“…we gon’ be alright; we gon’ be alright. We gon’ be alright; Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright…”- Kendrick Lamar 

I had no intention of blogging again this week. Nonewhatsoever. I’m tired. A good tired but tired. And as of right this second, I have 32 minutes until my kid calls me to watch Jeopardy. So this will be brief.

I was looking for something this week.  I was looking for something that could help me say: you know what, we gon’ be alright. Because, recently, I’ve truly been going back and forth on that. Some days I’m wondering what’s going on in my county, state, country. (Y’all did see that white supremacists marched down the street some days ago, right? And the redistricting debate going on in Howard County? Wow. #dontreadthecomments)

But this week. 

This week some solid things happened, y’all. FOUR. SOLID. THINGS. Four things that made my heart smile. That made me smile. And so I just had to share in case someone else needs to know that we gon’ be alright. (I think.) 

On Monday, a group of thoughtful people and a few elected officials (and candidates for office- pay attention!!) publicly protested the presence of a Confederate monument at the County courthouse. On Tuesday, the monument was gone. Edit: And I almost forgot this piece!! On Sunday, someone covered the thing up. With duck tape. Like all stealth like.  (That’s one.) 

On Wednesday, I proudly presented our new (not live yet but you know I’ll share when it is) diversity and inclusion website to my colleagues at our retreat. And it was well received. That same day, at that same retreat, an incredible panel of campus leaders (professors, a staff member, and students) talked about what diversity and inclusion means at our university. And even challenged us to be better! I’ll blog more about this later (or maybe even talk about it on Elevate Maryland with Tom) but I’ll just drop these concepts for now: critical diversity and diversity mindfulness. Google this stuff, y’all. Read it. Learn it. I haven’t absorbed it all yet but after that panel, I’m thhiiisss close to applying for the Language, Literacy, and Culture PhD program at UMBC. This close. #iwanttolearnmorefromsmartpeople (That’s two.)

Today. Today. Today. Four brave students who I’ve been working with brought the house down at our annual fall meeting. Like standing ovations and everything. (I can’t clearly articulate how great they are so I’ll briefly describe who they are. Also, I have 14 minutes until Jeopardy.) 

Student 1- A young, quiet, beautiful, soulful man who will major in dance (and biology). Dance. A young man. And in his words to me: “I love ballet and have been dancing that style since I was three but I like the way I can express myself with modern dance. I plan to study that and fall back on the biology thing.” #word

Student 2- A homeschooled young lady from Howard County who wants to be an engineer and a role model as a woman in STEM. Her greatest accomplishment thus far? She is a world champion in robotics. World champion. #beast

Student 3- A DACA student from Mexico who decided she didn’t want to “hide in the shadows” anymore. She’s the recipient of our Presidential scholarship and will do great things. I cried real tears when she told me about her journey. And I cried again when she spoke today. I wasn’t alone. She represented all that is right in the world. #inspiration 

Student 4- An African American PhD student who used poetry to explain that he’s more than his MIT and Duke degrees and will be studying health disparities so he can give back. He dropped knowledge today about his experience as a black man. Serious knowledge. #woke (That’s three.)

And then. I returned to my office after the meeting and happened to check my mailbox (I’m bad at this.). There was a card in the box. I can’t reveal what the person wrote because it wasn’t signed (and they may want to remain anonymous) but just know that it’s in the top 5 as one of the nicest things anyone has ever written about me/to me. About leadership and strength and having my back/hearing my voice as we navigate the world’s challenges. Whoever you are, you brought me to tears. I appreciate what you did/said more than you’ll ever know. And when/if you want to reveal yourself, I’m ready to talk…and listen. Thank you so much. (That’s 4.)

Jeopardy started. I’m out. But we gon’ be alright.

“…we gon’ be alright; we gon’ be alright. We gon’ be alright; Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright…”

Pardon any grammatical or spelling errors. I had minutes folks. 

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“One day when the glory comes; It will be ours, it will be ours; Oh one day when the war is won; We will be sure, we will be sure; Oh glory”- John Legend and Common

Heeeyy… it’s been awhile. Busy….Kid. Family. Work. Volunteer stuff. Friends. Dating. Plus I am co-hosting a new podcast called Elevate Maryland with my friend, Tom Coale. And I’m having a lot of fun with that. We get to talk about important issues in our county, state, country and we interview some interesting people from around our state. Check it out.  

But this past week was a tough one for me so I’m banging this out on my phone. 

Folks, what happened in Charlottesville and on the campus of UVA last week was horrifying. Frightening. Terrifying. I mean, armed white supremacists walked through the streets and on the campus of a higher education institution. And they chanted hateful words meant to intimate and strike fear in the hearts of people who don’t look like them, worship like them, love like them. It’s hard for me to even type that. It’s just a lot to process.

And just like when other horrific national events occur, it seems that good people try to figure out what action they can take so that said incident doesn’t happen in their state, city, town, county.  Or they think their state, city, town, county is special so “it couldn’t happen in <insert name of special town here>”. Well, it can and it will if good people don’t stand up and speak out. I’m sure the good folks of Charlottesville couldn’t imagine making national news in the way they did this week. 

