Karine Jean-Pierre has accepted the role of chief of staff to Vice Presential candidate Kamala Harris. The announcement of her appointment came just hours before Harris was officially added to the ticket as Joe Biden’s pick for Vice President. And while I have my reservations about Harris, I have been a long time admirer of Jean-Pierre.
Jean-Pierre is a proud lesbian, Haitian-American political campaigner, activist and lecturer who has worked on presidential campaigns for John Edwards and former US president Barack Obama.
While many people had no idea who Jean-Pierre is, it was not hard to jog our memory. Jean-Pierre found herself the star of a viral gif after coming to Harris’ aid during a 2019 MoveOn.org presidential forum after a white man rushed the stage to take the microphone away from the Senator. Jean-Pierre threw her body between the protester and Harris and attempted to grab the microphone back.
“We should all admire Jean-Pierre for her transparency and willingness to discuss those experiences that she shares with many other black lesbian women.”Karine Jean-Pierre
Jean-Pierre has been a long history of vocally advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. Shortly after leaving her position with the Obama campaign, she spoke on her experience working as an openly lesbian woman in politics. She reflected on her work with the Obama staff saying, “Serving and working for President Obama where you can be openly gay has been an amazing honor”. She went on to add “It felt incredible to be a part of an administration that prioritizes LGBT issues”.
Beyond the education and the political success, we should all admire Jean-Pierre for her transparency and willingness to discuss those experiences that she shares with many other black lesbian women. Here are a few things that makes Jean-Pierre more relatable than she may appear:
- She comes from a working-class family. The child of a Haitian immigrants, she understands economic struggle and the value of hard work.
- She has struggled with mental health issues including a past suicide attempt. Her memoir addresses her mental health struggles. She has stated that she chose to address those moments in her life head-on to assist in destigmatizing the issue.
- She has experienced educators who did not see her greatness. In one interview she shares “I remember in junior high school one of my counselors told me I should be a nurse not a doctor. When I told my mom that she was very angry and told me not to listen to anyone who told me not to live my dream.”
- She comes from a family who avoids important conversations. During an interview about topics in her memoir she stated “In terms of the sexual abuse, my mother knows about it, but we never discussed it. It happened, they were made aware of it, but we never sat down and talked about it.”
- She did not always have her career figured out. Dealing with mental health, sexuality, and family struggles, Jean-Pierre states that she was a late bloomer in figuring out her career goals and did not consider politics until grad school.
In addition to sharing many common stories of black lesbian women, she is also a fierce advocate. “We have to stand up for each other,” Jean-Pierre told news anchor Nicolle Wallace. “And, sometimes, it’s women that do it and no one else will do it.”
Jean-Pierre’s life is truly a tale of finding one’s inner strength, following your dreams and having the courage to be your authentic self, which for the activist and organizer includes being a proud partner to CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux, and mother to their 5-year-old daughter Soleil.
“Karine Jean-Pierre is incredibly proud to be working to elect the Biden/Harris ticket,” Jean-Pierre tweeted Tuesday. “Let’s go!!”
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Sources: Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America, Karine Jean-Pierre– November 5, 2019; Nicolle Wallace’s “Deadline White House”, Jan 7, 2019; “Women on the Verge Part Two”. The Advocate. June 9, 2011. Retrieved August 13, 2018.