honoring barbara

New public art and meditation space reflects on a cherished Houston icon

New public art + meditation space reflects on a cherished Houston icon

Barbara Jordan artwork
“Meditative Space in Reflection of the Life and Work of the late Barbara Jordan” honors a Houston icon. Image courtesy of MOCA

One of Houston’s most cherished and iconic political figures will soon be honored in apropos iconography.

Barbara Jordan, the first African American woman from the South to be elected to the United States Congress (1972-1979), will soon be the recipient of a new sculpture commissioned by the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA). The sculpture is specifically for the Houston Public Library’s African American Library at the Gregory School, according to a press release.

Commissioned artwork underway, “Meditative Space in Reflection of the Life and Work of the late Barbara Jordan,” is described in press materials as a “dynamic, commemorative space wherein free-standing glass panels situated within a tranquil structure function as vehicles to represent, through an intricate photographic and text-based collage of materials, the life and work of Barbara C. Jordan.”

Houston artists Jamal Cyrus and Charisse Weston, the collaborative team that developed the concept, will execute the commemorative artwork. Plans call for a debut of the work at The African American Library at the Gregory School in summer of 2022.

The meditative space will sit to the right of the Gregory School Library’s entrance, in the lawn,
inviting visitors to reflect, meditate, and consider Jordan’s dedication to public service, racial justice, and the fulfillment of American ideals, per a release.

An image of Jordan highlights not only the prowess and commanding voice of Jordan — who was a politician, lawyer, professor, and public figure —  and celebrates the lesser-known image of Jordan as a woman of deep compassion and conviction, especially with regards to family and community.

A forever pride of Houston’s Fifth Ward, Jordan was born in 1936, raised in Fifth Ward, attended Texas Southern University (graduating magna cum laude), and received a law degree from Boston University.

After teaching and law practice stints, she was elected in 1966 to the Texas Senate, becoming the state’s first African-American senator since 1883. She was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Texas’s Eighteenth Congressional District, the district’s first representative.

She is currently honored with eponymous schools, centers, facilities, and even the former post office building soon to be unveiled as Post Houston.

“Barbara Jordan is a Houston legend and the artwork created by these artists brings present the impact she had in defending the United States Constitution and representing the people of this City,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner, in a statement.

“The City of Houston is proud to honor Congresswoman Barbara Jordan in such a creative way. Jordan was a pioneer – a woman of many firsts and seeing her image and her writing will keep her legacy alive to new generations.”