- Meena Harris, the niece of former presidential candidate Kamala Harris, is a social justice activist and entrepreneur.
- In 2017, she launched the clothes line Phenomenal Woman, which seeks to spotlight social justice causes all through the world.
- This 12 months, she launched a youngsters’s ebook, hoping to offer extra illustration for younger youngsters of coloration.
- In present youngsters’s books, 50% of all characters are white and 27% are anthropomorphic.
- In an interview with Enterprise Insider, Harris talks about her entrepreneurial initiatives, and the way she hopes to encourage the subsequent technology of activists.
- Harris’ ebook, “Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea,” is obtainable now.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Meena Harris all the time thought she was going to be a lawyer. She did, in spite of everything, develop up in a household of legal professionals. Her mom was a lawyer, and her aunt — very casually — is former presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who was the 32nd Legal professional Normal of California and is the present junior US Senator from California.
“I used to be fortunate to have a bunch of actually sturdy feminine position fashions in my household,” Meena Harris advised Enterprise Insider. “The way in which that we talked about points and social justice was via the lens of revering legal professionals and understanding that legal professionals had unimaginable energy to make a constructive change on the earth with their regulation levels.”
However Harris was additionally very artistic. After attending Stanford College, graduating from Harvard Regulation Faculty, and embarking on a quick authorized profession, Harris determined a conventional profession path wasn’t for her.
As an alternative, she sought to forge her personal path. Being a public servant, she figured, did not essentially imply she needed to change into a lawyer.
Harris turned to style to spotlight social injustices and inequality on the earth
The challenge that launched Harris’ social justice-focused entrepreneurship started shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump, with a T-shirt that had the phrases “Phenomenal Woman” on it — a phrase borrowed from the Maya Angelou poem of the identical title.
The shirt was an expression of female empowerment, a political assertion in a time the place ladies nonetheless face economic disparity and the place intersectionality has but to change into a mainstay in modern-day feminism.
In some ways, the shirt was easy in its political message. However in different methods, it was fairly radical.
“I by no means thought Phenomenal Lady would flip into one thing massive, you already know?” she stated.
However the shirt did change into massive. And after its success, Harris determined to launch a complete clothes line that highlighted sociopolitical injustices all through the world. Formally, on Worldwide Girls’s Day in 2017, Phenomenal Lady was born.
“It was a really crucial second for me by way of my entrepreneurial journey,” she advised Enterprise Insider. “It was the primary time I lastly [took the leap] to go pursue my ardour. And so I left my job to do it full-time for about 9 months.”
Harris now works on the firm full-time and has helped increase it right into a cultural commentary force. Shirts on the market now embrace slogans comparable to “Phenomenal Mom,” “Phenomenally Asian,” “Phenomenally Latina,” and “Highly effective Black Voter.”
The corporate has launched quite a few campaigns and lent its assist to non-profit organizations such because the Essie Justice Group, which seeks to finish mass incarceration; the Black Futures Lab, which helps to construct black political energy; Native Voices Rising, which promotes advocacy and civic engagement in indigenous communities, in addition to the TGI Justice, which seeks to finish discrimination in opposition to transgender, intersex, and gender-variant individuals.
Harris determined to increase past clothes and write a youngsters’s ebook to assist educate the youngest technology
In 2019, Lee and Low Books surveyed 153 publishing firms and located that 85% of people that work in editorial self-identified as white. In the meantime, just one% self-identified as being black. The examine additionally discovered that, general, the publishing business is 76% white, 7% Asian, 6% Latinx, and 5% black.
With the publication of “Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea,” launched as we speak, Harris turned one of many few black authors to have a printed youngsters’s ebook.
Based mostly on a real story about Harris’ mother and aunt, the ebook follows two sisters who flip the unused courtyard of their condominium constructing into an space for teenagers to play. It is a easy premise that would have vital impression by way of the illustration it would give to younger youngsters of coloration. Solely 7% of recent youngsters’s books printed in 2017 have been written by black, Latinx, and Native authors, Lee and Low’s survey found.
In making a youngsters’s ebook, Harris’ objective was to share themes that she believes are very important for teenagers to study at a younger age.
“The inspiration in writing the ebook was actually about celebrating the tales that I might hear as a child that have been extremely vital to me, which have been these early classes round issues like neighborhood organizing, round coalition constructing, round leaning in your neighborhood, and creating an area on your neighborhood to come back collectively to make it even higher,” Harris stated.
The ebook additionally serves one other goal. Whereas Phenomenal Lady touches the floor of addressing inequalities, the ebook dives deep into the systemic nature of inequality within the nation.
Based on the School Library Justice, in 2018, 50% of the characters depicted in youngsters’s books have been white, whereas solely 10% have been black, 7% have been Asian, 5% have been Latinx, and 1% have been Native American. Extra youngsters’s ebook characters have been anthropomorphic (27%) than have been members of a minority group.
Harris hopes her ebook provides younger youngsters of coloration the illustration they’re in search of of their literature. She additionally hopes it would encourage dad and mom to each change into concerned of their communities and to show their youngsters the significance of taking part in activism from an early age.
“There are numerous vital classes and views that come from this ebook. Like, ‘how can we increase the subsequent technology?'” she stated. “And ‘how can we increase a household on this spirit of activism and civic engagement?'”
These subjects are extra very important than ever, given the present local weather of the nation
Civil unrest has been rising as individuals throughout the nation manage to protest racial injustice and systemic inequality.
“The First Modification belongs to the Individuals, not the federal government, and I stand with the protesters who’re presently talking out in opposition to anti-black racism and police violence,” Harris stated, referring to the protests over the death of George Floyd which have erupted all through the USA.
“I share their ache, their outrage, and their exhaustion with a system that repeatedly falls in need of its guarantees of equality,” she continued. “We should proceed to boost our voices till there may be full accountability, together with police reform, in addition to justice for us all and never only a privileged few.”
In a way, Harris’ new ebook is just like Phenomenal Lady. Each encourage individuals to be happy with their identities and to search out alternatives to interact with their communities and social points. “It’s important to actually decide to it and present up in a constant method to even have that impression,” Harris stated.
Being a designer or a youngsters’s ebook writer is nothing like being a social justice lawyer — however then once more, perhaps it’s.