Black lesbian political powerhouse announced as Kamala Harris’s chief of staff

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Karine Jean-PierrePhoto: Shutterstock

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign has assigned an out woman to be chief of staff to his running mate, putting a lesbian in one of the campaign’s most senior positions.

Shortly before announcing that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) would be his running mate in the 2020 general election, the Biden campaign announced that senior campaign advisor Karine Jean-Pierre would be the vice-presidential candidate’s chief of staff. Jean-Pierre is the first Black person to serve as chief of staff to a vice-presidential candidate.

Related: Sen. Kamala Harris calls out the ‘trope’ that black people ‘are homophobic’

Jean-Pierre confirmed the appointment on Twitter, calling herself “ambitious,” a reference to how the term is often negatively applied to women with careers in politics but not to men in the same way.

Originally from the French West Indies island of Martinique, Jean-Pierre was raised in New York City and attended graduate school at Columbia University.

She started her career in politics working for the John Edwards campaign in 2004 and later worked for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns as well as Martin O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign.

During Obama’s first term, she worked in the White House Office of Political Affairs, a position said was important to her as a lesbian.

“What’s been wonderful is that I was not the only; I was one of many,” she told The Advocate in 2011. “President Obama didn’t hire LGBT staffers, he hired experienced individuals who happen to be LGBT.”

“Serving and working for President Obama where you can be openly gay has been an amazing honor. It felt incredible to be a part of an administration that prioritizes LGBT issues.”

Outside of her work with political campaigns and the government, she was the national spokesperson for the progressive organization MoveOn in 2016, a commentator for NBC News and MSNBC, and a lecturer at Columbia University.

People who have followed the 2020 Democratic primary closely may remember Jean-Pierre from a viral video of a white, male animal rights activist taking Harris’s microphone away from her during a 2019 MoveOn forum.

Jean-Pierre leapt to her feet up to grab the mic back.


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