By Sister Tarpley
NDG Religion Editor
The Honorable Kamala Harris made history on January 20, 2021 when she was inaugurated as vice president of the United States. She is the first female, first Black and first South Asian to hold the office.
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” the former United States Senator from California promised a Wilmington, Delaware crowd while delivering her November victory speech.
“Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
The culmination of Harris’ historic run with President Joe Biden first began with her own bid for the 2020 Democratic beginning in January 2019.
Through the numerous debates and media appearances that followed, voters learned plenty about Harris’ political views and values, but here are some things you might not know about the vice president:
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She is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, born at Oakland, California’s Kaiser Hospital on October 20, 1964, to Indian American immigrant and breast cancer researcher, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan and Jamaica-born Donald Harris, an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford.
The couple met as doctoral students at the University of California at Berkeley in the fall of 1962 and married the following year.
Dr. Gopalan gave her daughter the name Kamala, which means “lotus” in Sanskrit and is another name for the Hindu deity Lakshmi, in part, to help preserve her cultural identity.
The vice president’s middle name, Davi, translates to “goddess” in Sanskrit, another tribute to the Hindu religion.
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“A culture that worships goddesses produces strong women,” the late Gopalan told the Los Angeles Times in 2004.
Harris has a long history of activism. A 2004 Los Angeles Times profile recounted a favorite family story that began with Harris joining in protest chants from her stroller while her parents marched for civil rights in Oakland and Berkeley, California.
Following one march, Gopalan innocuously asked the toddler, “What do you want, Kamala?” Her response: “FEE-DOM!”
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Later, when she was 13, Harris and her sister, Maya, led a demonstration in front of their Montreal apartment building in protest of the policy that banned children from playing on the lawn. The owners eventually reversed the policy.
Harris loves to cook, “As a child, I remember hearing the pots and smelling the food, and kind of like someone in a trance, I would walk into the kitchen to see all this incredible stuff happening,” Harris recalled in a May 2020 Glamour interview.
“My mother used to tell me, ‘Kamala, you clearly like to eat good food. You better learn how to cook.’” That’s exactly what she did, and, now, the politician regularly shares her culinary skills, recipes, and love for Sunday dinners on social media.
In 2019, she and actress Mindy Kaling made masala dosa together in a campaign video, and Harris also taught fellow senator Mark Warner how to properly make a tuna melt in an online video.
When sharing her recipe for “Kamala’s Cornbread Dressing” on Thanksgiving 2020, she tweeted, “During difficult times I have always turned to cooking. This year, I wanted to share one of my family’s favorite Thanksgiving recipes with you.
After attending Howard University and the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, Kamala Harris embarked on a rise through the California legal system, emerging as state attorney general in 2010.
Following the November 2016 elections, Harris became just the second Black woman and the first South Asian American to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. She declared her candidacy for the 2020 U.S. presidential election on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2019 but dropped out of the race before the end of the year.
In August 2020, Joe Biden announced Harris as vice presidential running mate and after a close race, Biden and Harris were elected in November 2020.
I hope whenever you’re able to make it in life, it brings you as much warmth as it has brought me — even when separated from those I love.”
Harris is also an avid reader. While running as a Democratic candidate for president in 2019, Harris was the first to respond to Book Riot’s request for her favorite books and/or those that have been most influential in her life. She listed five: Native Son by Richard Wright, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.