I’ve got so much love; Got so much patience

I’ve learned from the pain; I turned out amazing

I’ve loved and I’ve lost; But that’s not what I see

‘Cause look what I’ve found; Ain’t no need for searching

And for that, I’ll say:

Thank you, next.- Ariana Grande, Thank you, next


Did you miss me? I can’t promise I’ll write regularly but I’m back for a minute to post my 2018 Most Fascinating of Howard County List. Also, I co-host a podcast now with Tom, so if you haven’t heard of it (WHAT?!), check out Elevate Maryland. Lots of opinions and great interviews with fascinating people from around the state.

This year was pretty darn good. Not perfect (life never is) but as Big Sean says, “…way up I feel blessed”. 2018 = new job and career focus/opportunities, 16/1 (if you have to ask go view my FB posts from March 16th and 17th), a November reconnection, a #1 slot in the primary, big election wins (so proud of many people!), the end of Lyme meds (pray for a lady that this is forever), true support for my “hobby”, some special family time, new friendships, old friendships, lost friendships (necessary), a vacation for the first time without the kid, and one super kid who made her transition to college with grace, class, and hard work. (There’s probably more but those are pretty darn good.)

There were also some challenges. The biggest one was in my professional life but I grew (still growing) and learned a lot about grace under pressure.   

Here’s the list! And as I say every year, this is NOT an endorsement piece. So don’t @ me.  

The History Makers

2018 was a history-making year in Howard County. I am not a public crier but on November 6th, in the back of Kahler Hall at the celebration party, I grabbed my good friend and former boss, Ken Ulman, and wept. Openly. Some may remember that just four years earlier in 2014, I was in that same hall as my heart broke when I watched the results and saw that many of the candidates I supported lost. It felt like someone had died. It hurt. And not only was it a loss of several elections but it meant that I also lost my job. I was a political appointee but worked hard for the people of Howard County. So no matter how many times folks say “people over politics”, that’s not the case most of the time. I could write a novel about that time of my life…but nah. Because look what happened in 2018. History. And so I choose to move “forward” (get it? Forward.).  

County Executive Calvin Ball- So, Calvin has been on this list before. In fact, this is the third time. The first time, I said this about him (courtesy of one of my commenters): ”He was out there rallying votes for candidates when they were running for office and he’s worked tirelessly to get the revitalization of Long Reach going (in addition to having a full time job and being a family man).”  The second time I added him to the list because he stood up for what is right after he announced his legislation to support our undocumented community members. This time, he’s included on this particular list for being our first African American County Executive but there’s so much more to this.  In the first few weeks, our new County Executive has shown what it means to be inclusive. To truly embrace what it means to invite all voices to the table. Look at his team. Look at the initiatives he has introduced and championed already (EC!). Look at his transition committee team members. Hell, even look at his social media posts.

This probably comes as no surprise but I believe that if you want to be a top leader in your field and truly change a community, culture, business or the world, you MUST embrace diversity and truly support inclusion. Calvin is doing this. And I can’t wait to see what’s next.

State’s Attorney Elect Rich Gibson- Rich was also on this list before. Maybe we’re good at picking winners, friends! Rich came out of nowhere in 2014 when he first ran for State’s Attorney. I thought he had great ideas on how to reshape the office and I knew then that he was a top prosecutor. He lost that race but went back to the toolbox and really reworked his strategy and approach. So when he told me he was running again, I knew he was ready. And he went out there and did the damn thing with a big win and became the first African American State’s Attorney in Howard County.  

Oh, have you heard about his approach and what his history-making win means to him? If not, please listen to this. Inspiring.

 Sheriff Marcus Harris- Ok, so I have to be honest here. I was not sure that Marcus would be our next sheriff. Don’t get me wrong, Marcus is certainly qualified, worked hard during the election, has an excellent vision for the office of the sheriff, and is valued by the community. He was even recruited by some members of the sheriff’s team. I like him. But he was running against the super popular, former police chief Bill McMahon. A police chief who guided the community through some very public, hard times.

Well, my uncertainty was unfounded. And, as my daughter said, “Mama, we have a black sheriff”. #thefirst #rolemodel

Alicia Altamirano- Immigration lawyer and fierce advocate by day. And making history as the first Latina elected to the Democratic Central Committee in her spare time. Alicia and I met casually through a friend during the primary and I should have taken more time to get to know her. Because from the limited knowledge I now have, I really admire Alicia’s commitment to our shared values. 2019 goal- coffee with Alicia.  

Tonya Kennon-  ICYMI somehow, Tonya is the new president of the Howard County Library System and is the first African American to hold the position. Tom and I interviewed Tonya on Elevate and she was just refreshing and on point. Her chat about libraries being community assets and “bumping places” made me think a little differently. Plus she said the movie she was recommending to friends and family members? Black Panther. #wakandaforever

Ainy Haider Shah- You may remember Ainy as the lady who rocked the mic as the MC at the County Executive/County Council Installation. What you may not have known is that Ainy was elected as the first woman president of the Howard County Muslim Council. The first. Not only is Ainy a smart, talented, well connected leader in our community but she is also funny as hell. Ask her to tell you a joke. It will be witty.

Ainy was just accepted into the Emerge Maryland program. I can’t wait to see what she runs for. She has my vote.   

Sabina Taj- No teacher’s endorsement? Darn but ok. No newspaper endorsement? Well, darn but ok. No People’s Voice endorsement? Well, ok. I’ll just work hard as heck, continue to challenge the status quo and stay advocating for ALL children. That was Sabina’s winning playbook. Take note future Board of Education candidates. You can stand up for what is right and win. Oh, and talk about history? In addition to being ridiculously qualified for the position, Sabina made history by becoming the first Asian American woman member of the Board of Education. Yep.  

Gabriel Moreno- I don’t know Gabe that well. Gabe ran and won a seat on the Howard County Democratic Central Committee after grinding hard for values, equity and other candidates. He was positive and worked really hard and a lot of folks took notice. He seemingly came out of nowhere but his paid gig as an immigration attorney should have had him on someone’s radar. He and his wife also have super cute kids. In 2019, I will make an effort to get to know Gabe better.

Oh yeah, Gabe is the first Latino man to be elected to the Central Committee.

Christine Uhlhorn- Ok, so a secret. For some reason, I have always wanted a fire helmet with my name on it. I was not on board the Ulman team yet when senior staff participated in some exercises with the Fire Dept and got their personalized helmet so I never got one. And I’m bitter about it.

I have great respect for firefighters. And I was beyond excited to see that Christine was named the first woman Fire Chief in Howard County history. I don’t know Christine but I love what my friend and former Chief, John Butler said about her in the Baltimore Sun: “Christine was a role model and held her own at the table,” Butler said. “She has and had a voice and often spoke for those who were apprehensive to speak out loud.” She happens to also be a single mom. So, yep, badass.

I still want my helmet. Help me out, Christine.  

Mavis Ellis– Back in 2015, now retired teacher Karen Randall called me and said, “I have someone who you need to meet. She needs to run for the Board of Education.”  About a month later I hosted a meeting at my house and met, Ms. Mavis Ellis. I’ve written about Mavis before. I admire her as a strong, behind the scenes leader who stands up for what’s right. Her level of experience as an educator and advocate is unparalleled. What I learned back in 2015, after licking envelopes at my dining room table, is that she’s not the political type. She just wants to do what is best for kids. And I’m so proud that she’s the first African American woman chair of the Board of Education.

HoCo Forward Team– Whole team. That has to be history.   

Jenny Park- I don’t Jenny but I do know that she was elected as the first Korean American elected official when elected to the Republican Central Committee so she belongs on this list. I tried to find more information about Ms. Park online but I didn’t see anything else. But I’m curious. Coffee!