So what are you going to do? 

Let’s start local. 

Speak up when you hear your neighbor say something about “that family” or “those kids”.

If you’re in the majority, listen when minorities talk about racism. Just please listen. 

Visit a mosque, synagogue, church. And take a friend. 

Don’t sit silent when your friends, relatives, moms group members say racist, hateful things on social media (or in person!) about certain schools and certain communities and certain people. 

Donate to the local NAACP or PFLAG or a Jewish organization or find an anti hate group and send them a few bucks. 

Invite someone who doesn’t look like you/worship like you/love like you to dinner. And just get to know them.

Push for equity in education, housing, entrepreneurship opportunities, healthcare, politics, etc.  

If you’re in a leadership role, look around the table in the boardroom. Look at the diversity (or lack thereof) of your team or the executive leadership. If it’s not inclusive, ask why not? 

Look at your board…is it reflective of the diversity of your community? If not, make the effort to change it. Now.

Ask your elected officials to remove monuments that celebrate Confederate leaders.

Research candidates for elected office. VOTE.

This isn’t rocket science and I’m not claiming to be an expert…but I do have a voice. And while I’ve not said anything super profound or written some publish-worthy extended essay, I hope this can serve as a reminder that fighting back against hate will require folks to have difficult conversations and some serious self awareness. It may require folks to challenge their current organizational structure. It may mean that you lose some friends (I promise you’ll also gain some) and that some family members won’t speak to you again until Thanksgiving. It will mean you need to reach out of your comfort zone. 

But doing nothing just isn’t acceptable. Silence is not an option. 

“Now the war is not over, victory isn’t won; And we’ll fight on to the finish, then when it’s all done;We’ll cry glory, oh glory; Oh (Glory, glory); We’ll cry glory, oh glory…”

“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)

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/columbia/ph-ho-cf-merriweather-transfers-1208-20161130-story.html

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.

Gallant

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…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Ooh watch me, watch me…Ooh watch me, watch me…Ooh watch me, watch me…Ooh ooh ooh ooh”- Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)- Silento

Two posts in one week.  Whatttt!

This is just a quick one.  My thoughts on what we can leave in 2015 and some things we need in 2016.  What would you add or delete?

Happy New Year everyone!  Here’s to a transformational 2016.

In 2016, can we do away with:

  • senseless murders of black men/women/children!
  • labeling people because of what they look like or who they love or their religion or what they wear
  • Jason Garrett
  • politicians who are more concerned with optics rather than solutions
  • assault rifles (Baby steps.  No, you don’t need them Joe and Jane Homeowner..)
  • the stigma related to mental health
  • the stigma related to hiring ex-offenders who have been rehabilitated
  • weird shortened phrases- I mean ROTFLMAO.  Really folks?
  • mold in schools
  • people’s misunderstanding of Lyme Disease or any other “invisible” health challenge
  • the attack on women and our bodies
  • the use of the phrase “but we tried that and it didn’t work before”
  • the use of the phrase “we can’t do that”
  • bad….relationships, health, manners, eating/drinking habits
  • homelessness (I know, I know)
  • the achievement gap in Howard County
  • being just a “yes” person
  • whatever jinxed the Ravens this year
  • whatever made the Redskins win the division (I kid, I kid.)
  • poor leadership in politics, education, business, nonprofits, sports
  • terrorism
  • man buns
  • women bashing other women
  • the belief that Mark Zuckerberg is going to give you anything because of your FB post
  • nasty gluten free treats
  • the crazy debt that college kids accumulate (please figure this out by 2018. Thank you.)
  • not supporting local owned or minority owned or women owned businesses
  • criticizing football players for celebrating after they score (Come on. Feel free to criticize for poor behavior/off field antics/domestic violence/etc.  But for a touchdown dance? I’m thinking about hitting the dab or quan the next time I do something good at work!)
  • my inability to sleep 8 good hours
  • not following what you’re passionate about
  • teenage bullying…and adult bullying…and  kid bullying
  • the whip and the nae-nae
And can we get more:
  • Faith
  • Love
  • Conversation
  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Listening
  • Money? (smile)
  • Background checks
  • Wins for the Philadelphia 76ers for my bro!  Go Sixers!

“Now watch me whip (Kill it!)…Now watch me nae nae (Okay!)…Now watch me whip whip…Watch me nae nae (Want me do it?)”

“Don’t call it a comeback…I been here for years…”-Mama said Knock You Out, LL Cool J

Haaayyyyyy….What did I miss?

I have so much to talk about but I’m not sure how frequently I can post.  I’m dealing with a nasty, nasty (I mean nasty!) bout of Lyme Disease.  I don’t generally talk about my health challenges publicly but damn.  PICC lines and everything.  This is r.o.u.g.h.  Prayers welcome.

