Florida Memorial University and former Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan have been linked for years.
FMU was one of the first entities that Jordan contacted after her 2004 election to the county commission. Jordan helped acquire $5 million in funding to help South Florida’s only Historically Black University build a multipurpose wellness center. And, at her final commission meeting, she petitioned for FMU to receive upwards of $500,000 of COVID-19 relief funding.
So when it came time to find a place to store the memorabilia she’s collected across her career, Jordan wanted it to stay home, in her district. The same one she faithfully served for 16 years.
FMU will house the Barbara J. Jordan Commissioner of Excellence Collection: “Labor, Learning, Leadership, and Legacy,” an assemblage of pictures, awards and other various items honoring one of Black Miami’s greatest advocates. The exhibit, located in FMU’s Nathan W. Collier Library, was unveiled Wednesday and will be accessible to the public for at least a year.
“I feel blessed that the community has shown me, demonstrated to me that they were watching and they appreciate my years of service,” Jordan said in an interview.
In addition to the exhibit, FMU announced a masterclass that uses Jordan’s life as a blueprint for students looking to learn about politics.
The collection itself takes viewers on an intimate journey through Jordan’s life and shows how her upbringing shaped her politics. Included are family portraits, a book of every piece of legislation she sponsored and even letters between her and her now-deceased husband Eddie Jordan.
“I just didn’t want the exhibit to be boring,” said Jordan, who saw it for the first time after cutting the ribbon Wednesday afternoon. The average college student wouldn’t “come just to look at an exhibit unless it’s tied to something that would explain things to them.”
Jordan, who termed out of the county commission in 2020, spent the last 50 years in the realm of public service. Her career in the public eye began first as an administrator, creating numerous youth-focused programs and organizations including the Greater Miami Service Corps. She was named assistant county manager in 1997.
By 2004, Jordan’s reputation had caught the attention of outgoing Commissioner Betty Ferguson, who advised her to run for her District 1 seat, which encompasses the cities of Opa-locka and Miami Gardens. Jordan’s interest in helping underserved communities blossomed as she helped lead the charge in developing workforce and affordable housing and secure investments for what would become the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Opa-locka, among many other things.
“A lot of times, the community doesn’t really understand what politics is all about and how politics impacts their lives,” Jordan continued.
Tameka Bradley Hobbs, an associate provost at FMU, called Jordan’s masterclass a “natural fit” for the university. Jordan herself won’t teach the entire masterclass but will be a guest speaker.
“It’s one thing to have an exhibition up on the wall but the opportunity to have a leader with a career and trajectory like Barbara Jordan interface with our students ... is just a tremendous [opportunity],” Hobbs said in an interview.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Commissioner Oliver Gilbert III and others shared kind words about Jordan prior to the collection’s unveiling. Levine Cava, who recounted just how much she has learned from Jordan, shared a quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg that she felt her former colleague embodied.
“ ’Fight for the things that you care about,’ ” Levine Cava told an audience of 60. “ ’But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.’ ”