Distinguished Democrats: Kathi Harris

Kathi Harris
Executive Director, PROACTIVE Project
Executive Committee Member, Kent County Democratic Party 
By Terry Gates

Kathi’s entire 60 years can be summed up in one word: BUSY!

Kathi’s life journey is a remarkable testament to her unwavering commitment to service and community engagement. From her formative years imbued with values of compassion and communal responsibility, Kathi’s upbringing within the nurturing environment of family, and faith, and her mother’s active involvement instilled in her the ethos of giving back and treating others with kindness and respect.

Throughout her life, Kathi has embraced active participation in various facets of society, excluding sports, and instead, finding fulfillment in academic pursuits and community initiatives. After graduating from Grand Rapids Central High School at the young age of 16 in the class of 1980, Kathi seamlessly transitioned into college life while maintaining her fervent engagement with student activities and community endeavors.

However, it was her career path at General Motors and her membership in the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 730 that truly defined her trajectory. Immersing herself in union activities from the outset, Kathi’s rise was swift and groundbreaking. In 1989, she shattered barriers by becoming the first elected female and the sole African American female to hold the position of District Committee Person of the Bargaining Unit at Local 730. Throughout her leadership journey within the union, Kathi remained steadfast in her commitment to amplifying the voices of her fellow members and addressing their needs.

Recognizing the power of collective action, Kathi assumed pivotal roles within the union, including Chair of the Local Union Civil Rights Committee and later Chair of the UAW Region 1D Civil Rights Committee, where she tirelessly championed the rights and interests of the working class.

Beyond her union responsibilities, Kathi felt a deep sense of obligation to the broader community. In 2000, she spearheaded the formation of PROACTIVE, a non-profit coalition dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for underserved communities by fostering leadership, education, and employment opportunities. Kathi understood the importance of mobilizing low-voter turnout communities of color through non-partisan initiatives, recognizing their voices as integral to the democratic process.

Her advocacy extended to nurturing future leaders as an advisor for the NAACP Youth and as a college tour coordinator, where she imparted upon them the significance of civic engagement and advocacy.

Even today, Kathi continues her advocacy work, particularly within the homeless community and the county jail, where she educates individuals on the importance of voting and its impact on their daily lives. Her dedication to democracy and community upliftment remains unwavering. She continues to do the work to help others because of her son, Zachary, and 8-year-old grandson, Zaiden. Kathi often says that she would “hate for them to be out in the community and no one is there to help them”.  

Kathi’s guiding principle, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person,” epitomizes her proactive approach to effecting change. Through her unwavering dedication and leadership, Kathi serves as a beacon of inspiration, underscoring the transformative power of individual commitment to service and community upliftment.

In The News: KCDP State Of The Union Watch Party

Last night, President Biden laid out his vision for our future. He delivered a powerful speech with great ideas and strong calls to action. With Vice President Harris and our Democratic Members of Congress by our side, we will continue to thrive and grow.

Thank you to our very own Scott Urbanowski and Chris Herweyer who gave interviews to Fox 17 and WWMT 3 talking about the strengths of President Biden’s speech and his administration.

We are Democrats, proud and strong. Like President Biden said: “We never back down, we never surrender.”

When we take back a majority in the House and maintain our majority in the Senate, and send President Biden and Vice President Harris back to Washington, DC this November, it will be thanks to a lot of hard work of, by, and for the people.

When we organize, we win!

See what other key Michigan voices are saying about last night’s SOTU via the Michigan Democratic Party.