Earlier this week the City of Houston unveiled a new public art monument created by local artists Charisse Pearlina Weston and Jamal Cyrus.
The commemorative monument, The Meditative Space, honors Barbara C. Jordan (1936 – 1996), who was the first African American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Ms. Jordan was a Houston native and part of the inaugural class at Texas Southern University, a historically Black university located in the city’s downtown.
In a 2021 press release announcing the planned commission, Mayor Sylvester Turner remarked, “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… Jordan was a pioneer – a woman of many firsts and seeing her image and her writing will keep her legacy alive to new generations.”
The monument is composed of two pieces of curved glass with images of Ms. Jordan as well as her handwritten speeches etched into the surface. The design of the piece brings together the aesthetic styles of Ms. Weston, who often works in glass, and Mr. Cyrus, who is known for his patchwork approach to textiles.
At the unveiling, which took place on Thursday, July 27, Necole Irvin, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, said, “The artists that have made this happen, Jamal Cyrus and Weston, are also Houston-based [and] dug into the archive and have produced a magnificent artwork for the city’s civic art collection.”
Mayor Turner also explained that as a native Houstonian himself, Ms. Jordan inspired him when, in 1976, she was the first African-American and first woman to serve as a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. He noted that he hopes that the monument will inspire and encourage future generations.
The Meditative Space is located at the African American History Research Center at the Gregory School (1300 Victor Street).