12.05.2009

Pause: Today I remember George Thomas "Mickey" Leland...my grandmother introduced me to him.

by Jesse Muhammad

Do you know Mickey Leland?

The other day I received a flyer about Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger & Peace Year-End Celebration on the campus of Texas Southern University.

The theme of the event is "We Remember Mickey - His Vision Continues". It was originally set for Dec. 4, but the snow conditions postponed it.

This morning I started thinking about when I first learned about who Mickey Leland was. I was taught about him by my grandmother, Myrtle Jackson Ross, who was the first ever activist I knew in my life.

Honestly I didn't know people like her were called activists. I only knew my granny was on the move across the city, state and country taking a stand on issues. Whether it was politics or women's rights, she was there on the frontlines.

She started me on the road of being involved in politics while I was at Fonwood Elementary. I could be found block walking, eating stale donuts at voting precincts, and attending events for candidates whose names I could hardly pronounce. Well at one particular community event, Mickey Leland was there. I had an opportunity to shake his hand. I didn't know his "big title" in congress nor did I know his global impact.

All I remember was a warm smile, a pat on the head and the words "Nice to meet you little Jesse Jackson". That was my name before I became a Muslim.

Then in 1989 I remember the Black community in Houston being very saddened because Mickey Leland died in a plane crash in Ethiopia. But it wasn't just our city, it was the entire world. The crash was shocking and in some reports "mysterious".

As I got older I read about Mr. Leland and found out that he was a product of Wheatley High School and Texas Southern University in Houston. He was an anti-poverty activist who was deeply concerned about the homeless. He became a congressman from the Texas 18th District and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of his last mission to Ethiopia, which ended during the plane crash on August 7, 1989. His 65th birthday would have been on November 27. He died at 44.

Mickey Leland was a servant of the people.

Pause.