The New County Council- Liz Walsh. Opel Jones. Christiana Rigby. Deb Jung. David Yungmann. What can I say about this Council. This impressive bunch are all brand new and none of them have ever been elected to public office. But for some reason, I feel really good about what they can do. We have some real challenges in the County: APFO, crowded schools, homelessness, the opportunity gap, poverty, de facto segregation, hate crimes, etc but our newly elected Council members are super smart and know our community (three of them are from Howard County. That has to be a first, right?!). I think they’re going to be innovative in their approach.

I won’t (again) mention my one concern. I’ve said it enough. And I’m going to trust that it gets addressed by this talented group of leaders.   

Special nod to the OGs- Vernon Gray- first African American elected to the County Council, Frank Turner- the first African American male elected to a state delegate position, Vanessa Atterbeary and Terri Hill- the first African American women elected to state delegate positions, Clarence Lam- the first Asian American male elected to a state delegate position, and Sydney Cousin- the first African American Superintendent. I may have forgotten someone…please remind me in the comments.

The Musicians

I am a huge music fan. Picky and a little stuck in my ways but music soothes my soul and makes me happy. And live music? The best. Here are a few local musicians who rock.

Richard McCready– I don’t know Richard well though his wife and I run in some of the same circles. I’ve met him once or twice in my previous role with Howard County Government. But I do know this…Richard is known in Howard County for being a music teacher extraordinaire. Every time I turn around, he is being nominated for Music Teacher of the Century! Or best Music Teacher in the Galaxy! Or Music Man Extraordinaire! You can’t help but notice.

On a serious note, his students seem to love him, co-workers seem to admire him, other musicians want to jam with him, and he really does win some dope awards. Keep rockin’, Richard. I see you.   

Gallant- Did you know that a kid from Howard County was nominated for a Grammy award in the category of “Best Urban Contemporary Album” in 2017? You may not have heard of Gallant but he is killing it.  His full name is Chris Gallant and he is the insanely talented son of Chris and Lillie Gallant. His debut (DEBUT!!) album, “Ology” was up for the award. I featured him on this list a few years ago and I was bummed I didn’t have the opportunity to see him when he was supposed to open for John Legend at Merriweather (the concert was rescheduled because John wasn’t using the lozenges I sent him) but I really like his music.

Lindsey Jordan- I admit I knew nothing about the ultra talented Ms. Jordan before her mom and I became friends on Facebook. That was in February. And then, all of a sudden, I started reading about Jordan and her band, Snail Mail, everywhere! She’s #3 on Esquire Magazine’s Best Album of 2018 list. The Ellicott City kid is performing at the Met in Philly and the 9:30 Club in DC. She’s in the Wall Street Journal in an article featuring “The Best New Music of 2018”. And she’s 19!

I’m no music critic but here’s what the experts are saying: “A half-generation behind Car Seat Headrest is rock phenom Lindsey Jordan’s Snail Mail. Her clean guitar lines and idiosyncratic vocal phrasing have drawn comparisons to Liz Phair, and her band’s debut album, “Lush” (Matador), touches on confusion and self-doubt with an underlying toughness and preternatural wisdom.” Rock on, kid. You make us all proud in Howard County.

The Women Who Rock

Full disclosure: this list started off with about 75 women and I just don’t have time to write something thoughtful about everyone. I want to but I can’t. Self care folks. Truly the list could have about 5765 women on it and still be incomplete. So, please don’t come for me. Trust me when I say that I know there are so many more women who rock…but here are my six for 2018. (Also, look at some of my lists from previous years. Your favs are there too…)

Laura Johnson– Laura just flies under the radar and gets things done. As the chair of the NAACP Education Committee, Laura has quietly worked to form real partnerships with the HCPSS and has hosted events to help spread the word about the NAACP’s education advocates. During the day, Laura is a Vice President at National Summer Learning Association so she clearly knows her stuff. I look forward to seeing what additional activities and initiatives are introduced to our community due to Laura’s leadership. Remember when I talked about working on our real challenges? Well the opportunity gap is a real one. Thank goodness for people like Laura.  

Jennifer Jones– Jen is the GOAT. I don’t think Jen sleeps. Ever. Jennifer has this quiet yet powerful way about her. She has an MBA and a Law degree but unless you read her resume, you’d never know. She is the new Deputy Chief of Staff for Howard County Government and I know she will do great things because in addition to being incredibly smart (did you see what I wrote above?) she is thoughtful and in the position for the right reason. It’s never about accolades or credit with Jennifer. It’s about doing what’s right. And that’s rare in this day. Thank you for all you do, Jen.

Lena Kennedy- I’ve known Lena for awhile. She’s married to my good friend, Ian. (Ian and I got to do some good stuff together when we worked together in the Ulman Administration.) Lena had her coming our party this year, though. In a big way. Recently she was accepted into the highly competitive Emerge Maryland program, but before that she used her voice to speak up against inequities, whether online (I may have clapped out loud sometimes after reading her words) or in person by testifying in front of the school board or the County Council and Executive. She advocates for what is right and by doing so has ruffled some feathers. But you know what happens when people ruffle feathers? Things change. Thank you, Lena. Continue to use your voice and fingers for good.

Oh, and let us know when you’re ready to set up YOUR BOE campaign team.  

Akbi Syeda Khan Yusufzai– I don’t even know where to start with Akbi but I’ll start with our first meeting. We had a wonderful conversation about the LGBTQ community in Howard County. She encouraged me to try to become a better ally (I’m still a work in progress) and I hopefully gave her a bit of history about the politics of Howard County.

Akbi jumped into the 2018 election cycle like a beast (If you don’t believe me, ask her to see one of her 18338 campaign shirts…) and worked hard to get strong candidates elected. She also writes a fascinating blog that you should check out. You can find it: here.

Jessica Feldmark I feel like Jessica’s contributions to Howard County (and now state) politics completely fly under the radar. Jessica was the special assistant to Councilman Ulman, the Chief of Staff to County Executive Ulman, the current administrator for the County Council, and MD state delegate elect for District 12. Oh and she served on County Executive Calvin Ball’s Administration transition Team. Seriously? If you need to know anything about what’s going on in Howard, you may want to give Jess a buzz. Chances are she’s touched it, advised on it, or developed it herself. Seriously.     

Moms Demand Action- Need something done about gun control? Call the mamas. They advocate on a different level. I look forward to seeing what they have in store for 2019.

Courtney Watson- “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years…” Actually, let’s call this one a comeback. For real. Last time I wrote about Courtney, it was after the 2014 election and I included her in a post with Allan Kittleman. That wasn’t fair. She deserved her own post and so here it is. It takes something special for someone to come back and run again for elected office after a devastating loss. Courtney did that. And won big. I think Courtney will be a fantastic delegate and will champion issues related to girls and women. We need her voice in Annapolis and I’m happy for her.

Oh, and extra bonus points for sticking through difficult conversations with me. That’s between us (and maybe J. Baker) but I do appreciate you for that, C-dub.    

The Youngins

These babies are trying to run things. Actually, they are already running things. And so they deserve a nod.

Milan Reed- My girl. Successfully transitioned to college. Resilient. Thoughtful. Loves all things related to the brain. Threw me for a loop when she chose a college I had never visited, a major that required her to take 18 credit hours as a first semester freshman, and left track behind but she’s ALWAYS done things her way. I’m biased but she’ll change the world. Love you, kid.

Alex Horn– Known in Howard County as Spawn. Super smart wizkid who volunteered to get some good folks elected and then turned right around after the election to testify on school start times. Can’t wait to hear about what he’s going to do next. Run for President or something, Spawn.

Collin Sullivan– Brains behind the HoCo Forward campaign while running his own campaign to be SGA President at UMBC. Tech smarty (although he still owes me a lesson on my giant Ipad). Love his sarcastic personality and I look forward to yelling loudly for him as he crosses the stage in May. We’ve been through some things this past year and Collin’s leadership skills have grown tremendously. I’ve enjoyed watching his growth.

