Maya Lakshmi Harris is an American lawyer, public policy advocate, philanthropic leader and television commentator. Presently she serves MSNBC as political analyst and is involved as campaign chairwoman for her sister, Kamala Harris' 2020 presidential campaign. Initially she practiced law as a civil litigator. She remained law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and taught contract law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose and New College of California School of Law. She was inducted Dean and Chief Executive Officer at Lincoln and with this she became one of the youngest law school deans of the US. She served PolicyLink as Senior Associate and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California as Executive Director. Thereafter she served Ford Foundation as Vice President for Democracy, Rights and Justice. She was inducted senior policy advisor with two others to lead the development of an agenda for 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. She is on the board of the Apollo Theater Foundation, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and co-chair of the Women's Media Center. Her publications include an advocacy manual for police reform titled ‘Organized for Change: The Activist’s Guide to Police Reform’.
Childhood & Early Life
Maya Lakshmi Harris was born on January 30, 1967, in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois,US to Donald Harris and Shyamala Gopalan Harris. Her mother, daughter of Indian diplomat P. V. Gopalan, emigrated from Madras (now Chennai) to the US in 1960. She was a breast cancer scientist. Maya’s father immigrated to the US from Jamaica in 1961. He is a Stanford University economics professor.
Initially Maya grew up with her older sister, Kamala in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her parents divorced when she was around five years old. Custody of the girls was granted to their mother by court-ordered settlement. The two children then relocated with Shyamala in Montreal, Québec, Canada. The girls were brought up with beliefs from both Baptist and Hindu faiths. The siblings sang in a Baptist choir also.
When Maya was eight years old, she and Kamala convinced their apartment building management to make an unused courtyard accessible to the kids to play.
She attended the University of California, Berkeley and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1989. Thereafter she obtained her JD from Stanford Law School. She served as Co-Chair of the Student Steering Committee and Co-Coordinator of the Domestic Violence Clinic and remained active with the East Palo Alto Community Law Project during her tenure at the law school.
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After completing her studies, Maya began working for the United States District Court Judge James Ware in the Northern District of California as a law clerk.
She was inducted in the San Francisco law firm of Jackson Tuffs Cole & Black, LLP in 1994. There she worked in both civil and criminal litigations. She was honoured with the Junius W. Williams Young Lawyer of the Year Award by National Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division in 1997. San Francisco Daily Journal named her among the Top 20 Up and Coming Lawyers Under 40 in 1998.
She had a stint at the University of San Francisco School of Law as a law professor. She was also associated with New College of California School of Law and Lincoln Law School of San Jose, teaching contract law in both the private, non-profit law schools. The Board of Trustees of Lincoln appointed her as Dean and Chief Executive Officer. At that time she was only 29 and thus emerged as one of the youngest law school deans of the US. Her contributions as Dean included shifting and upgrading the law school campus, renewing state bar accreditation of the school, revamping the basic curriculum and appointing new faculty.
She worked in the capacity of Senior Associate at the Oakland, California based national research and action institute PolicyLink. The institute focuses on advancement of economic and social equity and on policies that affect communities of colour and low-income. Role of Maya saw her organizing conferences across police-community relations, conducting research on community policing issues and advocating for police reform. While there she wrote the publications Organized for Change: The Activist’s Guide to Police Reform and Community-Centered Policing: A Force for Change.
She became Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, the largest affiliate office of the ACLU. While serving there as numero uno of the office Maya administered and coordinated litigation, lobbying, public education, media relations, advocacy and grassroots organizing endeavours. She also remained Northern California director for the campaign ‘No on 54’ in 2003. It was undertaken to defeat the California ballot proposition called ‘Proposition 54’ on the 2003 gubernatorial recall election ballot.
Her essay titled ‘Fostering Accountable Community-Centered Policing’ found place in the 2006 political, non-fiction book ‘The Covenant with Black America’. The book peaked atop The New York Times best-seller list. She has also published commentary in different media outlets.
Maya became Vice President for Democracy, Rights and Justice at the Ford Foundation in 2008.The issues addressed by her in such capacity included the problem of child marriage. A global team of the foundation led by Maya invested more than $750 million in safeguarding human rights, advancing effective governance and increasing democratic participation. Such investments encompassed the first LGBT rights initiative by the foundation as also efforts in increasing opportunities, both economic and political, for women across the globe.
She was a senior fellow at the public policy research and advocacy organization, Center for American Progress that presents a liberal perspective on social and economic issues. During her tenure there, Maya paid attention in bolstering the US democracy and economy by promoting policies which include more women and people of colour. She wrote ‘Women of Color: A Growing Force in the American Electorate’ that documented the increasingly significant role of women of colour in influencing political results.
In 2015, Maya along with two others were appointed senior policy advisors for leading development of an agenda for the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.
Since June 2017, Maya works with MSNBC as political analyst. She is associated with Women's Media Center as co-chair and is in the board of the Apollo Theater Foundation. Maya is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Kamala, an attorney and politician, is a Democratic Party member and serves as the junior United States Senator from California. She is running in the 2020 United States presidential election as a Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Maya, who is also associated with the Democratic Party has become involved in such pursuit of Kamala as the latter’s campaign chairwoman.
Family & Personal Life
According to sources, Maya gave birth to her daughter Meena Harris at age 17. Meena also attended Stanford Law School and presently works at Slack.
Sources mention that Maya met her future husband Tony West during registration at Stanford Law School in 1989 when the four years old Meena tried to play hide and seek with Tom. Eventually Tom and Maya became friends and following graduation they started a relationship that culminated into marriage sometime later. Tom is also a lawyer who presently holds position as general counsel and Chief Legal Officer at Uber.
Maya has gained considerable popularity on Twitter.