By Ashleigh Fields, Howard University News Service
Senator Kamala Harris of California, a 1986 Howard graduate will forever be remembered as “one of the first.”
On Tuesday, Harris became the first Black and South Asian American woman chosen for national office by a major political party when Joe Biden, the presidential candidate for the Democratic party announced her as his running mate. However, she has a career of rewriting history.
She was California’s first black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, and the first black woman to become the state’s attorney general where she served two terms. Harris shares that her motivation to break barriers was a mentality onset at Howard in her recent memoir, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.”
She wrote in the memoir: “That was the beauty of Howard. Every signal told students that we could be anything — that we were young, gifted, and black, and we shouldn’t let anything get in the way of our success.”
This is the exact way Jennifer Thomas, Harris’ former classmate who is now an associate professor of journalism at Howard University remembers her.
“As an undergraduate, I recall Harris as being extremely focused. We all knew that she had aspirations to be an attorney and that she would be successful at whatever that goal would be,” said Professor Thomas. “Howard personifies an expectation of excellence from its graduates. I am not surprised at her level of success.”
Professor Thomas shared that though the world might be in shock, it is crucial that journalists maintain an accurate description of Harris.
“As media professionals, journalists play a crucial role as disseminating the “first draft of history.” It’s imperative that journalists are ethical in their coverage and provide parity of that coverage as well as much-needed context to their stories,” said Professor Thomas. “There are also so many stories and issues that affect communities of color around the country.”
This is a sentiment most Howard students have. Even those who don’t agree with her policies are excited to see how Harris works to bridge the gap between communities through her diverse background.
“I am happy that she is a Black and Indian woman of color, the child of two immigrants and is HBCU educated but that clearly isn’t the only thing, or even the most important thing, to focus on here,” said sophomore political science major Ellison Estwick. “However I do think that her being picked makes for an even more interesting race and I hope that it encourages more people (especially of color) to further inform themselves on her positions, and the [presidential] race as a whole.”
Howard’s president Wayne A.I. Frederick also echoed the sentiment of the Howard community in being proud of Harris.
“As Senator Harris embarks upon this new chapter in her life, and in our country’s history, she is poised to break two glass ceilings in our society with one fell swoop of her Howard hammer,” he said in a statement.