Aidan Hennessy– I don’t know Aidan but I read an interesting article about him in the Flier. The Clarksville Middle student raised over $1000 for Small Miracles, a no-kill animal shelter in Ellicott City. I worked with folks who supported the shelter when I worked for Howard County Government and they have a special place in my “I don’t really do animals” heart. Well done, Aidan.

Felix Facchine– Worked hard and smart as a member of Christiana Rigby’s winning campaign and then hopped on board the #TajTrain and helped with her victory for BOE. Just appointed as Rigby’s district assistant and I think he has a strong future in politics. Plus he graduated from UMBC. #onlythebest

Safa Hira– Pretty sure I could have listed Safa in the history makers category because I believe she made history as the youngest person ever elected to the Central Committee. Amirite? But I’m ok leaving her in this category with the youngins. Safa made her mark in Howard County this year. She worked hard for Team Ball, really helped folks with outreach efforts and educated our community on diversity and inclusion matters. Good work, Safa. Nope. Great work.   

Najee Bailey– Najee is my “son”. Ask his mom, we both claim him. Great district assistant to former Councilman Ball. Check. Current district assistant for Councilman Jones. Check. Elected to the Central Committee with the highest number of votes for a male. Check. NAACP Young intern program graduate. Check. President of Young Democrats. Check. The community loves Najee. And I’m so proud of him.

Honorable mention– Two babies named Whit.

The Mix

Just some random favorites that don’t work in the other categories…

Elevate Maryland and Tom Coale- Gave me my voice back. So had to make the list. Thanks for having my back, partna.  

Cathy Bedolla and Eric Pakulla– Taught me so much about love, grace, resilience, and strength. Love you both.  

Andrew Kanicki- My kid loves Andrew. And I love who/what she loves. Most recently, Andrew helped me out big time when I was sick and was a guest co-host on Elevate Maryland. Before that, though, I was introduced to him when former CE Ulman said, “Meet with this guy about all things Long Reach. He’s good.” And I agree. Andrew speaks truth about challenges and offers solutions. Plus he’s part of a fun group of fellas who I like a lot. I’m not going to tell you what they call themselves. Ask him, though.

Brian Gaylor – I didn’t know anything about this gentleman (I’m allergic to beer…) but a friend of mine brought this to my attention. Brian is the owner of Black Flag Brewing Company and is hosting a Go Fund Me campaign to reduce the debt of HCPSS students who were unable to pay their school lunch debt. To date, he has raised $6464. His goal is to raise $15,000 to make a dent in the $47,000 debt. I know it’s the holiday season and I know many of you are like me and paying tuition for your babies (I know. Super specific. But the struggle is real.) but please donate if you can. And kudos to you, Brian. Thank you for caring. (And thanks Alan for bringing this to my attention.)

Special love to: my family, the Hrabowski’s, the Gladiators, Dylan Goldberg, my supportive UMBC team, and a random new thing.

“Spend more time with my friends; I ain’t worried ’bout nothin’…”

“Baby, this is what you came for, Lightning strikes every time she moves. And everybody’s watching her, But she’s looking at you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, oh, oh”- Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna (and Taylor Swift apparently)

Heeeyyyy…I am a bad blogger. There, I’ve confessed. Junior year of high school has me running. As does everything else. That’s my story (this time).  It’s hard out there for a …. (wink).

Anyways… I had to pull out the laptop and hop all over my famous (lol) list. This is a shorter one this year but I had to shotout my Most Fascinating People in Howard County for the third year.

Five things before I get to the list. 1- Fascinating doesn’t necessarily mean popular. Or loved. 2- It’s my list. 3- If your favorite person or thing isn’t on this list, please read my previous blog posts. They may be on one of those. Or not. 🙂 4- I’m just writing what’s on my mind. It may not be gramattically correct. Please don’t be my editor. 5- The song choice is usually one of the top songs for the year.  This year I went with the number 5 pick. A gem by Calvin Harris. Because I just couldn’t go with a Bieber song. And I gave Taylor the shotout for my friend, Sam O’Neil. Taylor is her fav. Ask her about that.

So here we go:

Main Street, Elliott City

If you don’t know why I’ve listed Main Street, allow me to explain. One summer day in July, 6.5 inches of rain fell in the span of two hours and caused a freakish flash flood that washed away businesses, homes, cars, and, sadly, people. The footage from the storm is actually painful to watch. Painful. Like, you’ll cry.  But, if you’re like me, after you wipe away the tears and check out how the community came together and rallied to support Main Street, you’ll feel good. Real good.  I’ll admit that I’m not expert on all things Main Street but everyone, including me, who followed this story felt #ECStrong. Now head down there and buy some post holiday presents or grab a meal. My favorite place? Pure Wine Cafe (Sidebar- Pure Wine Cafe was founded by PJ Strain, who went to my alma mater, Trinity School. So I’m winning all around when I go there…).

Bonnie Bricker

I met Bonnie a few years ago to talk about her work with children and her book, Zoom Out Parenting: The Big Picture Approach to Raising Children.  We had a great meeting and made some mutual connections but nothing came of it then.

Since that meeting, Bonnie launched a FB page called HOCO School Interest.  And it took off like crazy. Go join the conversation. Seriously.

Her words about the page:

“Our goal is the best education for our students here in Howard County. That takes knowledge. Persistence. Courage. And-Listening to each other. Members are free to post high-quality articles about education policy as well as programs. Information and articles about HCPSS can be shared here. Our members are parents, students, teachers, administrators and Central Office staff as well as Board of Education members and other local politicians. We will treat each other with respect. NO personal attacks and we’ll try to subdue our snark a bit, too. If those restrictions don’t work for you, then this is not your group.”

My words about the page:

HOCO Interest has helped shape the conversation about K-12 education in Howard County.

Need to learn more about the diversity coordinator (wink)? Post there.  Have an opinion about school start times? Speak your mind.  Pissed about the amount of homework your 5th grader has? Type away.

I don’t always agree with the opinions on there, in fact, many times I disagree, but I can’t deny using that page as a resource, guide, and testing ground for ideas.  Even if folks can get a little harsh sometimes.

Howard County voters

You think I’m going to talk about the Presidential Election, don’t you? Nope. Except to say, we did our part. (smirk)

What I’m talking about is the local stuff. The Board of Education election.  Soon after the election, I tweeted something like…If you don’t think constituent services matter, you are sadly mistaken (or something like that). Anyways, my point was (and is) to highlight the importance of listening to constituents. Because if you don’t, they will vote you out office. After frustrations related to transparency, community relations, and accountability, the Howard County voters spoke loud and clear in the 2016 Board of Ed election.

Last year, I wrote this about the (then) four challengers- Coombs, Ellis, Ponnuri, Miller-

“These four individuals are running for the board of education…and I’m not positive but I would guess that they made this huge decision to run for elected office after witnessing the current, very public education challenges in Howard County. I’ve either read about or talked with each of them re: their priorities for our school system and I think they are right on point.  Now can they beat any of the incumbents?  Only time will tell. #payattentionhoco #thisisasimportantasthepresidentialelection #yesseriously”

Hmmm. #listenandact

Councilpersons Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa

This may seem lazy but I’ve just got two words (and then ask you to read the link for more information): SANCTUARY COUNTY.

https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/olis/PrefiledLegislation.aspx (CB9-2017)

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Local folks have a love/hate thing with Merriweather. People who love it appreciate the fact that we have an award winning arts concert venue in downtown Columbia.  And those who hate it complain about noise. And “those” concert goers. Which is funny because 1- Merriweather predates a lot of stuff. And people. And organizations. And 2- No diss but you moved next to a concert venue.

