Howard grad returns to roots in Senate race

Savannah Harris, Howard University News Service | 10/9/2015, 12:56 p.m.
Kamala Harris, California’s attorney general and the early odds-on favorite to become the state’s first Black U.S.
Kamala Harris Contributed

Kamala Harris, California’s attorney general and the early odds-on favorite to become the state’s first Black U.S. senator, returned to her Howard University roots during homecoming week to raise money and reconnect with her sorority members, longtime friends and supporters.

Harris, who political experts say is the front-runner in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, hosted a few private events and fundraisers last week to further solidify her network of supporters.

“I came to reconnect with friends and supporters and hear their concerns,” she stated. Howard, she said, has been a special place in her career and her life.

“Howard is really a place that teaches us who we can be, and most importantly teaches us we can be anybody,” she continued.

The attorney general said it was important to meet with her fellow members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Alpha chapter, which was founded in 1908 at Howard University.

“My sorors support me spiritually and professionally,” Harris acknowledged. “That’s the great thing about a sisterhood.”

Harris’ time at Howard was spent studying economics and political science, arguing on the debate team and working with the Howard University Student Association.

It was at Howard where she won her first election, becoming the freshman class representative in the College of Arts and Sciences. The experience molded her political career and sense of duty toward people who need their voices to be heard, she said.

“I was working with HUSA in our tiny office creating priorities around folks that needed a voice,” she explained.

After graduating from Howard in 1986, Harris returned to her hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area and earned a degree from University of California Hastings College of the Law. She was deputy district attorney of Alameda County and district attorney of San Francisco before receiving the Democratic nomination for California attorney general in 2010.

One of Harris’ main priorities has been to reduce recidivism among California inmates. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 2013 Report, 61 percent of California inmates find themselves back in institutions within three years of release.

As she talked with friends and others during homecoming week, Harris, California’s first Black woman attorney general, said that they were focused on “criminal justice reform, early education, minimum wage, the environment and immigration.” She said she hopes to influence young women to be persistent and determined in chasing their own success.

“I always want to encourage young girls to never listen to or hear the word ‘no,’” Harris said. “I eat that word for breakfast.”