Accordingly, she enrolled into law school, while caring for her five-month-old son. Eventually, she got the courage to leave her husband. In 1995, Jolanda earned her Juris Doctorate from the University Of Houston Law Center. Afterwards, she became the first Black law clerk and lawyer at a prominent corporate law firm. Simultaneously, she resumed athletic training after six years, and surprisingly qualified for the 1996 US Olympic Trials. However, the mere three months of training and the unexpected murder of her 19-year-old brother severely overwhelmed her. After competing in four events, dehydration forced her to withdraw. Thereafter, she continued as a lawyer, focusing on civil litigation. Though she did well in the civil litigation arena, her nature motivated her to fight for the rights of the underserved and help seek out justice for them.
A Commitment to serve the “Least, Last and Lost”…
Growing up, her mother was an activist and exposed her to powerful and influential activists and leaders of the community such as: Deloyd Parker, Gene Locke, Omowale Luthuli (formerly Dwight Allen), the late Ester King, Thomas Meloncon, and Lynn Eusan, just to list a few. Exposure to such greatness, and an inherited trait played a huge role in her combating the criminal justice system, on behalf of the less fortunate. Her legal acumen operating as a Criminal Defense attorney has distinguished her in the courtroom amongst her peers. To that regard, she has received many prestigious legal awards. A couple of them are noted as, the NAACP Alex Award for outstanding legal skill and the Houston Lawyer’s Association Francis Williams Founder’s Award, amongst many others.
Her resume boasts a few of her judicial achievements inclusive with: “the shut-down of Houston Police Department’s Crime Lab by shining a light on HPD’s shoddy science which locked up innocent people and allowed the guilty to roam free; taking on then-State Representative Talmadge Heflin, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who had illegally taken the child of Ugandan immigrant Mariam Katamba, resulting in reuniting mother and child; she convinced a jury that her innocent young Black unemployed client, who was at the scene of the crime and was caught fleeing the scene, was not guilty, on two counts, of ambushing the police and firing 17 shots at them, notwithstanding that the majority of the prosecution witnesses were either police officers or ATF agent eye witnesses to the crime (two Not Guilty verdicts for her client – while his co-defendant, in the same trial with the same jury, different lawyer was convicted on both counts and sentenced to 20 and 40 year sentences, respectively).”
After developing a strong reputation for serving the downtrodden and a great outpouring from the community to run for public office, she ran for a seat on City Council. Consequently, she was elected as a Houston City Council Member, where she served for four years. She continued on in her legacy of being an, “unapologetic warrior for the least, last and lost.” During her tenure as Council Member, she advocated for justice and equality for Houstonians. Additionally, she worked to create jobs and enhanced business opportunities for small and minority business owners. Jolanda also, helped govern a $4 billion dollar budget and negotiated a $250 million dollar, three-year contract for Black and Hispanic health care providers with the city.
A Focus on Education
In 2015, Jolanda was elected to the Houston Independent School District Board of Education, District 4, and took office in January, 2016, where she holds the position of Second Vice President. She believes in the power of free public education and remains committed to fortifying the district’s collaboration with the community to improve equity within HISD schools, regardless of social status. Being raised by a single mother and then becoming one in her own life, has assisted her with the knowledge to understand struggles that single parents undergo, while trying to support their children’s educational goals. She reminisced on the affects that she experienced in school, which in part, compelled her to run for the position. Jolanda stated, “I remember when the school system took me from my neighborhood school and bused me to a school across town. The lack of finances made it hard for my mother to support my track meets, sporting events, or even make it to my track practices. So that’s why I feel neighborhood schools are really important, because parents may not be able to participate in their children’s activities because the school is so far away.”
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
To Inspire Others…
“As a child, I was always the oppressed and now I believe that, as an adult, I have a duty to fight for the oppressed.” Blessed with an uncanny ability to connect with versatile audiences, she is a nationally recognized and sought after public speaker. She expounds on subjects such as: Abstinence: Sex and Drugs, Balancing Athletics and Academics, Character, Domestic Abuse, Education, Juvenile Delinquency, Leadership, Life Skills, Literacy, Overcoming Obstacles, Self-Esteem, Study Skills, Team Building, Violent Crime Effects, Public Education, Politics, Networking Current Events and Hot Topics.
Still NOT Destroyed…
Over the years, Jolanda has accomplished much success. She has been inducted into: the Cougar Hall of Fame at the University of Houston Athletic/Alumni Center; GTE (Verizon) Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1999, the Texas Black Hall of Fame in 2003, and Texas Executive Women Woman on the Move. As a noted television personality, she has appeared on many news broadcasts and been featured on Survivor and Sisters in Law.
Motivated by Life, Family and Love…
Undeterred by a journey filled with many rugged edges, she is grateful for her mother. She maintains that her mother has been her motivating force. “Looking back, I know that’s why I did so well – because, my mom was always on me about my grades. She knew that she couldn’t afford to send me to college, but, always drilled in me that my brain could. When my cousins and friends were outside playing, after school, she had me doing extra homework and book reports that she created.” Reflectively, she expressed, “My mom raised me in West African culture and instilled the sense of understanding that we come from kings, queens and warriors. We, Africans, were enslaved because, we allowed people to come in after we showed them human decency and they took our kindness for weakness. So, I don’t buy into the notion that we are all criminals and thugs. I also don’t allow people to mistake my kindness for weakness.”
Others in her life who contributed to helping her overcome obstacles were her grandmother and Aunt Cathy. “Those are two people who helped me from not being successful in committing suicide, when I was at my wit’s end and didn’t want to live anymore. My grandmother is the one who kept me from trying more severe ways.” Jolanda regards her son, Jiovanni as her greatest accomplishment. As a single mother, she raised the Texas public university graduate and business owner. Additionally she says, “I am in a fantastic relationship with my girlfriend, Cherrise Traylor – I’m in a happy place and just want to have fun and enjoy our life. She’s very patient me and with all of my very busy life.”
PAGE 2 of 2