Well, in 2016, those who love it…well, won. At the end of November, the Merriweather advocates (including my fierce, bearded friend, Ian Kennedy) got an early holiday present when ownership of the venue was transferred from the Howard Hughes Corporation to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. The transfer, which was approved by the Howard County Council, supports additional community programming, a parking garage!, additional development in downtown, and so much more.  All good.

(Sidebar- Can you figure out how I feel about Merriweather? #gem)


Now all they need to do to get my official stamp of approval is to bring John Legend back. (And yes, I know I talk about his music all of the time. #haters)

Opel Jones

I met Opel back in 2014 when he was president of Alpha Phi Alpha and I was president of the African American Community Roundtable. I was impressed by his commitment to our community (that’s always huge in my book) and his dedication to his family and friends (also huge in my book. Bonus- his wife is awesome.).  Soon after meeting, he was appointed to be a member of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee and his commitment to Howard County became even more clear as he began to advocate and fight for things we hold dear in this county- inclusion, equity, education-our values. And he’s done that as both a Central Committee member and a Human Rights Commissioner.

Can’t wait to see what Opel does next in Howard County (wink, wink).


Deeba Jafri and Tina Sheets Horn

I love rabble rousers. Especially when they’re women.

I love people who speak up and say something. Those who don’t remain silent in the face of injustice and hate.

I love people who look at an issue or challenge and say- the status quo is not good enough.

I love Deeba and Tina. Well…love is a strong word and I don’t say it lightly..especially about people I barely know so…I really like these ladies.

Deeba. I admire Deeba for standing up and refusing to be silent about the effect that racist rhetoric and hate speech has on our children and our community.  It’s not easy to stand up in front of hundreds of people and speak (extemporaneously!) with raw emotion. And it’s even harder to do when someone is attempting to silence your voice.  And Deeba did. Twice.

Tina. Tina is one of the fiercest Black Lives Matter advocates out there.  You know those monthly vigils that take place on the corner of Governor Warfield and Windstream? That’s Tina. You know the Black Lives Matter- Columbia, MD advocacy group? That’s Tina. Follow her on Twitter if you don’t believe me. Tina stands up for those who have been marginalized and for those who need an ally. And pretty much everyone else in between.

Thank you Deeba and Tina. There are no words to articulate how much your advocacy means to me. #morevoices

Sheriff McMahon

A couple of years ago, the Chief…err Sheriff.. was on this list for his leadership after the Columbia Mall shooting.  I try not to repeat on this list but this is noteworthy.  If anyone can help change the negative image and horrible reputation of the Howard County Sheriff’s office, Chief McMahon can. He is simply one of the best.


Did you know that a kid from Howard County has been nominated for a Grammy award in the category of “Best Urban Contemporary Album”? Yeah, me neither. Well, until recently.

You may not have heard of Gallant but he is killing it.  His full name is Chris Gallant and he is the insanely talented son of Chris and Lillie Gallant.  His debut (DEBUT!!) album, “Ology” is up for the award.  He also is touring in Europe and performed at the Library of Congress’ tribute to Smokey Robinson.

The fella can sinnnnggg.  Check out the Grammys on February 12th. And root for the hometown guy for the W.

“Baby, this is what you came for…Lightning strikes every time she moves…And everybody’s watching her…But she’s looking at you…”


























“Can you help me remember how to smile?…Make it somehow all seem worthwhile…How on earth did I get so jaded?.. Life’s mysteries seem so faded…I can go where no one else can go…I know what no one else knows…Here I am just drownin’ in the rain…with a ticket for a runaway train…”  Runaway Train- Soul Asylum

After a (now deleted..perhaps to protect the child?) post by the Howard County Police Department about a missing thirteen year old child from Wilde Lake Middle School, many in our community sprung into action to try to do what they could to help find the young lady.  There were reposts, prayers, questions, lookouts, etc.  Authentic concern for a child in our own backyard!

According to the police, the young lady returned home.  I don’t know the circumstances but it seems as if it could have been a runaway situation.  Someone even commented on one of the posts that “she has done this before…”

I don’t know if it’s because it is so close to home (my mom taught there for many years, my daughter’s cheer couch was the principal for three years, and I have several friends who have kids who attend the school) or what but this situation really bothered me.   This truly could have been anyone’s kid. Seriously.

On one of the posts, some friends and I asked why an Amber Alert wasn’t issued for this young lady.  Someone in law enforcement advised us that Amber Alerts are only used when a child has been abducted or is endangered.  We pushed a little more… Why wouldn’t we want to issue a broad alert for ANY child who is missing?  Aren’t they all in danger?  (That’s just how Amber Alerts work…)  One of my friends even said, in this particular case, the child is on medication, doesn’t that warrant an alert?  (No.)

So, because this makes no sense to me… (DISCLAIMER- This is NOT a bash on law enforcement at all.  Many of you know I worked very closely with the Howard County Police for many years and I have great respect for many police officers.  Sad that I have to give that disclaimer but you know how folks are….)…I needed to have a better understanding of Amber Alerts.

Sidenote- Google, I love you.

“An AMBER Alert or a Child Abduction Emergency is a child abduction alert system. It originated in the United States in 1996. AMBER is officially a backronym [that’s a new one] for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, but was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, in 1996.”

“In the United States, AMBER Alerts are distributed via commercial radio stations, Internet radio, satellite radio, television stations, and cable TV by the Emergency Alert System and NOAA Weather Radio (where they are termed “Child Abduction Emergency” or “Amber Alerts”). The alerts are also issued via e-mail, electronic traffic-condition signs, commercial electronic billboards, or through wireless device SMS text messages. AMBER Alert has also teamed up with Google ]Bing, and Facebook  to relay information regarding an AMBER Alert to an ever growing demographic…”

“To avoid both false alarms and having alerts ignored as a “wolf cry”, the criteria for issuing an alert are rather strict. Each state’s or province’s AMBER alert plan sets its own criteria for activation, meaning that there are differences between alerting agencies as to which incidents are considered to justify the use of the system. However, the U.S. Department of Justice issues the following “guidance”, which most states are said to “adhere closely to” (in the U.S.):

  1. Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place.
  2. The child must be at risk of serious injury or death.
  3. There must be sufficient descriptive information of child, captor, or captor’s vehicle to issue an alert.
  4. The child must be under 18 years of age.”                                                                     Source- Wikipedia (I know..but it’s quick.)

Ok.. Got it.  So we certainly can’t have an Amber Alert for suspected runaways or if the above criteria isn’t met.  We would be getting  alerts all day! Doesn’t make sense.

BUT.  Why can’t we have some sort of local alert when a child is missing. If the situation makes the Howard County Police Facebook page, then I’m assuming it’s a big enough deal to alert the community in a broader way. (Note- My friends who have kids in school at WLMS told me that the school didn’t alert parents or students.  I’m not trying to be funny but kids can find other kids in about ten minutes.)

Let’s utilize NotifyMe Howard.  Certainly alerts about missing children are just as important as weather updates and water main breaks, right?  Let’s utilize the text/email system through HCPSS.  Certainly alerts about missing children are just as important as school closings, right?  These two things are just a start.

This is Howard County folks.  We can be a model community on this.  Because any missing child is a priority, in my opinion.  We are a community of action oriented people.  Let’s work together to bring kids home safely…runaways or not.

I will be sending this to the county council, chief of police, superintendent, board of education, and board of education candidates.  If you support this idea, please repost this and send it to those folks as well.

And please invite me to the press conference when this gets changed. (smile)

Oh…A friend said let’s call it the CDR Alert.  Thanks but I think we should call it the Jaylen Alert.  And let’s tell that young lady (who this post is referencing) that she sparked a HUGE change in her community.

