Community members discuss Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Berkeley roots

Photo of Kamala Harris speaking at a podium
Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons
According to Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has achieved significant milestones for women and women of color. As a child, Harris attended Berkeley public schools, including Thousand Oaks Elementary School. (Photo by Gage Skidmore under CC BY SA 2.0.)

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Berkeley community members reflected on the importance of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Berkeley upbringing following the 2020 presidential election.

Harris’ parents met at UC Berkeley while pursuing their doctoral degrees and Harris spent her early childhood growing up in a house on Bancroft Way, according to SFGate. Given her childhood origins in Berkeley, community members said they are excited about her election and to see what the future holds for Harris.

“I am very proud that Vice President Kamala Harris has roots in Berkeley,” said Terri Bimes, campus political science associate teaching professor, in an email. “From her multicultural heritage, to being a part of Berkeley’s first efforts to integrate schools, to attending civic protests as a young kid to valuing education, her personal story resonates with the values of Berkeley.”

Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn said in an email that she felt “joyful” and “hopeful” on many levels. She noted that Harris has achieved one of the most important things for the country by demonstrating that women can hold the most powerful positions both in the nation and in the world.

“That is a huge milestone for women and something to be celebrated in its own right,” Hahn said in the email. “So she has broken two ‘glass ceilings’ for women in the United States, and she brings the unique experiences and perspectives of a woman, and a woman of color.”

Regarding Harris’ future as vice president, Bimes said she hopes that Harris will focus on a range of issues, including domestic policy, foreign policy and intelligence matters.

Hahn added in the email that Harris displays her commitment to uplifting all people and embodies Berkeley’s values, including equity and justice, equal opportunity, access to high-quality education, international human rights and environmental action.

“Berkeley, and our fundamental values, were important to her and to her parents,” Hahn said in the email. “It’s incredibly meaningful to me that she brings those values and that inspiration and hopefulness with her to Washington DC, and to the highest offices of this nation.”

As a child, Harris attended Berkeley public schools and went to Thousand Oaks Elementary School, where she was part of the Berkeley Unified School District’s, or BUSD’s, integration program. Berkeley became the first city in the nation to voluntarily integrate its K-12 public schools through the program.

Hahn previously introduced a resolution calling for the BUSD Board of Education to rename Thousand Oaks Elementary School to Kamala Harris Elementary School in honor of her election.

“It may seem quaint now, but the integration of Berkeley schools was an extremely important ‘first’ for the United States,” Hahn said in the email. “It also reflected prevailing sentiments in Berkeley, which was deeply committed to racial equity already in the 1960s, and was far ahead of the curve in the United States.”

Contact Aryia Dattamajumdar at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AryiaDm.