On May 13, Karine Jean-Pierre will assume her role as the new White House press secretary, making her the first woman of color and openly LGBTQ+ person in history to have stepped into the position. President Joe Biden named Jean-Pierre, as his second White House press secretary after it was announced that Jen Psaki would step down from the role next week.
A very emotional Jen Psaki said that she was going to cry upon welcoming her to the lecturne. Psaki said during Thursday's press briefing that she wanted to take a moment to “celebrate and congratulate” her “friend, my colleague, my partner in truth”.
After noting that Jean-Pierre will be the first woman of color as well as, the first out LGBTQ+ person in the role, Psaki said that Jean-Pierre “will give a voice to so many".
Jean-Pierre, who currently serves as Principal Deputy Press Secretary, has had a long history in democratic communications and previously served as President Joe Biden’s chief of staff throughout his presidency campaign.
In a statement regarding Jean-Pierre’s new role, President Biden said Jean-Pierre “not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris administration on behalf of the American people.”
Although this is a landmark role for Jean-Pierre, it is not the first time she has broken barriers in the White House. On May 26, 2021 she also became the first LGBTQ+ person to hold a press briefing in the White House. Her activities outside the White House also include her being a prominent Democratic activist and has made several appearances on MSNBC as a political analyst.
Watch the Press Briefing Below:
Before her various political roles, Jean-Pierre also served as a faculty member at Columbia University, teaching in its School of International and Public Affairs; which is also where she earned her Master of Public Affairs degree in 2003.
Born to Haitian parents in Fort-de-France, Martinique, Jean-Pierre states that her youth in a Haitian immigrant community significantly impacted her life, which she recalls in greater detail in her book "Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America". She reportedly lives with her partner, CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. The couple also has a daughter.
In sharing a part of her story for Pride month in 2021, Jean-Pierre wrote on Twitter:
"I came out to my Mom when I was 16 years old. The revolted look on her face sent me running back into the proverbial closet and slamming the door shut. After that, my sexuality became a family secret and it would stay that way for years.
"I dated, but I hid those relationships from my family. Just as American society has evolved over the course of the past couple of decades to embrace the LGBTQ community (never forgetting we still have work to do), my family has evolved to embrace my membership in it."
She continued to express pride in her community by saying that she was proud to “be an out Black queer woman”, stating that her journey towards self acceptance was a tumultuous one but entirely worthwhile.
When asked about the incredible nature of her historic promotion, Jean-Pierre said that it’s not lost on her.
“I understand how important it is for so many people out there, so many different communities,” she said. “That I stand on their shoulders, and I have been throughout my career.”
She also stresses how important it is for young black children to see someone who looks like her in the White House and behind the presidential lectern. She advises everyone to “follow your passion, follow what you believe in and just keep that focus.”
Karine Jean-Pierre knows what it means to step into her strength in order to propel her vision for an inclusive world. She is no stranger to hard work and determination, and this shows in the monumental decision that has just been made in the White House involving this superb woman.
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde
This is simply the tip of the ice berg in showing what can be achieved for our marginalized communities if one continues to persist, push past the fears and truly step into one’s power.
All the best to Karine Jean-Pierre in her new role, and may she continue to use her voice towards change and inclusivity.