“And everything seems cut and dry…
day and night…
earth and sky…
somehow i just don’t believe it…”

“I know when that hotline bling, That can only mean one thing, I know when that hotline bling, That can only mean one thing”- Hotline Bling, Drake

This song doesn’t work with this post.  But, as I write this, it is the number 2 song on the Billboard Top 100 list (Hello, by Adele, is number one and I’ve already used that tune) and so Drake it is!  Plus, who doesn’t like this song?  And we’ve all laughed out loud at the video and subsequent memes.  (My favorite is the tennis one. So, so comical. And you know, the Serena thing. And I played tennis.  So yeah…)

Anyways.  Here we go!  My (with a little help from my friends) Most Fascinating People of Howard County-2015!

Oh..and as I said last year, this is not an endorsement announcement.  And this is in (kind of) alphabetical order. So keep it chill, Howard County.

Baltimore-  Of course I know that Baltimore is not in Howard County but I had to add the city to this list.  Most of you know that I started working in the city in April.  A few weeks before April 27th.  The unrest.  So I added Baltimore because it’s just so damn complicated…which makes it fascinating to me.  Such a beautiful place (with beautiful people!) scarred by a history of complex social issues.  As TS said, “bandaids won’t fix bullet holes” so let’s all pray for the next leader of B-more.  Oh..and thank God for all of the do-gooders who are working on those complex social issues..And special shoutout to the good police officers who work hard at making Baltimore safe.  I see you (wink).

Kathy Barnett- I have been friends with Kathy for a minute.  I have greatly appreciated her unselfish support of me through the years and I probably should tell her that more often.  (Sidebar- It’s amazing what women can do when they know other strong women support them!)  But she’s not on this list for just that.  She is here because, as one blog reader put it, she “…is out there improving STEM education opportunities for kids in interesting ways.”  If you haven’t seen her work with the Young Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County or with Girls Who Code, you’re missing out.  Get with it.  And go check her out.  #beyouhowardcounty

Towanda Brown- You may or may not know who Towanda is.  Well, if you don’t, let me tell you (If you do, you can still read this.).  Towanda is a member of The Council of Elders in Howard County and she runs the African American Community Roundtable Parent Academy.  But she made this list because of her relentless pursuit of information (suspension data, arrest statistics, GT/AP info, etc.) that she believes will help improve life for African American students in Howard County.  Towanda works hard on equity issues and is a tremendous advocate for children.

Kirsten Coombs, Mavis Ellis, Pravin Ponnuri, Robert Miller- Talk about stepping up to the plate! These four individuals are running for the board of education…and I’m not positive but I would guess that they made this huge decision to run for elected office after witnessing the current, very public education challenges in Howard County (correct me if I’m wrong).   It’s not easy to run for elected office (especially county wide elected office) but these brave souls decided to take the challenge.  I’ve either read about or talked with each of them re: their priorities for our school system and I think they are right on point.  Now can they beat any of the incumbents?  Only time will tell. #payattentionhoco #thisisasimportantasthepresidentialelection #yesseriously

Vicky Comer Cutroneo– I know a thing or two about community organizing.  Yes, sure, usually communities rally around some injustice or issue or concern.  And this was the case with the parents in the western part of Howard County who were concerned about mold in their schools.  I have never, however, seen a community organizer put together an effort quite like this.  It’s totally organized, has a great following, has engaged and educated the broader community, has encouraged folks to testify at public meetings (THIS IS HUGE), and has attracted the media.  And the leader of this effort, Vicky, deserves much kudos.  Now, will the folks who need to listen to the message, pay attention? #weshallsee

Scott Ewart- It’s not easy to leave the comfort of a full time job to venture out and start your own business but Scott did.  And his business is a cool one.  Yes, he’s a technology consultant but he also started a super cool social media scorecard for elected officials.  It’s kind of like a “one stop shop” with ratings for the social media pages of elected officials.  So..let’s say you want to know more about a board of education candidate?  You can go to ScottE Software’s blog and find the social media pages for all of the candidates who have one.  Super helpful.  (And see what I did there? #strategic. Lol.)

Stephanie Geddie– This fantastic Laurel Woods Elementary School teacher was a finalist for Maryland’s teacher of the year award.  She is well known as someone who builds relationships with her students, their families and the broader community.  And we all know that those are key ingredients for success in education.  I had the opportunity to listen to her speak at the AACR Education Forum back in September and she is the real deal.  But WHERE is her sign on Route 108??

Judy George- My relationship with Judy started some years ago (maybe 2008?) because she was by far my most difficult (in a good way) constituent  when I worked for HoCo Government.  Anyways, Judy became “my eyes” in the southern part of the county and we became friends.  Judy has great awareness of county challenges and opportunities and is not afraid to tell you her thoughts.  And if you need her to show up, she does.  Thanks, Judy, for helping me cultivate my constituent service skills.  Hope you’re working closely with the current administration.

Lyme Disease– Period.

Mickey Gomez- Mickey’s storytelling is elegant and beautiful.  I mean, we all feel like we knew Gram.  And we definitely know Shiloh and Sophie.  She also has a kindness about her that you just can’t put into words.  And she’s hilarious.  Just don’t let her near you in the kitchen.  Or a hotel room.  Well, or anywhere there are sharp knives. Or brushes. #theresastorythere

Elizabeth Kromm- Babies. So many babies.  That sums up 2014/15 for my friend, Elizabeth.  So her story goes like this:  After many tough years of trying to have a baby, Elizabeth, and hubby Jon, happily announced that their wonderful surrogate was pregnant and due in November, 2014.  Shortly after that announcement, she found out she was pregnant! Yay and wow!  But here’s the kicker:  Baby one (Linny) was born on Nov 1st and baby two (super baby Millie) was born eleven days later at 27 weeks.  ELEVEN DAYS LATER.  On the real, thus far, I have never been more happy about anyone else’s pregnancy.  Talk about a blessing!

PS- Both babies are doing exceptionally well!

Vivian Lawyer and Tracey Williams-  Service.  These two ladies are the definition of the word…service.  They are currently the presidents of the two largest black sororities in the county, Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha, but their commitment to service in our community goes much further than those positions.  On any given weekend, you can find them leading efforts to collect clothing or gifts for those who are less fortunate or helping folks with minor criminal offenses correct their records.  And that’s just two examples.  They are often bouncing around to support several service projects or programs.  They show up and get it done.  And they deserve recognition on lists that are far more reputable than this one.

Leonardo McClarty-  I’ll admit it.  I was really happy when I saw that the Chamber chose this gentleman as it’s leader this past year.  Not to be too critical but the Chamber’s record on diversity is a bit challenging. And we all know the importance of having different voices at the table (Well, some of us know…).  Well, Leonardo is fantastic.  He’s an engaging, committed, community minded, smart, talented family man with business acumen. And he’s a cheerleader for business in Howard County (check his Twitter page out if you don’t believe me…).  Oh..and, by the way, he’s working on that diversity challenge at the Chamber.  Looking forward to 2016!

Christine McComas-  Christine’s current story has a sad beginning.   In 2012, she lost her beautiful daughter, Grace, after “…an uninvestigated drug-assisted sexual assault by an older student, was followed by months of sexual harassment, bullying and cyber bullying…”.  Since then, she has fought to keep her daughter’s story in the hearts and minds of our community and has worked hard to have Grace’s Law passed in Maryland (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ellicott-city/ph-ho-graces-law-passes-20130410-story.html) in 2013.

The reason Christine makes this list this year is for her passionate plea to access her daughter’s school records.  A plea that has gone unanswered thus far.

As a parent, I admire Christine’s fight.  As a community member, I support her request for her daughter’s school records.  Let’s hope that the people who can make this right choose to do so.  God bless you, Christine.

