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Following The Footsteps of Those Who Went Before Them

by Ruth Ann Ruiz
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By Ruth Ann Ruiz

The Post Newspaper Features Editor

“Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is older, he will not depart from it.” —Proverbs 22:6. This is such a familiar Bible verse, and one that Janae Pulliam can claim as a truth from her upbringing.

“My mom is the reason that I know salvation is real. Through her struggles, I watched her hold onto her faith,” shared Janae Pulliam. 

Her mom June Pulliam is known by many as Izola Collins’ daughter. 

Without a doubt, Izola Collins left a legacy in her work as a mother, music teacher and her activism for Black students and Black history in Galveston County. “Island of Color, where Juneteenth Started” is Izola Collins’ most well-known book. 

In “Island of Color,” Izola Collins tells the story of her family’s history in Galveston. It’s a gentle read, kind of feels like NPR in text. Through the book you learn of the family’s dedication to education and their steadfast love of family and God.

June and Janae are both living their own lives with the values instilled in them by their family legacy, which her great-granddaddy brought to Galveston more than 100 years ago.

Most of the Collin’s family have been teachers, but June and Janae, found their own paths, staying near education, just not as classroom teachers.

June, like her mother, Ezola did, has a love of music. She shared that she grew up playing the piano along with the clarinet at Ball High school and took on alto saxophone in college.  She took her love of music and studied to be a music therapist. She completed her master’s in psychology. She worked for a period of her life in Houston mental health centers providing therapy through music and in Texas City. 

She and Janae share that June was the first music therapist to have her own private practice in Houston. 

As a music therapist, June had to pick up playing the guitar to be able to meet with her clients. You can’t really lug a piano around, and wind instruments don’t allow for much conversation with someone. The therapy she provided was related to what a traditional therapist provides. It required her to dialogue with her clients. Music was the tool she used for getting a person to share and open up about what was going on in their minds and hearts. 

Galveston’s Fanfare Lutheran Music Academy recruited June to be their executive director twelve years ago. June is comfortable with her role as leader of an after-school program that teaches young people art, music and dance. She continues to see only a few private clients needing her specific skills as a music therapist. 

Patience is another virtue that Janae shared her mother embodies. June’s patience comes through very softly as she remains the quieter of the two in the room and looks at her daughter with love, admiration, and a warm smile. 

Janae is bubby and full of spirit. She is the kind of person who walks into a room with a huge smile, and others can’t help but smile along with her. She has a way of communicating in writing with her smile and sparkle. 

While studying to be a broadcast journalist, Janae discovered she would prefer to work in public relations rather than pursue a career in front of the camera. Her first position after college was with the city of Galveston as a communications specialist. 

Galveston Health Authority lured her away from that position, and Janae became the person who created the little icons and communication statements throughout the pandemic. One such icon was the one reminding us to wash our hands. 

She started her position before the pandemic happened, back when we were worried about the zika virus. One of her first tasks was creating an educational coloring book for children on how to cover up and use mosquito repellant.

Her mom is very proud of her daughter’s work, and flipping through the pages of the coloring book, it is easy to see why. Janae didn’t just write or just draw for the book. She took the concept and created the characters using her iPad and an app. Each illustration in the book was done by Janae. But she doesn’t own the rights to her creation because producing it was part of the job.  

Not only does she not own the rights to her work, she retains a humble spirit and believes that everyone else in communications can do the same thing. 

One day, June was driving down the road and spotted a billboard that looked like her daughter’s artistic creation. Sure enough Janae had been the creator.

As the pandemic was evolving and data needed to be released daily, releasing it was one of her duties. She was the one who provided the data covering the numbers of people ill and the numbers of people who had passed away from COVID-19. 

When the vaccine arrived in Galveston County, Janae was responsible for helping coordinate the efforts to get people vaccinated.  Her mother tells the story of how Janae solved a problem that was occurring for people seeking the vaccine.

“Back when the vaccine first came out, Janae called me and told me about a QR code she had designed that day,” shared June. 

Janae finishes the story: “See what was happening is that we had long lines of people waiting to get the vaccine, and some of them had not pre-registered. I just had to do something because they might have ended up waiting in line and not getting their vaccine. So, I went to a QR code generator on my phone and created a code so people could sign up,” Janae explained. “Then I went to each person in line and that was how people who weren’t registered could register.”

After a couple days, the county came up with an official QR code. Janae retains her humble spirit and does not feel what she did was all that big of a deal. However, her mom conveys an understanding of the significance of her daughter’s problem solving with modern technology. 

Currently, Janae works at the Rosenberg Library as the Community Engagement & Communications Coordinator. “I love books, and I love the library. Who doesn’t love the library?” Janae beams as she declares her passion for books and libraries. 

 “Island of Color” has been given a new book cover designed by the author’s granddaughter and has been re-released. 

The book jacket features June’s and Janae’s ancestors sitting on the porch of the home that their great-great granddaddy built on the East end of Galveston Island. The house still stands. Janae is walking in her grandmother’s footsteps as an author and as a self-taught graphic artist with her work popping up in many places. 

Though June has not been a classroom teacher like her ancestors, she did homeschool both of her daughters. Jasmine, her younger is a teacher just like her ancestors. She lives and teaches on the mainland. 

With her life still in front of her, we should keep an eye out for Janae Pulliam to one day sign her name on and own the rights to her work. Regardless of what she does with her career, Janae can count on her mother’s ever-loving support and admiration. 

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