When Kamala Harris accepted the VP nomination at the Democratic National Convention, she took a moment to re-introduce herself to voters, and to speak about her definition of family, one that includes “the family you’re born into and the family you choose.”
One key member of Harris’s family? Her younger sister Maya, 53, a close confidant and political advisor, who has even been referred to as the Bobby Kennedy to Kamala’s Jack.
“There is a greater level of integrity in the way [the Harris sisters] conduct themselves,” Maya’s friend Kate Kendall, who is the former head of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told Talking Points Memo in April 2019. “You think back to John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy as an example of a very political, intensely ambitious and thoughtful individuals.”
Here, now that Kamala has been elected Vice President, a bit more about Maya.
She and Kamala have always been close.
“We forged a bond that is unbreakable,” Kamala said of her sister last year in an interview with the Washington Post. “When I think about it, all of the joyous moments in our lives, all of the challenging moments, all of the moments of transition, we have always been together.”
In 2014, Maya even officiated her sister’s wedding to Douglas Emhoff. And when it came time to introduce Kamala for her historic DNC speech, Maya spoke of their closeness.
“Growing up, heaven help the poor kid who picked on me because my sister would be there in a flash to have my back,” she said. “Now we’ve got your back as you and Joe fight to protect our democracy.”https://www.instagram.com/p/BwFDI3KDC9j/embed/captioned?cr=1&v=12
Like her big sister, Maya is a lawyer.
Maya got her Bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley and later graduated from Stanford Law School.
In 2014, Maya spoke about her experience going through college and law school as a single mom. (She has one daughter named Meena.) “I was a single teenage parent and I could not have done what I’ve been able to do had I not had access to childcare and had I not had mechanisms for me to pay for both my college tuition and my law school tuition,” she said on MSNBC .
Like her mother and aunt, Meena, 35, is a lawyer, who graduated from Stanford and Harvard Law, and has previously worked in the policy departments of large tech companies including Slack and Uber. She now serves as the founder and CEO of the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign, an organization inspired by Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” poem whose mission is to bring awareness to social causes, and she recently wrote a book called Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea, which was inspired by her mother and her aunt.
During the 2020 DNC, Meena was one of several women who introduced Kamala Harris. “You’re my role model, who taught me I could do or be anything I wanted,” she said. She also spoke of her own two daughters: “And now that I’m a mom, you’re showing my daughters and so many girls around the world who look like them what’s possible and what it’s like to move through the world as fierce, formidable, phenomenal women in their own unique way.”
She helped run her sister’s presidential campaign.
Maya served as the chairwoman of her older sister’s presidential campaign, but this wasn’t her first experience with a the presidential race. Previously, she served as a senior policy advisor on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.https://www.instagram.com/p/BKJ2XO6BXsJ/embed/captioned?cr=1&v=12
Prior to that, she held executive positions at the Ford Foundation and the ACLU of Northern California, and at 29 she became one of the youngest law school deans ever when she assumed the position at Lincoln Law School in Sacramento.
“I think most people who know Maya will tell you she’s one of the smartest people they know,” Kamala recently told Politico. “The fact that she has volunteered to work on this campaign at such a high level and she’s exactly who she’s always been—she works around the clock and she’s probably the hardest, if not one of the hardest working people on the campaign—I feel very blessed.”
She recently opened up about her experience with lupus.
While Maya has filled the very public role of political analyst on MSNBC in the past, she is relatively private about her personal life. But in April of 2020, she spoke out about her experience with lupus, given that Trump was promoting the drug hydryroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19—despite Dr. Anthony Fauci saying that it isn’t effective. (Hydryroxychloroquine is an essential medicine for people with lupus.)
“I have lupus. I haven’t spoken publicly about it before now. But then coronavirus hit, killing black people at alarming rates & Trump unnecessarily put lupus patients—disproportionately black women—at higher risk,” Harris wrote on Twitter, sharing her story. In the thread, she added a video of fellow lupus patient Amiee Kushner with the comment, “Trump unnecessarily caused a run on hydroxychloroquine, stockpiled nearly 30 million doses of it, and created a shortage of the primary drug lupus patients like Amiee take to stabilize the disease and live their lives.”