In ‘Friends From the Beginning,’ Author Stacey Johnson-Batiste Celebrates VP Kamala Harris

From left, Vice President Kamala Harris and her bestie, the author Stacey Johnson-Batiste. Image: courtesy of Twelve Books.

If you are lucky, you have one best friend who is your ride or die. And if that one person has been with you since 5-years old, she has a lot of stories to tell. 

In a new memoir written by Vice President Kamala Harris’ best friend from kindergarten class, Friends from the Beginning: The Berkeley Village that Raised Kamala and Me, celebrates the good trouble and shared experience between the Vice President and her childhood friend Stacey Johnson-Batiste. “We first met in kindergarten at Berkwood Hedge school in Berkeley. Her mother, Shyamala, and my mother met around this time and immediately became close friends. Therefore, we were together not only at school but after school and on weekends when our mothers would get together,” says Johnson-Batiste, a National Sales Channel Manager at AT&T.

The book retells of their formative years set against the backdrop of the bold and vibrant Berkeley social and political revolution in the 60s and 70s that not only stirred the anti-war movement but recruited the disaffected sons and daughters of white privilege with organizations like the Black Panther Party to fight anti-racist struggles at the community level. Johnson-Batiste provides a candid, colorful, look back at how those years shaped her and Harris as they were growing up, giving readers an insight into the VP’s resilience, motivations and steadfast loyalty that aren’t apparent from the headlines and 30-second sound bytes.

Friends from the Beginnng: The Berkely Village that Raised Kamala and Me, $25, amazon.com. Image: courtesy of Twelve Books.

While most profiles of Harris focus on her career as a lawyer and her time in the Senate, Friends from the Beginning answers the latent question of what the VP was like as a child. “I remember one Easter morning, our mothers were taking her, [Harris’ sister] Maya and me on an outing (likely to an Easter egg hunt).  I brought along a large inflatable pink rabbit that she asked to hold and I wouldn’t let her out of fear she’d pop it.  I remember her getting mad at me and saying, ‘You’re not sharing.’” 

The book also offers a unique window into the life of Harris’ mother, Shyamala—as observed by Stacey—where her light, love and legacy shine through on the pages.

“VP Harris is the same person I first met as a child. She has a kind heart. She’s loyal, operates with a sense of purpose and responsibility. There is nothing fake or phony about her: she is the real deal,” says the author about her bestie, adding that, “People may not know she worked at McDonald’s around the time she moved home from Howard. She can also binge off Doritos and french fries.”

The author Stacey Johnson-Batiste. Image: courtesy of Twelve Books
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