February 21, 1936 – Barbara Jordan:
“We believe in equality for all, and privileges for none… Let Everybody Come! “
It is Black History Month; it’s not necessarily Black Lesbians Month, but possibly, it should be. African-American Gay Women made history too.
Barbara Jordan was the first woman from Texas to serve in Congress, and the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress from a southern state. She was noted as an outstanding orator and first-class Constitutional scholar. If she had lived, she may have served on the Supreme Court, just as William Jefferson Clinton intended.
Way back in 1976, Jordan was much discussed by those that make such decisions as a possible running mate for Jimmy Carter. Instead, she became the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address at a national political party convention. Her speech in New York City that summer is in the top 10 of the “Top 100 American Speeches Of The 20th Century” by the Association Of University Professors.
Jordan was a gay woman with, what used to be called, a longtime companion. Her lover for more than 25 years was Nancy Earl. Jordan never publicly acknowledged her sexual orientation, but in her obituary, The Houston Chronicle mentioned her relationship with Earl. After Jordan’s initial unsuccessful statewide races, her political advisers warned her to become more discreet.
Bill Clinton spoke at Jordan’s funeral in 1996, stating:
“Whenever she stood to speak, she jolted the nation’s attention with her artful and articulate defense of the Constitution, the American Dream, and the common heritage and destiny we share, whether we like it or not.“
In 2011, the U.S. Postal Service chose for Jordan to have her own “forever” stamp as the 34th honoree in their popular Black Heritage series. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994. It’s this nation’s most prestigious civilian award. She wouldn’t have been happy about having to share it with stinky Rush Limburger. In 1984, Jordan was elected to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. She was named one of the most influential American women in the 20th century by the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.
Bayard Rustin was Jordon’s good friend. Rustin was a gay man and a leader in the fight for Civil Rights and Gay Rights. Together, their legacy continues with The Jordan/Rustin Coalition. The mission of the coalition is to empower Los Angeles’s Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people and their families, and to advocate for fair treatment of everyone regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Jordan was diagnosed with MS in 1973 and then with Leukemia in the 1980s. She gave her final speech in 1996.
The 45th president is the worst public speaker to ever hold the position of leader of the free world. A powerful political voice can make a difference in this world. Who do we have, besides Barack Obama, who belongs to the tradition of life changing stirring orators? Digressions, mix ups, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has a choppy speaking style that can sometimes undermine his message. Biden dealt with stuttering throughout his childhood and into his 20s, and we still see him struggle. If the focus of the Democrat Party and its subsequent actions and resources were deployed “to create and sustain a society in which all of us are equal“, it would revolutionize our society and create an unmistakable legacy for the Democrats. Kamala Harris and Peter Buttigieg are first rate speakers. Sometimes Elizabeth Warren hits the right notes; Corey Booker and Beto O’Rourke too.
“What the people want is very simple; they want an America as good as its promise.”
I don’t want Jordan and her legacy to be forgotten or diminished. I always found her speeches and her very presence to be electrifying. Had Jordan lived longer, I believe her contribution to our country would have been even more astounding. She might have become the first woman President and the first gay President. As it stands, Jordan was still a true trailblazer and one of my favorite politicians ever.
“A spirit of harmony can only survive if each of us remembers, when bitterness & self-interest seem to prevail, that we share a common destiny.“