Black History Month is a time to remember sacrifices and a time to celebrate advancements and achievements that paved the way for others. Certainly, the education and celebration of Black Americans should not be confined to one month. However, the month of February offers an opportunity to commemorate the past and look toward the future.  

When looking to the past, there is no denying that the United States was a country built without wages, a country built on slave labor.  Africans were ripped from their homes, brought to America, then sold and bought to work for nothing.  

There was no ownership in what they built.  There was no reaping benefits of what they sowed. There was merely endless labor for no wages, no rewards.  Everything they did and made was for the profit and benefit of others – monetized by others to build a nation.

In this day and age, no one in the U.S. could imagine a scenario where they would work without pay and be chained and whipped into submission.

From our history we see change evolved from literal blood, sweat, and tears. Yet, despite the changes our country has seen over the years, there is still more to be done.  There will always be more.

This month, in celebrating Black History Month, we cannot forget our history while we celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans.  This rich history is a sobering path into the future.

My grandfather Clyde T. Hutchinson, Sr., a self-taught master plumber who established his own business, stated that he never thought he’d see the day where we’d have a Black president.  He was certainly not alone in his thinking.  Although my grandfather passed away many years ago, in 2009, shortly before his death President Barack Obama was sworn into office.  Now, in 2021 we’ve witnessed Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman of color, being sworn into office.  These are monumental “firsts” that allow other Black Americans, old and young, to view what were once unimaginable dreams as imaginable.  

The road for Black Americans has been long and difficult.  In fact, the road continues to be long and difficult and is being paved day by day. From slavery to the White House, the history of Black Americans is paved with monumental “firsts.”  With each first, a decision had to be made years in advance to pursue the goal. To obtain these goals required vision, plans, hard work, and taking advantage of every opportunity.  

In some Black families, the first to graduate high school and attend college has just been celebrated. In other families, they have celebrated the first college graduate, teacher, doctor, lawyer, engineer.  Yet in many Black households, these celebrations have yet to take place.  While some cities and states have embraced the elections of Black mayors and governors, there are many that have yet to reach that milestone.  There are “firsts” still being made in professional sports, entertainment, and corporate America.  With all of these “firsts,” paths are being paved to demonstrate the possibilities for the future.  

In honor of Black History Month remember everyone that sacrificed and celebrate the accomplishments of those who inspire hope. We must never forget Harriett Tubman, William Still, Elijah Anderson, and the countless others that contributed to the Underground Railroad.  We must never forget Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Roy Wilkins, and the hosts of others who led the Civil Rights Movement. Celebrate the “firsts” of President Obama, Vice President Harris, and so many other public figures including Stacey Abrams, Gabby Douglas, and Jason Wright. However, remember that Black history is so much deeper, and so much richer than the names you see in the media and the ones commonly heard. 

Every day we should make an effort to learn something new and the month of February is a great time to make the commitment to learn something new in Black history.  If you don’t already know, learn about Fort Mose, Black Wall Street, Dr. James McCune Smith, Rev. Peter Williams Jr., Macon Allen, and Edward Bouchet.  The wealth of information available is more than what was taught in our history classes.  Learn the history that paved the path.  

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Photo of Kalandra N. Wheeler Kalandra N. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler brings.

1.Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

I wanted to be able to help people that otherwise might not find help. Labor and employment laws affect most of society.  And – whether our results help one or many – our work and efforts as employment lawyers touch people in a real way in their every day lives.

2. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Thurgood Marshall.

3. What do you think is the most important part of a good case?

The client. Good facts and evidence are definitely important. But good clients are a lawyers’ most valuable asset.  A good client: (1) is invested in their case; (2) works or worked hard for their employer; (3) can tell their story clearly and concisely; and (4) is someone that a jury will find sympathetic and relatable.

4. If you could write a new law, what would it do?

The Texas Workplace Anti-Bullying law.  I hear the stories, the ones told by employees looking for help. And in far too many of those stories the law offers no solution.  Every employee that goes to work and works hard to do the job they are hired to perform should be able to do so without abuse, harassment, and bullying. There is no justification for bullying, not in our schools, and not in our workplaces.

5. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

For a year before law school, I worked as a lube tech for Jiffy Lube.  I spent hot summer days, working on hot cars, changing oil or flushing transmissions or radiators.  I never had a customer come back with a complaint.

6. How do you market yourself differently than others?

I tell clients what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. Before a client begins down any path toward resolving an employment dispute, they need thoughtful, honest advice. I am a believer in justice and everyday people deserve competent representation in an arena that is difficult for non-lawyers to navigate.

7. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

I spend time with family and friends.  I read true crime books.  I sew and draw.

8. How would you describe the color yellow to someone who could not see?

It’s not the intense heat of the sun during the month of August, but instead the softness of the sun on your skin just as the seasons change from Summer to Fall.  It’s warm. And soft to the touch.  It’s fresh squeezed lemonade with a hint of sugar.  Slightly cool, inviting, and happy.

9. What’s your favorite legal TV show?

Law & Order: SVU

10. If you could argue any case in history, what would it be?

The Karen Silkwood case. But really, I think that would be more about arguing and trying a case alongside Gerry Spence for the learning experience.

Kalandra N. Wheeler is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C.  She graduated from The University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in political science.  Ms. Wheeler went on and received her law degree from The University of Arkansas.