice-presidency, Harris’ resume of firsts had ensured her place in the history books several times over.
First African-American, first South Asian-American, and first woman elected district attorney of San Francisco. First African-American, first South Asian-American, and first woman attorney general of California. First Indian-American woman and second Black woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
Focused, determined, and passionate, her accomplishments can be traced back in part to her upbringing, her education, and a piece of life-shaping advice offered by her mother: “Don’t sit around and complain about things, Kamala. Do something.”
Armed with Education
Harris’ monumental career is rooted in an educational foundation that provided a unique perspective and experience to her journey. As the daughter of academically inclined parents – both earned doctorates in their respective fields – the expectation was to excel.
She earned a degree in political science and economics from the illustrious Howard University (chosen largely due to the fact that her hero, trailblazing lawyer and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, also attended). Immersed in and influenced by the unmatched cultural atmosphere offered by a historically Black college, she credits the experience as formative to her personal evolution.
“I became an adult there,” the former senator shared in a Washington Post interview. “Howard very directly influenced and reinforced – equally important – my sense of being and meaning and reasons for being.”
Surrounded by a common-place sense of political awareness and activism, Harris’ credence in the value of racial representation in government and corporate institutions was stoked during her tenure, alongside a keen sense of argumentation and an overarching belief that the best way to change a system is from the inside out. Internships with Senator Alan Cranston of California and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as jobs at the National Archives and the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, provided a pathway to do so.
By the time she graduated in 1986, she had made her mark: chairing the economics society, leading the debate team, participating in campus activism, and joining Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (the first African-American Greek-lettered sorority).
Her postgraduate journey led her to the University of California Hastings College of Law, where she attended as part of the Legal Education Opportunity Program and served as president of the Black Law Students Association before graduating in 1989 and being admitted to the California Bar the next year.
If Harris’ varied collegiate experience was the catalyst for her career of service, then her family was the incubator. Years before she ever pursued higher education, she was surrounded and influenced by a familial tradition of public service.
“Growing up, there was no question in my family that you must serve,” she said during a lecture at Spelman University in 2018. “There was simply no question.”
Her maternal grandfather, P.V. Gopalan, was a high-ranking government official who fought for Indian independence; her grandmother, Rajam, was an activist who traveled the countryside teaching impoverished women about birth control.
In fact, her decision to enter the legal field was influenced heavily by her grandfather, who she frequently overheard discussing politics, corruption, and justice while visiting India during her childhood.
“The lessons I learned from my grandfather are a big reason I do what I do today,” she said during an event supporting India’s Independence Day. “Lawyers have a profound ability to be a voice for the vulnerable and the voiceless, and that’s what I wanted to be.”
Raised to Make a Difference
To understand the trajectory of Harris’ life and her journey to the White House, you have to understand where she comes from. The daughter of two immigrants, her upbringing centered and solidified her identity and desire to be engaged and aware of the politics, organizations, and struggles of the Black community – and beyond.
Her father, Donald Harris, an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford, was born in Jamaica’s St. Ann’s Parish and came to the University of California at Berkeley in the early 60s on a scholarship from the British colonial government. Drawn to the civil rights movement, he joined the school’s Afro American Association, a building block of the Black Power movement that would help build the discipline of Black studies, introduce the holiday of Kwanzaa, and establish the Black Panther Party. An astute academic, he viewed the US as a “lively and evolving dynamic of a racially and ethnically complex society,” and was the first Black scholar to receive tenure in Stanford’s economics department.
It was her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a renowned breast cancer research scientist, however, whom Harris credits with being most responsible for shaping her into the woman she has become.
“I’m the daughter of a mother who broke down all kinds of barriers,” she shared last Mother’s Day. “Shyamala was no more than five feet tall, but if you ever met her, you’d think she was seven feet. She had such spirit and tenacity, and I’m thankful every day to have been raised by her.”
The oldest child in a high-achieving Brahmin family from Tamil Nadu, India, Gopalan relocated to the states in 1960 to pursue a doctorate in endocrinology at UC Berkeley, receiving her PhD the same year Harris was born. She, too, was drawn to the energy of the civil rights movement, and as a former colonial subject and person of color, found herself wholly accepted into the Afro American Association.
It was against this backdrop of activism and change that she and Donald met, married, and began expanding their family (with Kamala in 1964, followed by sister Maya in 1967).
Harris fondly recalls her early grounding in the movement for equality: the energetic waves of bodies and voices as she attended protests with her parents; hearing Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to mount a national campaign for president, speak in 1971; and being part of the second class to integrate her elementary school.
“My parents would bring me to protests strapped in my stroller, and my mother raised my sister and me to believe that it was up to us and every generation of Americans to keep on marching,” she divulged during her first campaign appearance as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee.
“It’s because of them and the folks who also took to the streets to fight for justice that I am where I am. They laid the path for me.”
When the couple divorced in 1971 (Harris was seven), Gopalan settled in Oakland, California, and took on the sole role of raising her daughters, simultaneously balancing a growing research career, protesting and advocating for civil rights, and bringing up her biracial children with an understanding and appreciation of both of their cultural identities – especially their Blackness.