Todd Olsen and Mary Kay Sigaty-  A couple of months ago, Todd (as executive director) and Mary Kay (as a board member) came to an AACR board meeting to discuss the Columbia Festival of the Arts and it’s “rebirth” (as one of my blog readers called it…).  The presentation was great and we learned that the rebirth embodies a lot of cool things including a year round festival and a key focus on diversity.  Diversity like…soliciting input from minority arts lovers in our community.  Like partnering with African American organizations to offer diverse shows and plays.  Like listening to people who may not look like them.  YAS. #staytunedfolks

Wendy Royalty- I’m a Wendy fan.  Straight up.  Last year she bravely ran for Howard County Council (There’s a good story there too…) and then, in support of her family, packed up her bags and moved across the country to Seattle.  Brave.

The things I love most about Wendy?  Her ability to make anyone feel welcome, the way she sticks up for things/people/issues she believes in, and the fact that she turned me into a (sort of, kind of, maybe but not really) dog lover (RIP- cute Bailey).  #muah

Jurgis Ruckus and Ms. Frizz– I mean, who are you?  You anonymously tweet and blog with great awareness of our wonderful county.  And you’re both clever and funny.  So give it up in the ’16!  Let us know.  Or just let me know.  I won’t tell a soul. #shhh

Lisa Schlossnagle-  I don’t know Lisa very well.  I don’t even think I’ve ever met her.  But I read her blog and we are FB friends so I kinda know her, right?

And I don’t know the full story behind her packing up her family and leaving her comfort zone in Maple Lawn to travel the world but I love it!

I am not a big traveller.  Mostly because every extra penny (I laughed when I type the word extra…) I have goes to something extra related to MJR.  And that’s not a whole lot of pennies.  But I find myself “living” through Lisa’s posts as she crisscrosses Europe and Asia.  So, thank you, Lisa B, Mrs. S.

Buffy Beaudoin Schwartz-  I first met Buffy when I worked for the Columbia Foundation (now the Community Foundation of Howard County) in 2006 and I learned quickly that Buffy gets community.  Whether it be through philanthropic efforts that support women and girls or consistent support of the institutions that drive progress (for everyone) in Howard County, Buffy just gets it.  For her continued support of our community and her kind, inclusive spirit, I nominated her for the Women’s Hall of Fame.  Come on Howard County Commission for Women, let’s get her in there! Please.

Frank Turner, Sr.– One of my favorite elected officials because he quietly handles his business while others shine in the limelight.  He has (almost) single handily advocated to get the Tubman School turned over to the community and this year, it happened. He (and Ken Ulman) told folks four years ago that we should examine the process by which people are elected to the board of education.  And now… well, you know.  He organized a bipartisan town hall meeting on education issues after hearing the many concerns of constituents in our community.  And he supports those who are less fortunate, all while co-chairing one of the most powerful committees in Annapolis.  But bet you don’t know all of that.  If you did, you’ve been paying attention because Frank probably would not tell you this.  You go, Frank.

Reverend Dr. Robert Turner-  First off, Rev. Turner is the best hugger in town.  You can be having a horrible day but then you get one of those hugs (and a blessing) and your day turns right around.  No, seriously.

Not only is Rev. Turner the dynamic pastor at St. John Baptist, but he is also a community activist extraordinaire.  He’s a member of PATH, the AACR, the AA Coalition, and probably some other groups that I’m forgetting.  He stands up for what is right and demands that others do the same.  We are lucky to have him in Howard County.

PS- With him, you also get his awesome wife, Kim, who I’m sure delivered some reader’s baby!  #powercouple

Victoria Gastro Pub/Manor Hill Brewing/Food Plenty–  So they already had me with Victoria’s.  Those damn fries, super cobb salad (sans the meat) and the good wine list.  Then the Marriner family started brewing beer on their farm in Ellicott City.  Now, I’m not a beer person but it’s local beer folks! And I’ve heard the stuff is good.  And now they are on track to open a restaurant in Clarksville in 2016!  A restaurant featuring farm and comfort food.  Uh..yum.  Can’t wait to eat there…and maybe I’ll get hooked on something besides those damn, addictive fries.

Jon Weinstein-  It’s no secret about who I supported in the D1 primary race in 2014.  But a couple of months ago, I sent Jon a note thanking him for his excellent work in the district that I live (and mostly play) in.  Someone wrote me and said, “Jon deserves a slot on your Most Fascinating list. Look at all the good work he’s doing on the Council!”  And I agree.  Whether it be co-signing Vanessa Atterbeary’s bill re: board of education elections, advocating for Elkridge folks who are downright pissed about noise from BWI-TM airport, or creating a fund to support after school activities, Jon has been on it.  And on it is what you want from your councilperson.

Special note:  

This is a little lazy but I think these two bills are important to mention again.  The following is from something I posted in November about two bills that have been filled to address some major community concerns related to education.

Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary’s bill would ensure geographic diversity on the Howard County Board of Education by electing five board of education members by district (the 5 council districts) and two at-large.  Currently only council districts 1,4,5 are represented on the school board and all seats are elected at large.  Shouldn’t all districts be represented?  Shouldn’t BoE members be accountable to the constituents in their general area while making decisions for the entire county?  Shouldn’t it be a bit easier to run a BoE campaign?  Yes.  Glad you agree (smile).

In a separate bill, Delegate Warren Miller is concerned about public access to information from the Howard County Public School System.  Warren and I generally are not lock step on things but this is good.  As someone who dealt with constituent concerns for seven years, timely access to information is important to the public.  Essentially, his bill places additional requirements on the school system to ensure that information is released timely and it requires the school system to consult with a court before choosing not to release interagency docs (this apparently is a huge issue).

Special shoutout to: my daughter, parents, brother and sister in law, nephew, nieces, Julie, Audra, Rebecca, Regina, Cynthia, Luzi, Sharon, Lindiwe, Kim, Lenaye, Cherisse, Angie, Larry, Rev. Turner, Calvin.  Hearts.  You keep a sister well.

So there you have it!  Let me know your thoughts.  Who did I miss?

“You used to call me on my cellphone…”

Hello, it’s me, I was wondering, If after all these years you’d like to meet to go over everything, They say that time’s supposed to heal, yeah, But I ain’t done much healing…”– Hello, Adele

This song SPEAKS to me.  It sings to me.  I hear it in my dreams.  All that.  Her voice is sick.  Plus I’m kind of like Adele, right?  I’ve been gone for a little while and boom, I’m back. With a haircut and seventeen less pounds (Is that grammatically correct?).  Minus the voice, though.  Unless you count how I sound in the shower.

So I’m here. For now.  I was feeling all kinds of pressure to get posts done more regularly.  And I’m just not going to do that to myself.  So I’m here now and I’m not sure when I’ll post again. But hopefully soon.


Let’s start with national stuff and work our way down to the local fun.

The red (IT”S ONLY RED?!) Starbucks Christmas cup- So…I’m not even sure where to start with this.  In case you don’t know what I’m talking about: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2015/11/10/starbucks-faces-backlash-over-plain-red-holiday-cup. (One day I’ll figure out the “click here” feature. Until then, feel free to laugh out loud.).

Bottom line is that some evangelist with a following said that Starbucks hates Jesus because the cups don’t have Christmas trees, snowflakes and ornaments this year.  Then Trump, ever the opportunist, hops on the bandwagon and calls for a boycott.

I’m definitely a very spiritual person and I believe in the real reason behind Christmas.  And it has nothing to do with ornaments and trees. Right?  And, in my opinion, if you measure faith by what symbols are printed (or not printed) on a cup, something is wrong.   Am I missing something here?  If I am, I’ll listen.

A Jewish friend of mine posted this on FB, “You don’t see me complaining about the lack of blue Starbucks cups for Hanukkah.”

So, yeah.  Stop the madness, drink your coffee in the red cup, and then go do something nice for someone who is less fortunate than you.  Tis the season.

