Berkeley-raised Kamala Harris makes history as new vice president-elect

Berkeley’s diversity and progressive values helped shape a leader who stands for equality, empowerment and justice, said Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

Vice president-elect Kamala Harris spent her early, formative years in Berkeley. Photo: Mobilus In Mobili/Flickr

The news that Joe Biden had beat Donald Trump to become the next president of the United States was greeted with relief and jubilation in Berkeley. Drivers honked their horns and residents yelled with joy and relief from their homes when the networks began calling the race.

The victory is also a Berkeley one since Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris is a daughter of the city. She lived in Berkeley on and off for her first 12 years, attending Thousand Oaks Elementary School. Those years were “foundational” she told Berkeleyside last year.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín put out a statement about the Harris win Saturday morning. Berkeley’s diversity and progressive values helped shape a leader who “stands for equality, empowerment and justice,” he wrote on Twitter.

Councilmember Lori Droste congratulated “Berkeley’s own” and spoke of her own hope for a more tolerant country.

Harris is the first woman, the first Black person and the first person of Indian descent to have won national office by a major political party.

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.

As Berkeleyans digested the news Saturday, there were calls for celebratory,  socially distanced, gatherings outdoors and even the renaming of the elementary school Harris attended to mark her victory.

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