“My mother understood very well that she was raising two Black daughters,” Harris wrote in her 2019 autobiography, The Truths We Hold. “She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as Black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud Black women.”
To that end, Gopalan herself adopted African-American culture, ensuring her daughters attended a Black Baptist church with neighbors and a preschool with prominent photos of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, as well as surrounding them with the supplemental love, guidance, and support of her fellow Afro American Association members.
The culmination of this conscious and nurturing upbringing resulted in Harris’ fully realized and unapologetic acceptance of her multicultural identity. In her words, both her Black and Indian heritages are of equal weight in terms of who she is.
“The point is: I am who I am. I’m good with it,” she told the Washington Post while on the campaign trail. “You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it.”
For the People
The impact of Harris’ appointment to the second-highest office in the nation is – much like the former senator herself – multifaceted. Americans who have never seen themselves represented in the country’s absolute highest echelons now have the chance.
It is a responsibility she does not take lightly. Time and again, Harris has proven through her words and actions that she is acutely aware of her ability to engage with and appeal to many American identities, and committed to her duty of ensuring they are seen and heard.
She is a source of pride for the children of immigrants and the Black, Indian, and South Asian communities, expanding the beliefs and perceived potential of how high they can ascend and how much they can influence the American story.
She embodies the fighting spirit of women and girls of all races, backgrounds, creeds and political affiliations, encouraging them to speak up as they make their ways through life.
“What I want women and girls to know is this: You are powerful and your voice matters,” she told Marie Claire. “You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or has had the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone.
We are all in that room with you, applauding you on. Cheering your voice. So you use that voice and be strong.”
She personifies the grit and legacy of Black women like Shirley Chisholm and Carol Moseley, and is reflected in the millions of little girls of color who see their faces in her, challenging them to stand firm in their identities and what they bring to the table.
“There will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane,’” she told participants of the 2020 Black Girls Lead conference. “They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be. But don’t you let that burden you.
Don’t be burdened by their perspectives or judgement, and do not let anyone ever tell you who you are. You tell them who you are.”
She, along with her husband, Doug, and step-children Cole and Ella (who lovingly call her Momala), are a shining example of the beauty of family – no matter how they are constructed. All you need, she posits, is love.
“The thing about blended families is this – if everyone approaches it in the way that there’s plenty of love to share, then it works,” she said about her modern-day brood. “And we have plenty of love to share within our extended family.”
And, perhaps most importantly, she is an enduring reminder that while breaking barriers may be painful, the fight is worth it to ensure that the next generation will have a path. It is the immortal lesson given to her by the most important role model of her life: her mother.
“My mother would look at me and she’d say, ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last,’” she recalls often. “That’s why breaking those barriers are worth it. As much as anything else, it is also to create that path for those who will come after us.”
Guided by this life motto, Vice President Harris knows one thing for sure – she may be the first woman to hold the office, but she won’t be the last.
Black Georgia voters showed up in droves for the state’s pair of US Senate runoffs and voting rights groups say the high turnout plus aggressive organizing efforts helped solidify a historic win.
Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, was elected on Tuesday to be the first Black senator from Georgia, CNN projected early Wednesday morning. The control of the US Senate now comes down to Republican David Perdue, who is running to keep his seat against Democrat Jon Ossoff.
(Jeezy, hip-hop artists, CNN.)
Black-led voting groups spent the last six weeks knocking on millions of doors, registering voters, distributing mailers, hosting events and partnering with Atlanta hip-hop artists to expand their reach. Their efforts came as Atlanta was thrust into the national spotlight following Biden’s victory that flipped Georgia blue nafter he won the state by more than 11,000 votes. In the days leading up to the Senate runoffs, Black women such as Stacey Abrams and LaTosha Brown once again emerged as the leading voices, appearing on social media, national television and bus tours to urge Black people to vote.
Tina Flournoy, Symone Sanders and Ashley Etienne join a steadily browning and diverse Biden administration.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris‘ senior staff is shaping up to be a proper representation of the voters who are largely credited for her and Joe Biden‘s historic election. Not only are the top three staffers Black but they are also women, a combinatory nod to the group often called the backbone of the Democratic Party.
(Image credit – News One)
The last addition to Harris’ staff is Tina Flournoy, who was formally picked on Tuesday to be the vice president’s chief of staff. The transition for Flournoy shouldn’t be too difficult since that’s the same role she’s been working in for former President Bill Clinton. Flournoy has also had stints as a senior adviser to Democratic National Convention Chairman Howard Dean and as an Assistant to the President for Public Policy at the American Federation of Teachers.
Her bio on the website for Georgetown University — where she graduated from law school – detailed her extensive experience working on behalf of Democrats in positions that include: “traveling chief of staff to 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, Senator Joseph Lieberman, Finance Director for the Gore 2000 Presidential Campaign and Deputy to the Campaign Manager in the 1992 Clinton/Gore Presidential Transition Office and in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. Flournoy also served as General Counsel for the 1992 Democratic National Convention. Prior to joining the Convention team, Flournoy was Counsel for the DNC under Chairmen Paul Kirk and Ron Brown.”