Wheatley Honors Legacy of Barbara Jordan at Black History Month Celebration

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visits school to honor the late congresswoman and Wheatley alumna

February 15, 2012

She was a leader in the civil rights movement and the first southern black female elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She also was a graduate of HISD's Wheatley High School. On Tuesday, Feb. 13, black leaders from throughout the city, state, and nation gathered at Wheatley to celebrate the life and legacy of Barbara Jordan and to encourage HISD students to follow in her footsteps of civic engagement.

Joining in the celebration was U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African-American to hold the presidential cabinet position.

"It is in Barbara Jordan's honor that we gather today to not only celebrate her extraordinary contributions and achievements, but also to discuss how we can and why we must extend her work," Holder said. "Barbara Jordan not only was a proud Wheatley graduate, but she was also a firm believer in the ability of Americans to bridge long-standing divisions, to overcome a history of injustice and inequality, and to build a future that reflects our nation's founding ideals. She is one of my personal heroes and we must recognize the path she laid for each and every one of us."

Joining Holder was Rose Mary McGowan, the sister of Barbara Jordan, as well as U.S. Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, who helped organize the event which included performances by Wheatley band and choral students as well as national gospel recording artist Kathy Taylor. Local televison news anchors Melanie Lawson and Khambrel Marshall emceed the event in the school's auditorium which was packed with Wheatley and Barbara Jordan High School students as well as local leaders, ministers and community members.

"This event was really for the children and for them to celebrate the history of the men and women who walked the halls of Wheatley before them," Jackson Lee said. In addition to Jordan, Wheatley boasts of several other notable black leaders including the late U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland and current state Rep. Harold Dutton, who also spoke at the event.

In addition to celebrating history, Jackson Lee pointed out to students that they themselves were making history by welcoming the U.S. Attorney General to the Fifth Ward. Holder and Jackson Lee during their visit to Wheatley also met with students in small groups to discuss various issues from voting rights to getting involved in their community.

"I learned so much," said Wheatley sophomore Joanna Byrd. "All the people that went before me, it just motivates me to do better. I stand on their shoulders and they created a great foundation for me."