Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s pick for vice president, is a daughter of Berkeley

Harris often talks about her Oakland roots, but the senator was a resident of the Berkeley flats until the age of 12, attending Thousand Oaks Elementary School. Those years were “foundational” she told Berkeleyside.

Kamala Harris kicks off her presidential candidacy in Oakland on Jan. 27, 2019. Photo: Katherine Bricceti
Kamala Harris, who lived in Berkeley until the age of 12, kicked off her presidential candidacy in Oakland on Jan. 27, 2019.  Now she’s Joe Biden’s pick for vice president. Photo: Katherine Bricceti

The country has been on tenterhooks for the news that finally broke today that presidential candidate Joe Biden has chosen his running mate. His pick is Kamala Harris, the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major political party.

Harris is often described as a “daughter of Oakland,” and she herself likes to make reference to her Oakland roots, including at her presidential campaign kick-off event held in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza in January 2019.

But while she was born in a Kaiser Oakland hospital, Harris was raised and lived in Berkeley until age 12. She was a resident of the Berkeley flats and a student at Thousand Oaks Elementary School, until she moved with her family to Montreal. She came back to the U.S. after high school, graduating from Howard University and UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and later worked as an Alameda County prosecutor before getting elected San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general.

Harris’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, came to UC Berkeley from India in 1958 to get her Ph.D., met and married a fellow graduate student, Donald Harris, an immigrant from Jamaica. They separated when Harris was young. Harris lived with her mother and sister in an apartment on Bancroft Way, and Harris started kindergarten one year after Berkeley Unified launched its celebrated integration program.

Her time spent in Berkeley were foundational years, Harris told Berkeleyside last year. Read our January 2019 story to learn more about the early years of the next potential vice president of the United States.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.