Barrier-breaking attorney to speak of politics, race

By Jordan Freisleben

Kamala Harris, the District Attorney of San Francisco, will help demonstrate the importance of African-American history and its relation to current events to the student body as the guest speaker for this year’s African-American History Month Assembly Feb. 27.

Harris began her career as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. In 1998, she started working at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.

Of Indian and African-American descent, Harris was elected as the first female District Attorney of San Francisco in 2003, also becoming the first African-American to be elected to the position in California, and the first Indian American to be elected to the position in the United States.

As District Attorney, Harris raised the San Francisco felony conviction rate to a record high of 67% in 2006 as well as establishing several outreach programs to connect the community to the DA’s office.

An active member of the Democratic Party, Harris will be running for Attorney General of California in 2010.

According to, the website for Harris’ Attorney General candidacy, her primary tenets are fighting against gang violence, the prevention of child assault, domestic violence and human trafficking and preserving the community quality of life.

The Black Leadership and Culture Club considered different speakers for the annual assembly starting at the beginning of the school year, but it was Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Eli Goldsmith who suggested Harris as a potential speaker.

After research, members of the BLACC and their adviser, upper school dean Tamar Adegbile, decided that Harris would make a great speaker for the school community.

Goldsmith was able to arrange Harris to come speak with the support of the newly formed Harvard-Westlake African-American Alumni Network and the Parents of African-American Harvard-Westlake Students,

“[BLACC] feels that her personal story will resonate with the students here, especially given that she represents a new generation of leaders in American politics in this age of Obama,” BLACC President Jessica Marot ’09 said.

“Although we have come far and have a lot to be proud of, the struggle to reach full equality for all continues,” Marot said. “We believe that Kamala Harris’ speech will illustrate this.”