Kamala Harris - Providing social justice
Kamala Harris, 38 born in Oakland and raised in Berkeley
is the daughter of prominent breast cancer specialist
Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, a Tamilian who move to US in
1960 and Donald Harris, a Jamaican, professor of economics
at Stanford University.
Kamala Harris an Indian American attorney has been
voted as San Francisco District Attorney. She would
assume the office from January 8, 2004 and would be
the first Indian American district attorney in the
state history. Hallinan, who was first elected as
the city´s top prosecutor in 1995, will be out
of public office for the first time in 15 years.
Her parents separated when Kamala was five, but she
and her sister Maya Lakshmi, were brought up jointly
and imbibed Indian, American and Caribbean traditions.
Both her parents were active in the civil rights movement,
an influence that apparently led Kamala to Howard
University, America's oldest black university, and
then to Hastings College of the Law. Her sister is
also an attorney.
Kamala went to Howard University, Americas
oldest black university, and then to Hastings College
of the Law where she graduated in 1990. A former Deputy
District Attorney in San Francisco and Alameda County,
Kamala has thirteen years of courtroom experience.
She currently serves as a San Francisco Deputy City
Attorney, where she is Chief of the Community and
top-flight prosecutor San Francisco
a longtime champion for juvenile rights
San Francisco Examiner
Kamala D. Harris, 38, is a veteran prosecutor who
has dedicated her outstanding legal talents to prosecuting
violent crime, combating the sexual exploitation of
children and working creatively to improve the quality
of life in our communities.
A former Deputy District Attorney in San Francisco
and Alameda County, Kamala has thirteen years of courtroom
experience. She currently serves as a San Francisco
Deputy City Attorney, where she is Chief of the Community
and Neighborhood Division.
Kamala was born in Oakland and raised in Berkeley.
Her parents, both professors, were active in the Civil
Rights Movement and instilled in Kamala a strong commitment
to justice and public service. That commitment led
Kamala to Howard University, Americas oldest
black university, and then to Hastings College of
the Law. She graduated in 1990.
As Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County from
1990 to 1998, Kamala prosecuted hundreds of serious
and violent felonies, including homicide, rape and
child sexual assault cases. Before Louise Renne recruited
her to join the City Attorneys office in August,
2000, Kamala was the Managing Attorney of the Career
Criminal Unit of the San Francisco District Attorneys
Throughout her career, Kamala has made youth and
children a priority. She was one of the few prosecutors
in California to stand up against Proposition 21,
which has forced more young people unnecessarily into
prison. Currently, she is spearheading a public-private
task force that is pushing San Francisco to confront
the growing problem of teen-age prostitution.
Among her many community activities, Kamala is Co-Chair
of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights; President
of the Board of Directors of Partners Ending Domestic
Abuse; elected member of the Board of Directors of
the San Francisco Bar Association; and founder of
an SF Museum of Modern Art mentoring program which
has served hundreds of young people from the inner
Kamala has been recognized many times for the excellence
of her work. For her work on behalf of youth, Kamala
received an award from Crime Victims United. In 1998,
she was named by the Daily Journal as one of the top
20 young lawyers in the State of California. Most
recently, she earned an award from the County Counsel
Association of California for her work granting gay
couples equal rights in child adoption cases.
Harris, San Francisco Deputy City Attorney
(Mother Indian & Jamaican father)
Kamala Harris beat incumbent Terence Hallinan
to become San Francisco's new district attorney.
With 100% of precincts reporting,
Harris had 56% of the vote, compared to Hallinan's
Harris acknowledges that her job is a tough one.
She sees some of the most disadvantaged people in
The City -- children who are victims of abuse, rape,
"I've dealt with many child assault cases,
in which these children were runaways because their
fathers, uncles, mothers' boyfriends sexually abused
them," says Harris. "And many of these kids
develop post-traumatic stress disorder and many of
these victims find ways to self-medicate, to dull
the trauma and pain."
Harris has looked within her own family to find
the inspiration and passion that drives her to fight
for womens' and childrens' rights. The daughter of
a South Asian mother and a Jamaican father, Harris
was brought up in an environment full of support and
"My mother is the original feminist,"
Harris says. "Which is quite fascinating since
she is South Asian."In the 1940s, Harris' grandmother
drove around in a VW bug in India with a bullhorn
telling village women to get birth control.
"I mean, when I heard that, that blew my mind,"
says Harris laughing. "Even though my grandma
had an arranged marriage when she was 12, she and
my grandfather were very open-minded people."
The women in Harris' family aren't necessarily rebels,
but rather very independent women who are true to
themselves, according to Harris."My mother fell
in love with my father, a black man, and she didn't
have an arranged marriage, which my grandparents at
first weren't too happy with," she says. "Then
she divorced my father when I was 7 years old and
my sister, Maya Lakshmi, was 5."
Harris grew up in Berkeley and attended Thousand
Oaks Elementary School. Her classmate in the first,
second and third grades was San Francisco Supervisor
Harris says she's blessed with having been exposed
to Asian, black and American cultures as a child.
She remembers going to a Buddhist temple at the crack
of dawn, only to attend service at a Baptist church
later in the morning.
"I grew up with a strong Indian culture, and
I was raised in a black community," she says.
"All my friends were black and we got together
and cooked Indian food and painted henna on our hands,
and I never felt uncomfortable with my cultural background."
Harris attended high school in Montreal, received
her undergraduate degree at Howard University and
law degree at Hastings Law School. She worked for
Hallinan for two years after he recruited her from
the Alameda District Attorney's Office. Two years
ago, former city attorney Louise Renne asked Harris
to join her office, and Harris has been there ever
Still early in the race, Harris has garnered big
name endorsements from Mayor Willie Brown, Supervisors
Peskin, Fiona Ma and Sophie Maxwell and Assemblymen
Leland Yee and Mark Leno.
"I'm running because San Francisco deserves
a first class D.A.'s office," Harris says. "We
deserve better. In Terence Hallinan's mind, he believes
he's done a good job, but why not have the best office?
I'm not looking to run against him, to run against
his office, but I'm looking to improve the office."