Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., launched ‘South Asians for the People’ Sept. 7, an initiative aimed at garnering support for her presidential bid from Indian Americans and other South Asian Americans.
Harris, the daughter of the late Indian American cancer researcher Shymala Gopalan, launched the new initiative with a video tweet, describing the summers she spent in Chennai with her mother’s parents.
“As a young girl, I'd often go on walks with my grandfather in India, who'd discuss how people should be treated equally — regardless of the circumstances of their birth,” tweeted Harris in an introduction to the video, describing her grandfather as a freedom fighter for India. “All of his buddies, who were great leaders, they would talk about the importance of fighting for democracy, and the importance of fighting for civil rights,” said the candidate in the video.
“Those walks along the beach in India really planted something in my mind and created a commitment in me — before I even realized it — that has led me to where I am today,” said Harris in the video, which also featured the candidate attending the Pratham Gala in New York in 2018. Watch the full video here:
As a young girl, I'd often go on walks with my grandfather in India, who'd discuss how people should be treated equally—regardless of the circumstances of their birth.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 7, 2019
My heritage is why I’m proud to launch our South Asians #ForThePeople community: https://t.co/CIWR6dY9Iz pic.twitter.com/tLwKpd9G85
Harris was the keynote speaker at the Pratham Gala in Palo Alto, Calif., on Aug. 27, 2016, in the midst of her Senate bid. In an interview with India-West on the sidelines of that event, Harris said she had no plans to run for president at that point. “But you never know,” she said with a laugh.
Speaking about the new initiative, Maya Humes, a spokeswoman for the Harris campaign, told India-West: “We are connecting with the South Asian American community in a specific and concerted way.”
The Harris campaign Web site now has a space for South Asian Americans to sign up to volunteer, host events, a phone bank, and other activities. “We wanted to create a space for South Asian American Harris supporters to come together,” said Humes. “We have met tons of volunteers who support her advocacy for the community.”
Indian American classical vocalist Harini Krishnan of Hillsborough, Calif., told India-West she is an ardent supporter of Harris. “I’ve watched Kamala break barriers,” she said, noting that Harris was the first woman of color to serve as a state attorney general.
“I come from a family of strong women. I have two strong daughters who are watching history in the making. Will Kamala get a seat at the table?” questioned Krishnan, adding that Harris’ career has inspired many women of color to seek their own seats at the table.
Like Harris, Krishnan, too, is from Chennai; she came to the U.S. at the age of 13. “Kamala is a social justice warrior. When she speaks of her Indian American background, she speaks with passion.”
In May, Krishnan co-hosted a fundraiser for the candidate at the Hillsborough home of Stefanie Roumeliotes and John Kostouros. She now serves as a volunteer on the campaign’s national finance committee, and also serves as the volunteer lead for San Mateo County, Calif.
Krishnan, who is also an Assembly district delegate with the California Democratic Party, said that at the California Democratic Convention, she organized a dinner for prospective Harris supporters.
Her daughter, Janini, who attends Harvard, has established a “Students for Kamala” chapter on campus.
Humes shared the profiles of two other Indian American supporters: 15-year-old Deepa Mahesh, who attends high school in San Jose, Calif. “She not only makes me feel like my community is part of something bigger, she makes every community feel included. I really think she embodies America,” said Mahesh in a press statement.
Vidya Krishnamoorthy, the mother of two children, said she supports Harris because of her advocacy on behalf of increasing the salaries of school teachers.