Maya Lakshmi Harris is a lawyer, public policy advocate, philanthropic leader, and television commentator from the United States. She currently works as a political analyst for MSNBC and is the campaign chairwoman for her sister Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign. She began her legal career as a civil litigator. She remained a law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and also taught contract law at the Lincoln Law School in San Jose and the New College of California School of Law. She was appointed Dean and Chief Executive Officer at Lincoln, making her one of the country’s youngest law school deans. She worked as a Senior Associate for PolicyLink and as Executive Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Following that, she worked as the Ford Foundation’s Vice President for Democracy, Rights, and Justice. She was named senior policy advisor, along with two others, to lead the development of an agenda for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. She serves on the Apollo Theater Foundation’s board of directors, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is co-chair of the Women’s Media Center. Among her publications is a police reform advocacy manual titled ‘Organized for Change: The Activist’s Guide to Police Reform.’
Childhood and Adolescence
Maya Lakshmi Harris was born on January 30, 1967, in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, to Donald Harris and Shyamala Gopalan Harris. Her mother, the daughter of Indian diplomat P. V. Gopalan, immigrated to the United States from Madras (now Chennai) in 1960. She was a breast cancer researcher. Maya’s father moved to the United States from Jamaica in 1961. He teaches economics at Stanford University.
Maya grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area with her older sister, Kamala. When she was about five years old, her parents divorced. By a court-ordered settlement, custody of the girls was granted to their mother. The two children then moved to Montreal, Québec, Canada, to live with Shyamala. Both the Baptist and Hindu faiths were instilled in the girls as they grew up. The siblings also sang in a Baptist choir.
When Maya was eight years old, she and Kamala persuaded the management of their apartment building to make an unused courtyard available for the kids to play in.
She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1989 from the University of California, Berkeley. She then graduated from Stanford Law School with a JD. During her time at law school, she was co-chair of the student steering committee, coordinator of the domestic violence clinic, and a member of the East Palo Alto Community Law Project.
Maya began working as a law clerk for United States District Court Judge James Ware in the Northern District of California after finishing her studies.
In 1994, she was admitted to the San Francisco law firm of Jackson Tufts, Cole & Black, LLP. She worked on both civil and criminal cases there. In 1997, she received the Junius W. Williams Young Lawyer of the Year Award from the National Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. In 1998, the San Francisco Daily Journal named her one of the Top 20 Up and Coming Lawyers Under 40.
She worked as a law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. She also taught contract law at the New College of California School of Law and Lincoln Law School of San Jose, both of which are private, non-profit law schools. Lincoln’s Board of Trustees appointed her Dean and Chief Executive Officer. She was only 29 years old at the time, making her one of the youngest law school deans in the United States. Her job as Dean was to move and improve the law school campus, renew the school’s state bar accreditation, change the basic curriculum, and hire new teachers.
She was a Senior Associate at PolicyLink, a national research and action institute based in Oakland, California. The institute is dedicated to the advancement of economic and social equity, as well as policies that affect communities of color and low-income people. Maya’s role included organizing conferences on various aspects of police-community relations, conducting research on community policing issues, and advocating for police reform. She wrote the books “Organized for Change: The Activist’s Guide to Police Reform” and “Community-Centered Policing: A Force for Change” while there.
She was appointed Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, the ACLU’s largest affiliate office. Maya oversaw and coordinated litigation, lobbying, public education, media relations, advocacy, and grassroots organizing efforts while serving as the office’s numero uno. In 2003, she was also the Northern California director for the “No on 54” campaign. It was launched in order to defeat the California ballot proposition known as “Proposition 54″ on the ballot for the 2003 gubernatorial recall election.
Her essay, titled ‘Fostering Accountable Community-Centered Policing,” was published in the non-fiction political book “The Covenant with Black America” in 2006. She has also contributed to various media outlets with commentary.
In 2008, Maya was appointed Vice President for Democracy, Rights, and Justice at the Ford Foundation.
Among the issues, she addressed in this capacity was the issue of child marriage. The foundation’s global team, led by Maya, invested more than $750 million in protecting human rights, advancing effective governance, and increasing democratic participation. Such investments include the foundation’s first LGBT rights initiative, as well as efforts to increase economic and political opportunities for women around the world.
She was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, public policy research and advocacy organization that takes a liberal stance on social and economic issues. Maya spent her time there advocating for policies that include more women and people of color in order to strengthen the US democracy and economy.
Maya, along with two others, was appointed senior policy advisor in 2015 to lead the development of an agenda for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Maya has been a political analyst for MSNBC since June 2017. She is a co-chair of the Women’s Media Center and a member of the Apollo Theater Foundation’s board of directors.
Kamala Harris, an attorney, and politician, is a member of the Democratic Party and the junior United States Senator from California. She is a Democratic candidate for President of the United States in the 2020 presidential election. Maya, who is also a member of the Democratic Party, has become involved in Kamala’s campaign as the latter’s campaign chairwoman.
Personal and Family Life
Maya Harris gave birth to her daughter Meena Harris at the age of 17, according to sources. Meena also attended Stanford Law School and is currently employed by Slack.
According to sources, Maya met her future husband, Tony West, in 1989 during the registration at Stanford Law School when the four-year-old Meena attempted to play hide and seek with Tom. Tom and Maya eventually became friends, and after graduation, they began a relationship that eventually led to marriage. Tom is a lawyer who currently serves as Uber’s general counsel and chief legal officer.
Maya has amassed a sizable following on Twitter.