In honor of the original post by Lysis that started it all, the Hillary News & Views, I offer
The Village New & Views
Wednesday Get Over the Hump Free for All
This Just In:
And now in the spirit of women who persist…
Black History Month – The First Woman I Wanted to be President
Lately I have been thinking about a person who is incredibly significant in American political history, a personal touchstone for me: Barbara Charline Jordan, described in her Wikipedia entry as a lawyer, educator, American politician and leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
I’m not going to give more than a thumbnail sketch of biographical material – you can read her Wikipedia entry for yourself to refresh your memory, or better, read Denise Oliver Velez’s wonderful essay on DKos, Barbara Jordan: ‘She always did sound like God’. Denise writes like an archangel so it makes sense to point you to her writing, it’s certainly better than mine.
What I have to offer is only perspective, and a personal connection, albeit closer in my mind than in ‘real life’. The first thread of connection is her name, Barbara. That is my given name also, and I think there are other Barbaras in our Village group that we know well. It might seem like an insignificant coincidence, but words have power, and names have amazing resonance for some. Names we are born with, names that we choose, can define us, can connect us.
The second thread – Barbara was a native of Houston, my town. Different neighborhoods – I grew up in the suburbs northeast of town outside (then) the city limits and just before the next place up the road, Aldine. Barbara grew up in Fourth Ward. Different, but I could imagine we saw some of the same streets, felt the same rhythm, since city rhythms are unique and defy duplication.
I probably only became aware of her when she became the US Representative from Texas’s 18th Congressional District, a seat held today by Shirley Jackson Lee. The 18th District looks kind of like a fat G and winds from north of town down through the northwest, through the middle of downtown Houston and finally back up to the northeast. It’s one of those funny looking shapes for a district that was probably drawn along racial lines that have subsequently blurred but never completely faded.
Two years after the Watergate break-in scandal the country, including me and my grandmother, found themselves in the summer of 1974 watching the Congressional Impeachment Hearings on live television. It was in a period of personal upheaval and the last summer I was able to spend time just hanging out with my grandmother, who had been an oasis for me for a significant number of years. Together, we watched the hearings and shook our heads, marveling at the utter strangeness of the times – a presidential impeachment, after the scandals, the Vietnam War, the unrest, the turmoil, some of which even reach our Houston suburb.
That’s probably where I heard Barbara Jordan speak for the first time. A member of the House Judiciary Committee, she gave a fifteen minute speech on live television on July 25th which is credited by many as being one of the reasons Richard Nixon finally bowed to the inevitable and resigned. Like every speech this woman gave, it was powerful, smart, clear and rang with an unparalleled understanding and love for the principles embodied in the Constitution. It was, quite frankly, far over my head, as a high school teenager, but her amazing voice and the clarity with which she communicated were more than enough to reach out and ensnare my mind and heart.
I could barely have understood how incredibly unique she was, how groundbreaking and earthshaking. I had lived through race riots in my junior high school years over desegregation and I knew that the promise of our Founding Fathers that all men were created equal was not a realized reality in our land.
But I grew up with Lieutenant Uhura, and Nurse Julia and Barney Collier and while I knew the struggle was real, I thought everyone understood that bigotry and prejudice were the past and had no place in our future.
I graduated high school in 1976, the Bicentennial year. Our class song was Philadelphia Freedom. Our colors were red white and blue, even though the school colors were black and gold. And there was a presidential election coming up that year that we would be old enough to vote in.
There was some talk about Barbara Jordan as a possible running mate for Jimmy Carter and I really wanted that to happen. Instead, she became the first African American woman to be a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. Though she was not a candidate, she actually got one delegate vote for president!
That year I was positive that I would live to see Barbara Jordan as President of the United States, some day.
We were never so fortunate.
If you already know her, and have heard her speak, I hope this small recollection does not seem too shabby a tribute.
If you haven’t heard her, do yourself a favor.
Keynote speech, part one. Listen to them cheer her… Listen to how carefully she says, “a Barbara Jordan”.
Part two. Accountability.
Part three. “Whatever differs from this…”
The impeachment speech. Listen to the unerring precision of her fire.
Thank you for your patience. Love and peace, Village! Enjoy your Wednesday gathering.
We are — Stronger Together!
All are welcome!