Statement of President Charles Spivey on Mary Jackson Center

Today, the soul of Mary Jackson has come home to the community that raised her and later revered her. United Steelworkers Local 8888 is proud to be part of the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Mary W. Jackson Neighborhood Center in the Hampton community she loved dearly. 

Throughout her prolific career, Mary Jackson broke new ground and opened doors for thousands to follow. It wasn’t easy, though. As a Black woman in the South, she endured segregated restrooms and cafeterias and other indignities in the workplace. She persevered and eventually helped put the first American astronaut into space as NASA’s first Black female engineer. Millions around the world were exposed to Mary Jackson’s genius and proud resolve in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures.”

Thankfully, she is hidden no more in her hometown.

The importance of naming of this center for an iconic African American woman cannot be overstated. For too long, the images and successes of Black women have been devalued or erased from our national and local history. Now, young girls and female students of all colors will be able to see and feel connected to a city facility that validates their dreams and says the lives of Black women really do matter.

Local 8888 is proud our petition drive four years ago ignited this fitting tribute to Mary Jackson. We collected more than 2,500 signatures, lobbied city hall, partnered with social groups like Ms. Jackson’s sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and met with city planners This is a defining achievement for our union. I want to thank our members who were determined to see something meaningful and dignified for Mary Jackson. I also want to recognize Ms. Donna Little, a longtime member of Local 8888 and a fierce community advocate who worked tirelessly to have a neighborhood center rebuilt in her Olde Hampton community.

I will always remember this day, because it is part of the celebration of Black excellence at a time when our nation is straining to find unity and reconciliation. Honoring this strong Black woman for her genius and service has brought us together as a proud community. And that’s how our ancestor, Mary Jackson, would want it.