Houston Public Library Unveils First Barbara Jordan Monument in Houston

Houston Public Library Unveils First Barbara Jordan Monument in Houston


HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston City Council Member Abbie Kamin, and Houston Public Library (HPL) Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, honored guests and more gathered at Houston Public Library (HPL)’s  African American History Research Center (AAHRC) at the Gregory School Thursday, July 27, to honor the late Barbara C. Jordan (1936-1996) and unveil Houston’s first monument dedicated to her.

“The Meditative Space” celebrates the life and legacy of Houston native Barbara Jordan, who was the first African American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives. The tranquil structure, created by artists Charisse Pearlina Weston and Jamal Cyrus, illustrates Jordan’s dedication to public service, racial justice, and the fulfillment of American ideals. The structure was commissioned and acquired through the City of Houston Civic Art Program with assistance from the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA).

Rose Mary McGowen, sister of Barbara Jordan, at “The Meditative Space.” 

Artists Weston and Cyrus created a photographic and text-based collage of materials reflecting Jordan’s life as a public figure and dedication to her constituents using reference materials from archives at both the African American History Research Center and her undergraduate alma mater, Texas Southern University. The imagery is interwoven and combined with geographic motifs derived from her childhood Houston neighborhoods, illustrating her deep ties to family and community.

Speaking at the event were HPL Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and City Council Member Abbie Kamin, Barbara Jordan’s sister Rose Mary McGowan, and local Delta Sigma Theta alumnae representative Karen Dourseau. Houston Poet Laureate Aris Kian Brown recited her poem, “How to Build a Bridge.”

“We could use her powerful presence right now in our country. She is the epitome of brilliance and resilience, and we could not be prouder that this artwork has been created and delivered by two of Houston’s own who are doing an incredible job as ambassadors for our city,” said Mayor Turner. “Let us also be inspired that our work is not yet done. It would be a shame on our watch if the things that she stood for, if the buildings and the institutions and facilities that she used to advance herself to national prominence we allowed to be destroyed on our watch.”

“The Meditative Space” is permanently installed outdoors on the grounds of the AAHRC, near the entrance at 1300 Victor St., Houston, TX 77019. The AAHRC is a research center that preserves, promotes, and celebrates the rich history and culture of African Americans in Houston, the surrounding region, and the African Diaspora. It is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Mondays by appointment. For more information, visit https://houstonlibrary.org/aahrc or call 832-393-1440.