Here are 10 important Fact to know about the current Attorney General of California:
Harris was born October 20, 1968 in Oakland, Calif. Her father, a native Jamaican, was an economics professor at Stanford University and her mother was a breast cancer specialist who emigrated from India. Harris was primarily raised in the Bay Area and Montreal before heading to Howard University to begin her undergraduate studies.
- Her full name is Kamala (pronounced “comma-la”) Devi Harris. Her mother, Shyamala, a Hindu, gave her daughters names taken from Hindu mythology in part to connect her children to their heritage. “A culture that worships goddesses produces strong women,” Shyamala told the Los Angeles Times in 2004. Kamalā is one of many Sanskrit words meaning lotus, as well as a name for Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune. Harris’s middle name, Devi, is a Sanskrit word used within Hinduism as the general term for a goddess. (Shyamala named her second daughter Maya Lakshmi, continuing the goddess trend.)
- She comes from a long line of accomplished women. Her mother was a well-known breast cancer researcher and activist, her sister is a lawyer and public policy activist who worked as a senior policy adviser for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and her grandmother used to advocate for birth control to women in Indian villages.
- Advice she lives by: “You may be the first to do many things, make sure you’re not the last.”
- Growing up, Harris traveled to India with her mother and younger sister every two years, and she and her sister sang in a Baptist choir.
- Harris attended Howard University for her undergraduate degree and received a law degree from University of California’s Hastings College of Law in San Francisco.
- Throughout her years as an attorney and California’s attorney general, she’s had a smart-on-crime approach, though some critics have argued that she has been conservative in her approach to criminal justice reform.
- She worked on Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in the 1980s.
- Her favorite Indian foods are korma – similar in consistency to grits – and chicken masala, and her favorite Indian restaurants are Amber India and Dosa, both located in San Francisco.
- Harris’s first-ever campaign was for freshman class representative of the liberal arts student council at Howard University. Harris also sharpened her public speaking skills on Howard’s debate team and joined the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, all while organizing mentor programs for minority youths and demonstrating against apartheid. “The thing that Howard taught me is that you can do any collection of things, and not one thing to the exclusion of the other,” Harris said in 2016. “You could be homecoming queen and valedictorian. There are no false choices at Howard.”With Howard located in the nation’s capital, Harris explored a number of potential paths for public service while in college, working as a tour guide at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, serving as a press aide at the Federal Trade Commission, and interning for Senator Alan Cranston of her home state of California.
- In her first year as California’s Attorney General, Harris played hardball during a multi-state suit against five major banks accused of improper foreclosure practices during the mortgage crisis. She pulled out of early negotiations, rejecting a multi-state deal that she felt brought too little money to California and protected the banks from prosecution for their actions, despite pressure from the Obama administration to accept those terms. “I took an oath to represent California, and that’s what I was doing,” Harris told The New York Times. “It was about making sure that Californians got what they needed.” Afraid she was jeopardizing the settlement, some pressured Harris to accept the initial terms. “The Los Angeles Times had an editorial saying I should take the deal,” she told San Francisco Magazine. “I got calls from elected leaders in California saying, ‘I hope you know what you’re doing.’”
- Ultimately, she triumphed. Harris and her team secured $20 billion in mortgage relief for Californians, as well as the right to levy financial penalties if the banks failed to fulfill their promises in the deal.
Little Known Black History Fact: Kamala Harris
Harris obtained her law degree from UCLA’s Hastings College of the Law and passed the state bar in 1990. From that year until 1998, Harris worked as a deputy district attorney for Alameda County before heading up the Career Criminal Unit in the San Francisco Attorney’s Office.
The career climb for Harris continued in 2003 after she won an election to become District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, and was reelected unopposed in 2007.
In 2010, she began her campaign to become the nominee for the state attorney’s position. She was sworn in January 3, 2011. More recently,Harris was among the names considered as a possible choice to replace Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia who died earlier.
However, Harris is more interested in another gig – she is currently campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by incumbent Barbara Boxer (D – Ca.) in 2017 and is considered the front-runner. If she wins, she will only be the second African-American female to hold as Senate seat in U.S. history. The first was Illinois senator Carol Moseley Braun, who served from 1993-1999.