I hesitated to go here but….Greg Hardy.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Dallas Cowboys team took a play out of the University of Missouri playbook and decided not to play until Hardy was fired?   I know.  Don’t wake me, I’m dreaming…. (Bonus points if you know what song that is…).  It will never happen.  And that’s very sad.

We shouldn’t need photos (or videos) to be outraged about domestic violence and, at the same time, those photos paint a picture of something that many of us are fortunate enough never to see.  Or maybe choose not to see.  I’ve said this time and time again (about many things), silence is not an option.  Even if it makes you a bit uncomfortable, speak up.

Now, let’s get local.  And we should really pay attention to this stuff.

Two members of the Maryland House of Delegates have filed interesting bills to address some community concerns.

Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary’s bill would ensure geographic diversity on the Howard County Board of Education by electing five board of education members by district (the 5 council districts) and two at-large.  Currently only council districts 1,4,5 are represented on the school board and all seats are elected at large.  Shouldn’t all districts be represented?  Shouldn’t BoE members be accountable to the constituents in their general area while making decisions for the entire county?  Shouldn’t it be a bit easier to run a BoE campaign?  Yes.  Glad you agree (smile).

Friends in Oakland Mills, Long Reach, Kings Contrivance, Jessup, Laurel, Savage and others in districts 2 and 3 may want to pay close attention to this one!  You can read more here: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ellicott-city/ph-ho-cf-school-board-restructure-1022-20151016-story.html

Oh.. and I like it! Well…  I love it!  But I’m sure you already knew that (wink): http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-09-29/news/bs-ho-ulman-board-20110929_1_dyer-and-other-members-board-members-county-executive-ken-ulman

In a separate bill, Delegate Warren Miller is concerned about public access to information from the Howard County Public School System.  Warren and I generally are not lock step on things but this is good.  As someone who dealt with constituent concerns for seven years, timely access to information is important to the public.  Essentially, his bill places additional requirements on the school system to ensure that information is released timely and it requires the school system to consult with a court before choosing not to release interagency docs (this apparently is a huge issue).  You can read some more on this too:


So…What to do? What to do?  You can lend you voice to the conversation (or even just listen) as there is a public hearing on these bills (and a few more) on December 1, 2015 at 7:00pm at the Banneker Room in the George Howard Building (3430 Courthouse Drive for the navigation system).

Get your popcorn out, folks as all of this stuff surely will make for an interesting Board of Education race in 2016!  I’ve already met a few candidates and I hope they will be at this meeting on the 1st.

Hello, how are you?, It’s so typical of me to talk about myself, I’m sorry, I hope that you’re well…”

RIP Nana.

“Lift every voice and sing…Till earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty…”- Lift Every Voice and Sing, James Weldon Johnson

Happy Black History Month!

A funny..or maybe a not so funny..I remember when I first talked about Black History Month with my daughter who was probably about five or six at the time. She’s now 15.  She asked me why we only had one month to celebrate black people..and I didn’t have a good answer for her.

And I still don’t.

I guess from my perspective, it’s good to, at least, highlight the contributions that African Americans have made to society some time.  And February is as good a time as any. (Peep the sarcasm?)

Jokes aside, I don’t have a good answer for her…or anyone else who asks the question.  Not sure why it’s only one month.  I will, however, take the time (during this Black History Month) to focus on an African American organization in Howard County that is doing some truly wonderful community work- the African American Community Roundtable (AACR).

And oh…quickly…some folks have asked why we need an African American Community Roundtable.  I’ll just say this. In a very non defiant, kind, non confrontational way.  Until we no longer have the need to point out a particular month for a particular minority group, we need groups like the AACR.

And oh…full disclosure… I founded the darn thing (The AACR not Black History Month).  Back in 2012, I was frustrated about turnout at a public hearing.  The issue (diversity on the Howard County Board of Education…not saying more about THAT right now!) was super important to me (and, in my opinion, to the entire community) and we only heard from a small group of people.  The group we heard from did not reflect the diversity of our great community.  That’s painful.

(Side note- If you know me well, you know that I think it is critically important to have ALL voices at the table when discussing community challenges. ALL voices.)

So because I belong to three excellent service organizations (who independently do some AMAZING work in Howard County and beyond), I thought it made sense to get these organizations (and several of the churches and civic groups and museums) together to talk about our collective influence.  How can we work TOGETHER on challenges to affect positive change in our community?  Where are the gaps?  What are we missing as individual organizations?

And so here we are, three years later, with some really exciting stuff to share.  Not tooting my own horn but definitely tooting the horn of the wonderful people who make this thing happen.  Y’all rock.

Now..before somebody jumps all over me about putting one group before another, let me say this.  It’s not like that.  I LOVE Howard County.  All of it. I want to continue to make this place great for everyone.  AND I understand that there are some challenges related to education (#achievementgap) and health (#obesity) and economic development (#mbeprograms) and such that groups like the AACR need to come together on to discuss and act on.

So, the AACR.  Here’s what we’ve done thus far. (And I’ve said this before in a separate post but I want to mention this again!)

▪Received a $150,000 grant from the Horizon Foundation for outreach work with minority communities in Howard County

▪Launched an official partnership with the Howard County Public School System (more on this later)

▪Launched our website and our “brand”-   If you haven’t seen it, check out http://www.aacr-howard.org

▪Held a SUPER successful parent empowerment forum with HCPSS featuring Dr. Freeman Hrabowski

▪Bought Christmas gifts (lots of gifts!) for our adopted foster children

▪Supported each other at various events that the individual member organizations host and grew our membership to 28 orgs/churches/civic groups (unity y’all)

▪Launched a partnership with the Howard County Police Department to focus on hiring practices, cultural diversity training, and proactive community outreach

▪Partnered with various health organizations to host several Affordable Healthcare workshops and seminars

▪Announced our Parent Academy (check the website for the schedule)

Good stuff, right?!  And still more to do.  And to highlight. Even if it’s not February.

Finally….so last night I participated in a discussion that the Columbia Democratic Club hosted.  The discussion was called “Law Enforcement and Community Relations” and I was invited to be a panel member as the founder/president of the aforementioned roundtable (Did I mentioned we announced a partnership with the Howard County Police yesterday? Yay.).  So, it was me, the deputy police chief, and the deputy state’s attorney.  Discussion was good and the audience asked some really great questions.

One particular conversation stuck with me. The conversation was about the peaceful vigils that happened on Howard County street corners after the Ferguson/Eric Garner situations.  Remember the #blacklivesmatter vigils?  Well, the deputy chief of police expressed that he felt offended because (and I’m paraphrasing) HC police would never handle things the way that the Ferguson police did and therefore he did not feel like people here needed to protest anything.  The audience member said (something like) we were protesting in solidarity.  We were standing up for people.

Both of them were expressing their personal views/opinions.

It was no longer us/them.  Police/citizens.  It was people talking and sharing their perspective in an effort to understand each other.

I’m not saying anyone was right or wrong.  I’m not making that call.  I’m not even saying we solved anything yet but I would bet money (a very little bit but still) that both of those folks are revisiting that conversation in their head and thinking about what they said.

What I am saying is that it’s important to have the conversation.  To talk.  To form partnerships. To reach out.  With people who don’t look like you. Or who may have a different perspective than you. Or who may wear a badge and you don’t.  And it’s important to invite ALL voices to the conversation and highlight the richness of diverse perspectives.

You know, I’m no expert (at all!) but I really think we should try to do things like this year round.  Again, not just in February.

What say you?

Let our rejoicing rise…High as the listening skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.  Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,  Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us…”

“You ain’t gotta feel guilt just selfless…Give a little help to the helpless…Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?”- Do They Know It’s Christmas, BandAid

Remember that song? Wow.  That takes me back.  And, for some reason, I always thought the song was called Feed the World.  Anyways…

I heard the song a couple of weeks ago when my daughter and I had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe in Baltimore.  She thought it was hilarious that I was singing along.  I explained the message for a few minutes and then we were on to the next thing.  Food.  Which was actually pretty good!

