June 19, 2020
The Juggernaut spoke with Meena Harris, founder & CEO of Phenomenal, a female-powered organization that brings awareness to social causes, about diversity in children’s literature, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
This month, Harris published children’s book Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea. She was formerly Uber’s head of strategy and leadership and a senior adviser on policy and communications for her aunt Senator Kamala Harris’s (D-CA) 2016 senatorial campaign. Her grandmother, Shyamala Gopalan, was a cancer researcher and civil rights activist; her mother, Maya Harris, is a lawyer and policy expert.
The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Watch the full conversation on Instagram.
You just published a children’s book called Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea, based on a true story about your mother and aunt. You must have a treasure trove of stories from their childhood — why did you tell this story first?
Kamala talked about it on the campaign trail, which kind of sparked my memory, and it’s such a great, universal lesson and one that my grandmother emphasized a lot: the central message of the book is that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Each of us should play a role. That was a huge message — that I have a duty and responsibility to do whatever I can to make positive change in the world.
As I was becoming a new mom and thinking about how to carry on those traditions and pass on those values to my own kids, it felt like the perfect way to do that. The first thing my older daughter said was, “Okay, next time you write a book, can I write it with you? I want to be an author.” It’s also fun to be able to point to it and say, “You know, this book is about grandma and auntie, right?” — to be able to point to my grandmother and say, “She was a protester, just like what you saw in the car, people out in the streets.” That’s what my grandma did and that’s what we do in our family. Getting to pass that on is really meaningful.