2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Amie J.

“I get from the spirit and soil of Texas that I, as an individual can accomplish whatever I want to, and that there are no limits, that you can just keep going. Just keep soaring. I like that spirit.”

These are the words of the late American hero Barbara Jordan. In my younger years I thought of her as the first African American president. Granted I had left out the “pro-tempore for a day” portion of the title, even so her achievements inspire me. Alongside being appointed Governor for a day, Barbara Jordan was a respected orator, lawyer, congresswoman, educator at The University of Texas at Austin, and civil rights activist. She was the first African American woman from the south to hold a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and the first African American to be elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction. Her accumulation of accolades is incredibly remarkable. Her hard work and stern resolve is moving.

Throughout all her accomplishments the characteristic that I adhere to the most is the strength of her voice. We live in a society that comes with negative preconceived notations and imposed constraints concerning Black women. Barbara Jordan had a blatant disregard for such acts and her arsenal was equipped with words of wisdom, truth, and resiliency. Her ability to lead and stimulate change through the words she spoke is a quality I can only hope to emulate. I am the 12th child of 13. I have seven brothers and five sisters all from the same parents. In short, I was spoken over quite often. The more I grew older, the more confident I became, but upon arriving at the University of Texas at Austin with 38,000 undergraduates I was tempted to revert back to an uncomfortable silence.  The Black population at UT is 3.9%, in the McCombs school of Business, quite frankly, it feels like less. Minority students face more challenges then the educational rigor.

 As these concerns weighed heavy on my heart and invoked a passionate fire for justice I decided to explore the pre-law route and it was the Barbara Jordan statue located on my campus that reminded me to be bold, confident, and unnerved.  I am currently a student ambassador, making an effort to get involved in Afrikan American Affairs(AAA), and running to hold a seat in UT student government as business representative. If I am to fail, I will try again just as Barbara did as a congresswoman. I am a first year, first generation, underrepresented Black student from a low income background, but nonetheless, a student at The University of Texas at Austin. Barbara once noted “I have a belief that I have a spirit that is not going to disappear […]. Now the skin and bones will go back to dust, but the spirit of that individual, […] I feel will live.”  Although the destinations of my new path is unknown, my hope is that her spirit lives in me.


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