Westside High School alumna honored by U.S. State Department



A Westside High School alumna is being honored by the U.S. State Department during Black History Month for her accomplishments in foreign relations and diplomacy.

Brandi James, 29, is based at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, as the Nai­robi and Somalia unit’s political and economic officer.

She began a career with the department in 2006 after graduating from Columbia University with a master’s degree in international policy and leadership, her mother, Linda Strong James, said.

The Augusta native is one of about 20 State Department employees being highlighted this month. The honor comes after Pres­ident Obama made a proclamation designating February 2012 as Black History Month with the theme “Black Women in American Culture and History.”

“They’re paying special tribute to the role African-American women have played … in our diplomacy,” said department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson.

Before her assignment in Somalia, James served as an election observer in Nigeria during the 2007 presidential and gubernatorial elections, according to the State Department’s Web site. She also supported Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2010 visit to the Paris Embassy and helped reopen the consular section of the embassy N’Djamena, Chad, after an evacuation.

James is one of few U.S. government employees to travel to Somalia in recent years, according to the State Department. Her November visit to Garowe, Puntland, to meet with the semiautonomous regional administration was the first department visit to the region in five years.

Strong James said her daughter’s career has been rewarding and exciting, even when it brings her to dangerous parts of the world.

James was active at John M. Tutt Middle and Westside High schools in softball, cheerleading and basketball, but developed a passion for politics when she went to college.

That passion led her to a career in helping people in need, and Strong James said her daughter plans to continue doing so, no matter where they live.

“She’s very concerned about the plight of the less fortunate and underprivileged, so she’s doing something that’s very dear to her heart,” Strong James said. “She wants to help make conditions better for those who really need that type of help.”

Read a story about Brandi James on the U.S. State Department's website