It seemed as though as soon as the first candidates started entering the 2020 Democratic primary, I was getting messages from friends and family.
If you’re the “political friend,” you can probably relate. Ever since I worked for the DNC and soon after super volunteered for my local Hillary for America office in 2016, I have held that title. Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating, but I understand that for many of the people around me who don’t live, breathe, and (barely) sleep it every day, all of this is a lot to process.
In the beginning I decided that I would wait to see how it all played out. I told those who asked that I was considering a couple of candidates but that if 2008 was any indicator, it truly is anyone’s game until the end.
When I saw on Twitter that Kamala Harris was holding a campaign launch in her hometown of Oakland, California, something told me to go. It was a combination of being thoroughly impressed by her, itching to be at a rally again, and a gut feeling. So I booked a car and hotel, invited some of my close friends, and packed my bags.
To my delight two of my friends ended up joining me, one of whom had never been to a rally before. Catherine flew in from Arkansas and Ally drove up from Orange County. They had never met, but hit it off when we had to stay in my cramped Los Angeles apartment the night before. Catherine’s legs were literally sticking out of the door to my room, but we were so excited that we probably would’ve slept on concrete.
We piled into the rented car at a whopping four AM to make the six hour trek to the Bay Area. I drove the roughly three-hundred seventy miles north while we listened to the Senator’s audiobook, a large California Donuts coffee in the cupholder. It felt so good to feel inspired by a female Presidential candidate again, but I still was hesitant to commit so early on.
The morning of the rally, we woke up early once again so we could see “herstory” happen up close. All three of us knew that this was going to be a big day, but we had no idea that we were going to be three in a sea of twenty-two thousand people. The LA Times interviewed us about our road trip, we bought some pins, and then next thing we knew we were on the stairs waiting for it all to unfold.
We might have walked in undecided, but we walked out decided. Kamala Harris was it. She was the best person to take on Trump. I was convinced.
Wanting to base my support off of more than just a stump speech and a feeling, I took a month to research the Senator’s career thus far and policy proposals. I read both of her books: “Smart on Crime” and “The Truths We Hold”. I combed through hundreds of articles about her record as District Attorney of San Francisco and California. While I had some reservations about her record, I learned that she was a leader on many fronts before a lot of Democrats were: legalizing gay marriage, reducing recidivism, and opposing the death penalty just to name a few. I was impressed with her data-based approaches to criminal justice reform and related intersections.
I am not a single-issue voter by any means, but the issue of education inequity is something that is very close to my heart. When I was twelve years old, I joined my fellow “peer leaders” in tutoring elementary school students in Camden, New Jersey, a city nine miles away from where I lived. I don’t remember the name of the first student I sat with, but I will never forget working with him. He gently refused to start his homework and I couldn’t figure out why. After about fifteen minutes of getting him to warm up to me, he said in barely a whisper, “Can you read it to me?” He couldn’t start his homework because he couldn’t read it. It was the first time I became truly aware of my educational privilege and how broken our nation’s education system is.
Soon after I began tagging around with my dad to City Year events, an AmeriCorps program that aims to close the achievement gap by providing near-peer mentors to underserved youth in cities across the country. This year, I completed my own “City Year” in Los Angeles, California. A huge part of the problem is that far too often the people making decisions for our schools have never spent significant time in an undeserved school before. I not only wanted to make a small difference in the lives of my students, but gain perspective that will allow me to hopefully someday change the system at a federal level.
I saw firsthand how underpaid teachers are. Some of the teachers I served with had multiple jobs. Some were responsible for over forty kids in a class at a time. Some told me how they can’t impact students in the way they entered the field to do because there are so many standardized tests that determine how much funding the school will get.
The fact that Kamala Harris launched her campaign on investing in teachers and has been the only major candidate to spend adequate time on this issue, both during her career and the campaign, earned my vote.
Another way Kamala Harris earned my vote is through her executive order proposals. These days, it feels like this President has been far too normalized. I think many people across the country are terrified by the way our democracy has been crumbling while many have stayed complacent. The next person to take office needs to be prepared to make immediate structural changes or we are at major risk of collapse.
Policies are essential but with a Congress in a gridlock that we might not be able to break in 2020, I want to vote for someone that I know for certain is going to get things done. Kamala Harris’ use of executive order will guarantee that gun reform is accomplished, regardless if Congress fails to act. This is not something that I’ve seen from any of the other candidates, and I think it’s very reflective of how Senator Harris views this moment as one of unprecedented crisis.
Lastly, my support for Kamala Harris is rooted in my strong belief in representation having enormous value. One of my earliest memories of politics was when I was in second grade. I was and still am a daydreamer. Every day I would look around the classroom at the various things my teacher had hanging on the wall. Right by my desk was a poster of the Presidents. As a budding history nerd this was something I focused on frequently. It was 2003, President Bush was in office, and all of the men on that poster looked virtually the same.
I can remember thinking to myself, “Maybe I’ll be First Lady one day.” The thought came to me so simply. I had only ever seen men lead the country. I wanted to be President, but the only position that I saw open to me at that level was First Lady. Looking back at this makes me sad, not because First Ladies like Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t have huge impact during their time in the White House, but because representation lacked so much that I could not aspire to the highest office in the land.
Seeing Secretary Clinton’s run inspire multiple generations of women, and later making my own documentary about it entitled, “To All The Little Girls,” made me realize that “Shine Theory” has a huge ripple effect that is often underscored. I don’t think I would have ever wanted to work in politics had I not done a biographical project on Speaker Pelosi in the eighth grade and witnessed HRC accept the nomination for President. When I look back at my journey, women in politics have played a significant role in putting me on the path I am today.
I want young girls in our country to have these experiences earlier than I did. I want girls of color to see themselves in positions of power. When I see Senator Harris crouching down to be at eye level with our future leaders, speaking words of empowerment to them with all sincerity, I know that she is having huge impact. The girls she has talked to will remember their interaction with her for the rest of their lives. I will continue to celebrate the fact that we have so many awesome women running, undoubtedly because Shirley Chisholm and Hillary Rodham Clinton put serious dents in that glass ceiling.
For thousands of women and girls of color watching the last Presidential debate, they’re seeing themselves on that Presidential stage for the first time in their lifetimes. Going to Kamala’s rally inspired my friend Ally to finally come out to her family, something neither one of us could’ve predicted would be an after-effect of our road trip. Though we’ve come such a far way since I was sitting in that second grade classroom, we still have so far to go. Representation matters, and I’m proud to stand behind a candidate who is proving why it does.
As Kamala has said often in her stump speeches, “At the end of this, we will be relevant.” Being relevant means that win or lose (she intends to win), impact will have been made. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that I’m supporting a candidate who has already transformed lives, both prior to and during her candidacy.
Tonight, I’ll be hosting my second watch party in West Hollywood. I cannot wait to see the supporters I’ve befriended. We’ll share some “Kama-kazes,” cheer on our candidate, and talk about what we’re going to be doing in the coming months to help her secure the nomination.
I’m writing this Medium post for my friends, family, and followers who have had more questions ever since I declared my support. I also hope it shines a light on the real reasons why people are choosing her too.
When it comes to elections we tend to focus far too much on poll numbers and questionnaires, essentially making voters one-dimensional. Though I am just one person in the sea of voters and my endorsement doesn’t hold a ton of weight, I am proud to support Kamala Harris for President of the United States and I hope you will join me in becoming a “Joyful Warrior”.