In proclaiming June as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month this year, U.S. President Joe Biden stated that, “Caribbean Americans have made our country more innovative and more prosperous; they have enriched our nation’s arts and culture, our public institutions, and our economy”.
President Biden also noted that the celebration is even more special with a slew of Caribbean-American officials in his administration. For this month’s Caribbean-American Heritage Month feature, we highlight the White House officials who are of Caribbean heritage.
Vice President, Kamala Harris
On January 20, 2021, Jamaican-American Vice President Kamala Harris broke centuries-old American tradition when she took the oath to hold the nation’s second-highest office. Harris was sworn in as the nation’s first female vice president — and the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to hold the role. Harris, a former Senator, was born in Oakland, California, on October 20, 1964. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was an Indian-born biologist whose work on the progesterone receptor gene stimulated advances in breast cancer research. Harris’s father, Donald J. Harris, was a Jamaican-born Stanford University professor emeritus of economics.
Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas
Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas was born in Havana, Cuba, on November 24, 1959. His parents arrived with him and his sister to the United States in 1960 as refugees, following the Cuban Revolution. He lived in Miami, Florida, before his family moved to Los Angeles, California, where he was raised for the remainder of his youth. Mayorkas, who is also a lawyer, has been serving as the seventh United States Secretary of Homeland Security since February 2, 2021. He is the first immigrant and first Latino to lead the department. During the Obama administration, Mayorkas also served in the Department of Homeland Security.
Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona
Miguel Cardona was born on July 11, 1975, in Meriden, Connecticut, to Puerto Rican parents. An educator by profession, he has been serving as the 12th United States Secretary of Education under President Joe Biden since March 2021. Prior to this, Cardona served as Connecticut Commissioner of Education from 2019 to 2021.
Domestic Policy Advisor, Susan Rice
Caribbean-American Susan Rice is an American diplomat, policy advisor, and public official serving as Director of the United States Domestic Policy Council since 2021. Rice was born in Washington D.C., on November 17, 1964. Her maternal grandparents were Jamaican immigrants to Portland, Maine. She served as United States ambassador to the United Nations, during President Barack Obama’s first term and later as National Security Advisor.
Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division/DOJ, Kristen Clarke
On May 25, the U.S Senate confirmed the appointment of Jamaican-America Kristen Clarke to the justice department, making her the first Black woman to lead the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division. Kristen Clarke was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents migrated from Jamaica to the United States just a few years before she was born in 1975. A lawyer by profession, Clarke previously worked in the United States Department of Justice Civil. She is currently the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Principal Deputy Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre
Since January 2021, Karine Jean-Pierre has been White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary in the Biden Administration. She was born on August 13, 1977, in Fort-de-France, Martinique to Haitian parents and was raised in Queens Village, Queens from age 5. During the presidential campaign, Jean-Pierre was a senior adviser and then chief of staff to Kamala Harris, making her the first Black person to hold that position for a vice-presidential nominee. She had previously been a staffer in President Barack Obama’s administration and in his reelection campaign.
Special Assistant to President Joe Biden, Karen Andre
Haitian-American attorney and political advisor Karen Andre was, in January 2021, appointed as special assistant for presidential personnel in the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris administration. The Haitian American was born in New York to Haitian immigrant parents but was raised—and attended school and college—in Florida. From 2014 to 2017, Andre served as a presidential appointee in the Obama-Biden administration as the White House Liaison to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She also served as a senior advisor to Andrew Gillum in his 2018 primary campaign.