Yesterday, under a blue, warm almost-Spring sky, a couple of hundred women, children, and yes, a handful of men, gathered at the Sony Studios backlot to support Kamala Harris, DA of San Francisco and the only woman of five Democratic candidates running for California Attorney General. It was more than a fundraiser, however. It was a celebration of Women's History month, of great women past and present, of women's ability to change their societies for the better, and of one woman's quest to do just that.
With the June 8 primary fast approaching, I appreciated the event, not only because I am a woman and enjoyed being celebrated, but because I witnessed how admirably Kamala is forging her run for the Golden State's top law enforcement position. Kamala gets out and shares with the people of California whom she is and what her plans are. She earns her support through her openness and accessibility, her thoughtful answers to hard questions, her experience and her vision.
Her ability to attract support across California was reflected in the diversity of yesterday's event. Out celebrating with her were actress Alfre Woodard, LA City Council President Eric Garcetti, all-girl step group "Ladies First Step," TV journalist and author Shaun Robinson, motivational speaker Panney Wei, talented performers from the Lulu Washington Dance Theatre, Cuban spoken word artist Gabriela Garcia Medina, singer Celeste Prince, youngsters from the Phillips Performing Arts Theater, and even renowned, farmworker activist, Dolores Huerta, who closed the event leading the crowding in "Si se puede!" ("Yes we can!"). It was as varied and inspirational as a political festival can get.
The message of yesterday, shaped in one form or another by the performers and speakers, was that Kamala is taking the reins of leadership, refusing to submit to the status quo when the status quo is not working, setting forth a vision and fulfilling it, and understanding that if we positively impact our children, we save them for life.
In her own words, Kamala declared that she is "dedicated to being smart and not dedicated to process and tradition." She believes we "cannot be deterred by the inability of some to imagine a better world."
She sees a direct connection between public safety and public education, and advocates taking on "the challenge of a bogged down criminal justice system that is sucking up public resources and that is not working." Being merely strong on crime is no longer successful. She declared that we must be "smart" on crime, and that we cannot look at the crime itself and throw the proverbial book at it. We must look at and address the source of the problem.
Ms. Wei called Kamala a "female warrior" who wants to change the face of American politics. Ms. Woodard said that with Kamala, California has a "chance to set a new way of solving problems... to redirect the way we do business." She believes that being a woman and a prosecutor informs Kamala's work and gives her different sensibilities than a man.
Shaun Robinson told me that Kamala is a "great role model" for young girls, and is particularly impressed with the initiatives Kamala has taken towards addressing domestic violence, and towards changing age-old attitudes that women who are victims of trafficking and abuse somehow deserve the consequences they are dealt (prison, murder, disease).
Finally, spoken word poet Gabriela Garcia Medina, seemed to encapsulate the mood of the day when she spoke about wanting to be "The World's Greatest Magician," not by making rabbits appear and disappear, but by being a "practical magician" who can bring "light in the midst of darkness," who wants to "cleanse our communities from heroin and crack," and who hopes to "spark the imagination of children, and remind grown ups that it's never too late to believe in magic."
The enthusiastic crowd, on a day when winter seemed to be melted by the warmth of Spring's new beginnings, seemed to believe that Kamala Harris has that magic.