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Prominent lesbians of color will join Biden administration

by Sari Staver

Karine Jean-Pierre, left, and Pili Tobar will have key positions in President-elect Joe Biden's communications department. Photos: Jean-Pierre/Sari Staver; Tobar/America's Choice
Karine Jean-Pierre, left, and Pili Tobar will have key positions in President-elect Joe Biden's communications department. Photos: Jean-Pierre/Sari Staver; Tobar/America's Choice  

Two prominent lesbians of color have been appointed to major roles in President-elect Joe Biden's communications department, the transition team announced in a news release November 29.

Karine Jean-Pierre, who served as a Biden senior adviser before becoming chief of staff for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris during the campaign, will become principal deputy press secretary.

The other is Pili Tobar, who was named deputy White House communications director. She served as the communications director for coalitions for the Biden-Harris campaign.

The two join five other women to make up the seven person all-female communications staff.

The others include Jen Psaki, who will become Biden's press secretary; Elizabeth Alexander, communications director for incoming first lady Jill Biden; Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director; Ashley Etienne, communications director for Harris; and Symone Sanders, senior adviser and chief spokeswoman for Harris.

"Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a president, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House," Biden stated. "I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better."

Added Harris, "Our country is facing unprecedented challenges — from the coronavirus pandemic to the economic crisis, to the climate crisis, and a long-overdue reckoning over racial injustice. To overcome these challenges, we need to communicate clearly, honestly, and transparently with the American people, and this experienced, talented, and barrier-shattering team will help us do that. These communications professionals express our commitment to building a White House that reflects the very best of our nation."

During the presidential campaign, Jean-Pierre was a senior adviser and then chief of staff to Harris, making her the first Black person and first lesbian 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.

In an earlier interview with the Bay Area Reporter the first generation Haitian American discussed her family life with her partner, CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and their then 5-year-old daughter, Soleil. Previously, Jean-Pierre served as chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org and has been a frequent cable talk show guest.

Tobar served as the deputy director for America's Voice, where she advocated on behalf of immigrants. She has also served as the Hispanic media director for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-New York), national director of Hispanic media and western regional press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, communications director for Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), and communications director for the Latino Victory Project. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her wife and daughter.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ rights organization, hailed the appointments.

"With the historic nomination and appointments of key members to his cabinet, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are returning experienced and diverse leadership to the White House and our government," said HRC President Alphonso David in a prepared statement. "Together, these unquestionably qualified leaders will work to build back our economy and advance America's moral leadership at home and abroad."

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