With the U.S. presidential election less than one week away, Caribbean Americans in Florida and across the United States have already showed up in historic numbers to cast their ballots. The community has shown resounding support for Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden, former vice president to President Barack Obama, and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, a Jamaican American who has inspired Americans of Caribbean descent. Many of the are excited at the prospect of one of their own representing them in the White House.
Also energizing the Caribbean-American community is Karine Jean-Pierre, a Haitian-American who was appointed as the chief of staff for Sen. Harris soon after she was selected as Biden’s running mate. As a senior campaign advisor, Jean-Pierre’s role on the Biden/Harris ticket has become one of the most integral highlights of the campaign as the Biden/Harris duo continues to court the Caribbean-American community and take a stand for diversity.
Karine Jean-Pierre was born in the French island of Martinique, in 1977, to Haitian immigrant parents. When she was 5 years old, her family migrated to the United States and settled in Queens Village, New York City.
A career in politics was not on Jean-Pierre’s radar growing up. But while attending Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), she served in student government. The experience and encouragement from mentors inspired Jean-Pierre to pursue a career in politics.
Following her SIPA graduation in 2003, Jean-Pierre served as press secretary to New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, and deputy chief of staff and director of Legislative and Budget Affairs for two City Council members respectively in the New York City Council.
In 2006, she made the leap to Washington, D.C. to become an outreach coordinator for nonprofit Walmart Watch. Following her move to the capital city, Jean-Pierre found her secure footing in politics.
In 2008, when former President Barack Obama ran for office, she was the southeast regional political director for the ‘Obama for America’ campaign. She had garnered campaign experience from working on John Edwards’ presidential campaign in 2004 when he ran as the Democratic Party vice-presidential candidate to presidential candidate John Kerry.
During the first Obama term, Jean-Pierre served as the regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs.
In 2011, Jean-Pierre served as national deputy battleground states director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. She led the delegate selection and ballot access process, while managing the political engagement in key states. She provided resources to help states determine “the best way for them to get the word out for the campaign.” In the 2016 presidential campaign, she served as the deputy campaign manager for Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign.
She continued her work as a television political commentator, activist and later, a lecturer, after joining the Columbia University faculty in 2014 where she still teaches at SIPA. She is also the senior advisor and national spokeswoman for MoveOn.org, a social justice and nonpartisan organization, and a political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.
In August 2020, she was selected to serves as a senior advisor to the Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign. Jean-Pierre had come to be acquainted with Biden during the time she spent working in the White House during the Obama administration.
In August 2020, it was announced that Jean-Pierre would serve as the chief of staff for Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, who she had met at the beginning of her presidential campaign the year before.
In 2019, Jean-Pierre was also named a 2019 Pritzker Fellow at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
At age 43, Jean-Pierre, who is a proud member of the LGBTQ community, resides with her partner Suzanne Malveaux, a CNN correspondent, and their 6-year-old daughter Soleil in the Washington, D.C. area.