Jussie Smollett’s Fake Noose hate hoax probably helped get passed in the U.S. Senate last week a bill on the burning issue of making lynching a federal crime that was sponsored by Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott.
Photos of Jussie and Kamala standing together at rallies suggest that Kamala clearly knew Jussie, as her quick Tweet suggested:
.@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery.
This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 29, 2019
Interestingly, Jussie’s mom’s maiden name is Harris, same as Kamala’s dad. On the other hand, Harris is a quite common name. Donald Harris has deep Jamaican roots, while Jussie’s mom is said to be from New Orleans. So, if they are related, it’s probably not too closely.
I’d say it’s more likely that Kamala and Jussie’s clan are less relatives than acquaintances from many years in the worlds of left activism and celebrity. Here’s a 2016 NYT article on the huge Smollett family, which has been on TV since the 1990s:
By Melena Ryzik, March 9, 2016
… The Smolletts have also been outspoken politically and, since their school years, devoted to causes like H.I.V./AIDS prevention and ending apartheid. They were raised in the orbit of the Black Panthers and, lately, have lent their voices to the Black Lives Matter movement. Their trajectory, from child stars to successful adults, is born of their family and its history of activism.
“Their sense of justice is very strong, and it permeates everything that they do,” said Alfre Woodard, who has known Jussie and Jurnee since they were children; they worked with her at the nonprofit Artists for a New South Africa. “They’re like a model sibling unit. They look out for each other, all the time. And they all reach across and say, ‘O.K., I got my foot in this door; here, grab my hand, we’re going in together.’”
“Raised on a diet of classic films (they’ll gladly quote the 1945 version of “Mildred Pierce”), Jussie and Jurnee still count their mother, Janet Smollett, as their only acting coach. An African-American from New Orleans, Ms. Smollett met their father, Joel Smollett Sr., a Russian-Polish Jew, in the Bay Area, where they campaigned for civil rights. “My mom was in the movement with Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, and one of her first mentors was Julian Bond,” Mr. Smollett said of the Black Panther founders and the civil rights leader. “To this day, Angela Davis is one of her dearest friends. We’ve spent Mother’s Day with Angela.””
That gave extra resonance to a sequence in “Empire” last season, when Jamal and his onscreen brother Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) dressed as Black Panthers as part of a music-video shoot. Besides seeding the family with an early progressive ethos — Jussie and Jurnee were both with Artists for a New South Africa as teenagers, “and it was not fake work,” Ms. Woodard said of their fund-raising efforts and off-camera visits to orphanages — the activism also had an impact on their sense of worth.
So, yes, Jussie’s mom’s maiden surname is the same, “Harris,” as Kamala’s dad’s surname. But … “Harris” is a common name. And her mom is described as an African-American from New Orleans, while Professor Donald Harris has deep roots in Jamaica. On the other hand, New Orleans is a port city. But I’d say only maybe a 10% chance that Jussie and Kamala are closely related.
But they may be acquainted from well back because the Smolletts were leftist activists, and they lived in Santa Rosa, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. Kamala tended to be more establishment centrist, like her mentor the Assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor Willie Brown. But Democrats tend to have a no enemies to the left policy.
On the other hand, I strongly doubt that Kamala, a lawyer and former prosecutor, advised Jussie to stage a hate hoax and file a false police complaint about it. Still, in the factors inspiring Jussie’s uninspired hate hoax, helping out Senator Kamala’s campaign by boosting her anti-lynching bill might number in Jussie’s less than razor-sharp mind.