By: Roy Malonson
Jolanda “Jo” Jones is the fighter House District 147 needs. I’ve supported her since I first met her because she was then and is now a Black woman who is unapologetically for the uplift of Black people. She always shows up when we need her. She is now running to replace retiring State Representative Garnet Coleman. We need to show up and vote for her.
House District 147 is the natural fit for Jolanda. It’s where she’s from. She knows the district well. Jolanda was raised by her single-mom after her dad committed suicide, in her presence. She’s the oldest of five children raised by her single mom. Jolanda knew what it was to be without.
Her family was confronted with multiple evictions, rent houses burning down, bullying, rape, domestic violence, being shot at, seeing dead bodies, lack of food, gas, water and electricity and being bullied. She overcame the murder of her brother, aunt and numerous cousins. Her niece died of SIDS. Jolanda knew her way out of poverty was to get her grades, so she did. She was a straight A student who was also a world class athlete winning multiple state and national championships in track and field and was an All-American in basketball.
Growing up, Jolanda’s mother, a Texas Southern University graduate, was an activist and exposed her to Houston’s powerful and influential activists and leaders of the community such as: Deloyd Parker, Gene Locke, Omowale Luthuli (formerly Dwight Allen), Thomas Meloncon, and the late Ester King, Nia Becnel and Lynn Eusan, to name a few. Exposure to these civil rights icons taught Jolanda that Black people would get civil rights only if people were willing to organize, fight and die for it.
Her mother and grandmother trained her up to be unafraid and courageous even in the face of tremendous adversity and discrimination. And, to speak up when others are silent and have the courage to do right when others do wrong. Jolanda began giving Free “Know Your Right With The Police” trainings across Houston, including right here at the Beulah Shepard Center. Jolanda’s commitment to the uplift of Black people has been shown in her relentless pursuit to reform the criminal injustice system, as both an award-winning lawyer and activist. Her courtroom expertise helped shut down Houston Police Department’s Crime Lab that faked lab results that convicted innocent people and allowed the guilty to go free. She identified nearly $100 million dollars of misspending of HUD dollars by the City of Houston while serving on City Council.
She fought for affordable housing and grocery stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables in food deserts. She defeated a legislator, Rep. Talmadge Heflin, who stole an African woman’s infant child. Jolanda whooped Heflin in court and reunited mother and son. As a HISD School Board member, Jolanda stood up against anti-Black board members who targeted the more-than-qualified Black Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan. Jolanda got libraries for schools in her district, that didn’t have one, like Yates HS, Cullen and Attucks MS. She fought for equitable funding for our historically disadvantaged schools, and she put nurses and counselors in schools. She also changed the names of confederate school names.
While elected to two separate governmental bodies, City Council and the HISD School Board, Jolanda was the moral conscience of those bodies and the voice of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised. She is a go-to person who for fights for and stands up to those who seek to oppress. Although she is a lawyer, where there is no union, she is a union kid who grew up and absolutely believes in the invaluable power of unions. She improved the lives of Houstonians and helped create jobs and opportunities for small and minority businesses. She stands in the gap. She did all of this while single-parenting her son to be a Dean’s List college graduate and lawyer.
Jolanda is fearless. She has literally saved 5 lives, the most notable of which won a HERO Award for rescuing a teenager, whose car fell approximately 100 feet off of a freeway interchange, caught fire and exploded seconds after Jolanda and her son extricated her. Jolanda ran 50 meters, with the teenager in her arms, to safety. Jolanda also jumped on the hood of car burglars’ getaway car.
Jolanda has a proven track record of leadership, commitment, charitable work and teamwork for the benefit of the least, last and lost. She negotiates behind the scenes if she can but she’s not afraid to fight for us if necessary. All we have to do is look at what Jolanda has done in the past to know what she will do, for us, in the Legislature: Fight tooth and nail, if she has to.
Jolanda will fight to undue the voter suppression laws passed in the last legislative session after three Democrats returned to Texas. She’ll fight for criminal justice reform, which includes reforming the bail bond system. She’ll propose legislation that not only holds bad police officers liable but also that holds rogue district attorneys criminally liable for their actions; does away with qualified immunity for government entities, including law enforcement and district attorneys; do away with secret grand juries made up of connected people; emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment for non-violent crimes; legislation which does not penalize poverty (For example, probations being revoked for inability to pay exorbitant fees would be abolished.
So long as a probationer was working and/or attending school, trade or otherwise, fees would be mandatorily waived); do away with privatization of criminal justice services; mandate a cap for certain fees (It makes no sense that probationers, who already have problems finding and acquiring jobs, due to their criminal record, have to pay $200 to $300 per month for the “privilege” of being on probation); make it easier and less expensive to get records expunged after a certain time period and if you pay your debt to society; to maintain personnel records for rogue law enforcement and district attorneys and prevent its destruction); create civilian review boards with subpoena power for to investigate police misconduct complaints; mandate better training for law enforcement to end the racist profiling of “driving while black” traffic stops that often lead to confrontations that often lead to detention and arrests; that did not just affirm convictions but to allow re-investigation of convictions based on police and/or prosecutorial misconduct. Jolanda will fight for Medicaid expansion, to fix the public education funding formula that sends our tax dollars away from our schools that need the money, to help waive public school tuition, and allocate more money to Texas Southern University. She will also fight for small business and job creation and development.
Jolanda has won almost all of the major endorsements, including the Houston Black American Democrats and she has raised over $40,000 more than her nearest competitor.
I endorse Jolanda Jones for House District 147 and I urge you to do the same. We don’t need any more step and fetch it Black folks elected to represent us. We need an unapologetic honest smart committed fighter for our people. We need Jolanda Jones. Early Vote starts on Valentine’s Day, February 14th and runs until February 25th. Election Day is March 1st.