Hopefully, however, the message stuck with her. It is important to me (and our family) that she understands the importance of giving back to those who are less fortunate than she is.  Growing up, my parents made sure that Chris (that’s my brother) and I had many opportunities to be charitable.  With that they also taught us to be respectful of all people (well, most people…you know whatimean) regardless of what they look like or how much money they have.

So every year, we adopted a family or donated to our favorite charity (my dad always chose a police or military charity) or bought presents for kids through our church or one of the many organizations to which we belong.

I’ve tried to keep that tradition going but this year (even with all of the end of the year challenges), I wanted to do something a little different.  Something more…as we’ve already donated a toy and money to foster children in Howard County.  (Sidebar- Thank you to the African American Community Roundtable members for coordinating the adoption of foster children through our Department of Social Services!  More about the AACR in another blog post.)

So tomorrow, my daughter and I are going to pay off someone’s layaway bill!  We are going to pick a store, go in, and pay the bill off.  I am super excited!

And I hope my daughter gets the message.  Because this type of hands on experience is better than me trying to explain what the lyrics of Feed the World….I mean…Do They Know It’s Christmas…mean, while waiting for burgers at Hard Rock Cafe.

And so I challenge you all to do something for the less fortunate this holiday season!  Donate your time or money or talent to help someone.  Stock some shelves at the Food Bank.  Pick up a few extra Christmas gifts for some kids.  Sign up to volunteer at a school.  Join a nonprofit board. Do something.

“Spare a thought this yuletide for the deprived…If the table was turned would you survive…”

Oh..and…I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks because I had midterms..well, my daughter had midterms.  I had the anxiety and nervousness. For.no.reason.  But hey, that’s parenting.  And, in addition to all of the fabulous holidays (Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year!!), our family also has three birthdays in December and January.  Whew.

I’ll be back in 2015 for sure.  And I’m thinking my blog post might be somewhat related to this post as I digest what I think one of the biggest problems facing Howard County (and perhaps our state..even country) is—the widening gap between the haves and the have nots.

Be safe this holiday season everyone!

“You love this town…Even if that doesn’t ring true…You’ve been all over…And it’s been all over you…”- Beautiful Day, U2

I just love that song.  Hum along with me… and please continue to read.  I need your help.

I heard one of the best homilies I’ve heard in a long time at Mass yesterday.  The priest started by asking “What’s your good news?”.

At first I didn’t realize where he was going with this.  And, I admit, though, I’m trying to be patient, I was thinking…well…It’s been a rough couple of months and I’m staying faithful and hopeful but I’m not sure what to say about “good news”.

He continued and said (I’m paraphrasing) with all of the bad in the world: Injustice (he mentioned this a few times and we all knew what he was talking about), pain, war, fighting, etc…we need to do what we can do to change the story. And report our good news.

He went on to talk about not caring about whether you’re a Democrat or Republican (he used those exact words…which made me sit up to see if he was looking at me), gay or straight, black or white.  He’s not interested in your age or how much money you have.

He challenged each of us to do what we can to change the story.

And then report on our good news.

I thought about what he said.  And I changed my attitude.  And while I’m hoping and praying for some personalkindof good news as this year comes to end, I thought about this blog and our community.  And then about how I can help use my voice to change the story and report the good news.

Last week, as you may recall, I wrote about having a community conversation.  If you missed it, please click this link https://isthisthingon1.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/44/.

I was nervous to post it.  But soon after I posted, people started to comment…and text..and call…to express interest in a community conversation.  And then a few elected officials called.  And they too expressed interested in a conversation.

People want to talk.  And figure out what it takes to change the story in our neck of the woods.  (I mean, we don’t have war..but hopefully you get the drift.)

Now, I don’t want to be some lady who just helps start these conversations and then nothing changes.  I don’t want to be labeled but truly this stuff keeps me up at night (Well, this and a few other personal things…). And I also think we need to figure out how to invite folks who generally wouldn’t come.  What good is it to only chat with people who think exactly like you do..or look exactly like you!?

So what do we do?  What do you think?

A few years ago, I came across this program:  http://www.innovating.com/mosaic-partnerships/.  Other communities are talking!  Could this be it?

A friend of mine mentioned that she was a part of this initiative:  http://daytondialogue.org.  Maybe this it?

I don’t know the answer.  But I want to do my part and then tell the good news.  Help me out?

“It’s a beautiful day…Don’t let it get away…It’s a beautiful day…”

“Mother, mother…There’s too many of you crying…Brother, brother, brother, There’s far too many of you dying…You know we’ve got to find a way, To bring some lovin’ here today…”- What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye

Brene Brown, in her brilliant TED Talk in March, 2012 said this, “We heard the most compelling call ever to have a conversation in this country, and I think globally, around race, right? Yes? We heard that. Yes? Cannot have that conversation without shame, because you cannot talk about race without talking about privilege. And when people start talking about privilege, they get paralyzed by shame.”

Ms. Brown is probably referring to the Trayvon Martin tragedy but she easily could have been talking about Mike Brown or Sean Bell or Amadou Diallo or Eric Garner…

Yes, I’m soooo drinking her Kool-Aid right now but her point is valid.  We have many compelling reasons to have that difficult conversation about race. Right now.  In our neighborhoods. In our counties. In our state. In our country.

But in order to have open dialogue about race and culture, which in my opinion is the only way we become more accepting of each other, we must agree to two things: 1.  Honesty.  Honesty is paramount and we need to recognize it is going to be uncomfortable. And 2.  To Ms. Brown’s point, we must be prepared, regardless of what you look like, to deal with shame.

In her book, Daring Greatly, (I’m such the Kool-Aid drinker, I know, I know. This flavor is good, though…) she defines shame as “…the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

I mean, break that down.  That’s deep.  And when you relate the feeling of shame to conversations about race, you might say that opening up and having frank dialogue is scary because what you say might get you kicked out of a “clique” you belong to.  You might be unworthy of belonging. You might even see that you’re flawed.  Someone may label you. GASP.  That is scary.

But here’s how I think.  If you choose to have regular, open dialogues (with some rules, of course) with people who do not look like you (or yikes, may even have a different religious or political ideology than you) and you really choose to listen to their perspective (ie- why they may be upset about Eric Garner or why they are not upset about Ferguson), and you embrace the fact that it is going to be uncomfortable, I believe that you become part of the solution.  Because, folks, we do have a challenge.  And we can either be silent…or complain…or riot and loot.

Or we can choose to work on it.

In 2010, I was on the board of a group called twentyfivefortyfive.  We were a philanthropic group and our mission was to “build a more caring, creative and effective community in Howard County by encouraging philanthropy among those between the ages of 25 – 45.”  Yay.

One day, after reading an article about the lack of diversity on various boards in Howard County, we decided to host a summit. In fact, we called it a beer summit.

Now..if you’re wondering why, we called it a beer summit, stop reading for a sec, and please click here immediately  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/30/beer-summit-begins-obama-_n_248254.html).

I was super nervous about it. (Thanks again to Ian and Josh for talking me off the ledge…multiple times.) Turn out ended up being great.  Conversation was good.  And no one had a heart attack.  No fights.  And, to my knowledge, no one was kicked out of their “clique”.

But you can read more about it here http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-08-26/news/bs-md-ho-diversity-meeting-20100826_1_columbia-foundation-diversity-abby-hendrix.

The only thing I regret is that we didn’t host additional community conversations with more people.  People who may not be drinking the same Kool-Aid we drink.

And so we stopped talking.

And that is shameful.

Picket lines and picket signs…Don’t punish me with brutality…Talk to me, so you can see…Oh, what’s going on…

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