(AFP) — Kamala Harris’s boundary-breaking run at the US vice presidency has inspired hope and dreams in her father’s native Jamaica, where locals claimed her as their own.
She might have been born in California to an Indian mother, but it was her Jamaican roots and historic candidacy that got people in Kingston excited on Wednesday.
“My heart is soaring for all the kids out there who see themselves in her and will dream bigger because of this,” said Felicia Mills, a 36-year-old executive secretary.
“This means a lot for every little girl who has ever dreamed an impossible dream,” she said, describing Harris as an “honorary Jamaican”.
Harris was the first black attorney general of California and the first woman to hold that post, while she was also the first woman of South Asian heritage elected to the US Senate.
The 55-year-old made history on Tuesday when Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden tapped her to be his running mate, making her the first woman of colour on a major party’s presidential ticket.
Her father, Donald Harris, served as an economics professor at prestigious Stanford University in California, where he taught and carried out research.
According to his biography on Stanford’s website, he is a naturalized US citizen but “had a continuing engagement with work on the economy of Jamaica, his native country.”
He served as a consultant to Jamaica’s government and its prime ministers, the website said.
Her father and mother, breast cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan, separated when Harris was about five years old and she and her sister Maya were raised by her mother, who died in 2009.
– ‘Historic selection’ –
Popular Jamaican political commentator Kevin O’Brien Chang said Harris’s candidacy shined a positive light on the island.
“She has spoken positive about Jamaica in the past, she is aware of her heritage and proud of it,” he said.
“It shows greatness, and it translates well, that the daughter of two immigrants born in the United States could aspire to the second most powerful job in America,” Chang added.
Even Jamaica’s top levels of government weighed in on the nomination, with the nation’s foreign affairs minister Kamina Johnson Smith tweeting “Congratulations to Senator @kamalaharris on her historic selection!!”
With under three months to go until election day in the United States, people in Jamaica were already casting Harris’s nod as a masterful step.
“Based on the reactions I’m seeing so far, it’s a genius move,” said University of the West Indies politics student Francine James.
“Any attempts by the Republicans at being nasty towards her… will likely backfire,” James said.
Biden and Harris came out swinging on Wednesday, launching their ticket with a call-to-arms against President Donald Trump.
“America is crying out for leadership, yet we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him,” said Harris.