Kamala Harris is many things, the current Vice President, former senator of California, previous District Attorney, a democrat, America’s fun aunt and the list goes on. But we know Kamala Harris the professional, maybe even the hilarious rapping Kamala Harris from Saturday night live. But what more is there to know about America’s new Vice President. Politicians are best known for their resumes or lack there of but there is more to know about Kamala Harris than what she has done or plans to do with her time in office as the first women of colour. Kamala is not quite what you might picture when thinking of an American politician. What else makes her different? There is a lot to learn about the new democratic Vice President that you just might not have realized before.
Kamala’s upbringing and her mother’s role in mentoring her:
Kamala Harris comes from a mixed race background where she was brought up to celebrate the traditions and heritage of both halves of her family. As a woman of colour and a child of two immigrant parents, Kamala is proud of her mixed heritage. Being of both Jamaican and South Indian decent she has been open about and celebratory of both cultures that have shaped her into who she is today. The Vice President attended the black Baptist church as well as hindu temples growing up.
Kamala has a specific connection with her South Indian side specifically, as she spent most of the time with her mother after her parents split at the age 7. The Vice President would visit her mother’s family in India as a child, a pretty big job from Berkeley, California and shares fond memories of her grandfather secretly making her French Toast while her strictly vegetarian hindu grandmother was out of town.
The name Kamala was chosen by her mother as a way to celebrate powerful women as it is an alternative name for the hindu Goddess Lakshmi, one of the most powerful Goddesses in Hinduism. But the name also means lotus and this flower is scared for all hindus. Ironically, lotus is also the symbol of right wing party currently in power in India. Well, coming back, Kamala’s mother believed that a tradition which worships Goddesses, produces strong women and that was certainly the case with the VP. It was not just her Indian side that her mother raised her to be proud of. Kamala wrote in her autobiography, “The Truths We Hold, An American Journey” about her upbringing she wrote, “My mother understood very well she was raising two black daughters. 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 black women.” She also described listening to her father’s gospel and jazz music through he early childhood and remembers her mother singing along to Aretha Franklin’s early gospel music while her father would play Thelonious monk and John Coltrane, all legendary African – American musicians.
Schooling and Higher studies:
Kamala also speaks openly about being a part of a school integration program in Berkeley, California, when she was in first grade. The program focussed on racially integrating the city schools by transporting children from predominantly black neighbourhoods, across town to more wealthy white public schools. The Vice President says that the bussing program made a positive impact on her early life and some of her classmates described their experience as their first glimpse at affluence.
After graduating high school in Montreal, Canada, Kamala attended Howard University in Washington DC. A historically black college that was established just after the American Civil War, in an effort to provide equal educational opportunities to African – Americans. Other notable alumni included hidden figures stars Taraji P Henson and the late black panther Chadwick Boseman.
Kamala’s Dosa experience with Mindy:
Along with being proud of her mixed heritage, Kamala Harris is proud of her appreciation food. She even shared her South Indian heritage with comedian Mindy Kaling, by making masala dosas (a south Indian dish), and bonding over shared experiences as first generation Americans and the children of Indian immigrants in the video posted by Kamala on her official youtube channel. The pair reminisce on the elaborate and traditional home cooked meal that their working mothers would prepare. Mindy struggles to call Kamala anything other than Senator Harris, out of respect, taught by her. And Kamala asks Mindy’s father why he and her mother both happen to store their spices in Taster’s choice coffee jars. It’s like a wholesome family reunion.
She has not just made food with Mindy Kaling, her official Youtube channel features a healthy sprinkling of cooking videos including guests from celebrities to other politicians and future voters, all of those who share her love for food. Kamala describes herself as taking food very seriously and has posted videos including all kinds of recipes, be it Indian, bacon – fried apples or good old – fashioned tuna salad sandwiches. Although Kamala Harris deeply appreciates a good home cooked, full – fledged meal, her cooking videos are not always recipe focussed. Kamala uses food as a way to discuss politics, her career and celebrate heritage. She says her passion for cooking also comes from her upbringing as her mother told her that if she likes to eat good food she better learn how to cook it. And so Kamala mastered the art of scrambled eggs topped with cheese smiley faces in the 3rd grade and it is all been up from there.
Just a much she is a dedicated foodie, Kamala Harris is a natural – born speaker and it seems like speaking is what she was made to do. Kamala’s parents met while being a part of a civil rights movement and would later bring their daughter to the protests in a stroller. Since then, Kamala has always known how to address others when the situation required it. Her childhood friends recall her using her strong voice to quite down other children on the school bus when the driver had something to say. At the age of 13, Kamala and her sister Maya even staged a protest in front of their Montreal apartment building to change a policy that banned children from playing on the lawn. And yes, the polity got changed.
After all, now the world knows her thoroughly after her inauguration speech.