Southeast Queens native set to become first Black White House press secretary

press secretary
Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will replace Jen Psaki in the high-profile press secretary role beginning next week. (White House photo by Katie Ricks)

Queens Village native Karine Jean-Pierre will become the first Black White House press secretary when she replaces the departing Jen Psaki next week.

President Joe Biden announced his historic decision Thursday that elevates Jean-Pierre to the top position on Friday, May 13 when Psaki steps down for a new position in the private sector.

“I am proud to announce that Karine Jean-Pierre will serve as our next White House Press Secretary,” Biden said. “Karine 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.”

press secretary
White House photo by Katie Ricks

Jean-Pierre stepped behind the lectern inside the James Brady Press Briefing Room following Thursday’s announcement and acknowledged her trailblazing promotion as the first out LGBTQ woman to serve as White House press secretary.

“Wow. I am still processing it because this is a historic moment, and it’s not lost on me,” Jean-Pierre said. “I understand how important it is for so many people out there, so many different communities that I stand on their shoulders and I have throughout my career.”

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Jean Pierre was raised from the age of 5 in Queens Village. Her father was a cab driver and her mother was a health care worker. Jean-Pierre initially received her MPA from Columbia University in 2003 and went on to work on the John Edwards campaign during his 2004 presidential run. She gained further attention in 2008 when she served as the political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Obama administration.

Jean-Pierre has served as Psaki’s deputy since the start of the Biden administration, and she made history nearly a year ago when she became the first openly gay woman to deliver the White House briefing on May 26, 2021.

“It’s a real honor just to be standing here today,” she said in that historic press briefing. “I appreciate the historic nature, I really do. But I believe being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building, is not about one person. It’s about what we do on behalf of the American people.”

press secretary
White House photo by Katie Ricks

Jean-Pierre began her political career in the New York City Council serving on the staff of current state Senator James Sanders and Councilman James Gennaro.

“I saw great potential in her when she held a leadership role on my staff and I see great potential in her now,” Sanders said Friday. “This is such a momentous step forward for so many groups who have been marginalized in the past and creates a more diverse team in the presidential administration, demonstrating that President Biden is dedicated to surrounding himself with people who are representative of the diverse population of this country.”

In addition to her promotion to White House press secretary, Biden announced Jean-Pierre will also be promoted to assistant to the president.

“Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this administration,” Biden said.

During her remarks during the press briefing Thursday, Jean-Pierre thanked the president and shared a powerful message for young girls and boys.

“It took me a little bit of time to figure this part out that I’m about to share with you, which is: Follow your passion. Follow what you believe in,” Jean-Pierre said. “I think if you are passionate about what you want to be or where you want to go and you work very hard to that goal, it will happen.”

Jean-Pierre currently resides in Washington, D.C., with her partner, CNN anchor Suzanne Malveaux, and their daughter.