Jamaicans are beaming with pride as Kamala Harris becomes the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. That’s because Kamala’s father Donald Harris has his roots in the Caribbean country.
Harris was a Professor of Economics at Stanford University, and advised many governments, including Jamaica, on economic policies. He even served, for a brief period, as the director for the Consortium of Graduate School of Social Sciences at the University of West Indies.
Moreover, he has published several books on the Jamaican economy: Jamaica’s Export Economy: Towards a Strategy of Export-led Growth and A Growth-Inducement Strategy for Jamaica in the Short and Medium Term.
Born in 1938, Harris spent his childhood days in Saint Ann’s Bay. His parents, Beryl Christie and Oscar Joseph Harris, owned acres of sugarcane fields near Brown’s Town, Jamaica. After a few years of schooling, Donald moved to London for higher education. He arrived in California in the 1960s with the hope of pursuing a doctorate degree. During these days, he met Shyamala Glopalan at the University of California, in Berkeley.
The love affair ended in a marriage, and they had two children: Kamala and Maya. However, the marriage did not last long. They divorced when Kamala was still seven-years-old. A family court in California handed custody of the children to Shyamala.
In a short memoir written to Jamaica Global, Donald Harris expresses deep displeasure of the court’s decision. In the same article, he narrates how he took Kamala to Jamaica to teach her about his heritage.
“One of the most vivid and fondest memories I have of that early period with my children is of the visit we made in 1970 to Orange Hill,” he writes. “We trudged through the cow dung and rusted iron gates, up-hill and down-hill, along narrow unkempt paths, to the very end of the family property, all in my eagerness to show to the girls the terrain over which I had wandered daily for hours as a boy.”
Donald was a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil in 1990 and 1991, and in Mexico in 1992. In 1998, he retired from Stanford, becoming a professor emeritus. Harris authored the economics monograph titled “Capital Accumulation and Income Distribution” in 1978.