A few days ago Khalilah shared with me a powerful video from Facebook of New York State Assemblywoman Diane C. Richardson speaking all varieties of truth on the local politicians and their allegiance to their constituents. Richardson may have stepped on some toes but her words are a reminder of the many Black women in the world of politics. Women on all levels of government who choose to lead, serve the public and stand up for what is right. Women like Barbara Charline Jordan from the great state of Texas.
Jordan’s political career began in 1966 when she was elected to the Texas State Senate becoming the first woman to hold that position and for being the first African-American since 1883. In 1972, she was elected to the House of Representatives and secured a position on the House Judiciary Committee. From this post, Jordan would one day deliver a speech that is considered by many to be one of the best speeches of the twentieth century. (Text and audio here.) The speech was so powerful that it said to have led to Nixon’s ultimate resignation.
Again, Jordan made history with her keynote address at the 1976 Democratic Convention as the first African-American woman to do so. She remained in politics until 1979 when she decided to retire, but her legacy in government is undisputed. Jordan supported important legislation like the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 and also sponsored and cosponsored over 300 pieces of legislation, some of which are still in effect today.
Jordan credits a speech she heard in high school by Edith S. Sampson as her inspiration to become a lawyer. Sampson herself was an African-American lawyer who made history of her own. We are reminded constantly of the difference one learning experience can have on the trajectory of a student’s life. I imagine that Jordan realized her own potential when she was able to see herself reflected back to her. Seeing that another Black woman that was intelligent and accomplished helped solidify her desire and determination to succeed.
The intention that we bring to our practice as educators is vitally important. Our words, our demeanor and the content we bring to our students has a profound impact on how they see themselves and their place in the world. Consider whether or not today’s lesson, reading or other activity is inspiring the next Barbara Jordan, Diane Richardson, Maxine Waters, Alexis Herman, or Loretta Lynch. Every day we teach we have an opportunity to engage that brilliance and potential before us.
Peace and love good people.
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