AND I have a new job.  And I’d like to kick ass at that.  #becausebaltimore

AND I’m a mama.

So maybe I’m a bad juggler right now but whatever.  I need to feel good.  So bear with me, please.

Anyways…

So here’s what’s currently on my mind.  Confederate flag.  Nutritional standards.  Serena Williams.  Emerge Maryland.  A random mix, wouldntyousay?

The Confederate flag.  Folks, this is not a new thing.  That flag has been offending people since the days of knickers and morning dresses (Is that even the right attire? Lol).  We had an inyourface situation last year in Howard County with the flag being flown at a football game..and then being worn in one of the local high schools.  Remember this? Umm. (http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2014/09/15/howard-county-holds-unity-rally-after-confederate-flag-controversy/)

So yes, it needed to come down in South Carolina (and everywhere else).  Yes, people need to take a stand (or in some cases jump on the bandwagon (wink)) and demand it be removed from license plates, public buildings, etc.  My question, though, is this.  Then what?  Then what do we do?

Removing the flag is symbolic.  But what do we do to really start to address the real issue?  The “R Word”.  And the challenges that divide communities and lead to “unrest”?

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m a fan of talking stuff out. Chatting with people who don’t run in your circles.  Getting out and listening to folks who don’t look like you.  I’ve even hosted forums and meetings about the Power of Diversity (Turnout is generally ok but not where I think it should be…)  And so what?  I don’t know.  But I sure will keep trying.  And I hope you will too.

Nutritional standards.  I wrote about this before.  And I’ll simply say this.  I believe that when government and individuals work together to create policies and standards to promote healthy living we all benefit.  Howard County Council bill 17 is a start.  A part of a comprehensive approach to promote healthy living.  Reach out to your council person and ask them to support the bill (Call me if you don’t know who your councilperson is or if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about..)…

Oh..and can we get some Pellegrino in the vending machines?  Vendors, I promise there’s a market for it.

Serena Williams.  A phenom.  A champion.  A brilliant tennis player.  A trendsetter.  How anyone can look at her astonishing resume and winning record and bash her for her body is beyond me?  Is it jealousy?  Umm…  Remember at the beginning of this post when I talked about the need to get out and talk with people who don’t look like you?  Well, find a lady who looks somewhat like Serena and she’ll tell you what’s going on here.

Emerge Maryland.  Disclaimer: I’m an alum.  I’m on the board. Yada, yada, yada.  This program is quietly cranking out some spectacular women leaders in our great state.  If you haven’t heard about Emerge, please check out the website.  And read this spectacular op-ed from the Baltimore Sun (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-baltimore-queen-20150721-story.html) which primarily talks about the number of women (particularly African American women) represented in politics in Baltimore but Emerge gets a nod: “Our city needs to continue to cultivate this valuable political resource — the smart, talented and politically ambitious Baltimore woman. Along with the already-visible women in public office and the encouragement from parents and mentors, parties and independent organizations also need to provide more funding for recruitment and training programs focused on women. For example, Emerge Maryland has already  made significant steps to close the gender gap across Maryland and has trained more women to run for office in Baltimore City.”  YASSSSS.

(Sidenote- I was personally excited to see Maureen Evans Arthurs, Katja Fort Rhoden, and Stephanie Masters from the good HoCo graduate this year.)

(Additional sidenote-Giving thanks for Delegates Vanessa Atterbeary and Terri Hill. Can we get some more African American women elected in Howard County.  Like maybe even the first one on our Council? Please?!)

So, anyways, go to an Emerge Open House!  First one is tonight.  At 6pm. At 300 Red Meadows Ct Reisterstown, MD 21136.  You will be inspired.  Love the fellas but who run the world? Girls. Lol (It’s good for the soul to crack yourself up.  And I need to laugh these days.)

“When I drop these lyrics that’ll make you call them cops (what)…Don’t you dare stare, You better move (move)…Don’t ever compare us…To the rest that are all get sliced and diced…Competition paying our price…”

“All of the stars, you make them shine like they were ours…Ain’t nobody in the world but you and I…You and I…Ain’t nobody in the world but you and I…- You & I (Nobody In The World), John Legend

This song doesn’t go with this post. At all.  It’s been a very tough go recently (writing and awesome friends have helped) and this song is quite meaningful to me and for a person who’s world was shattered a couple of weeks ago. Love you. Always.

Anyways…

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A friend of mine recently posted an article on Facebook that sparked some interesting discussion amongst her FB friends AND made me reflect on my experiences.  The article is called “The Question Light-Skinned Black Women Say They’re Always Asked” and here’s the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/16/light-girls-what-are-you_n_6490038.html.

If you don’t have time to read it or watch the video (yikes), I’ll summarize it (a bit) for you.  The piece features several light-skinned women who “share the common experience of being questioned about their race.”  Apparently, this is a preview of a new documentary called “Light Girls” (http://www.oprah.com/app/light-girls.html).

Now.  I’m not light-skinned.  I’m brown-skinned.  My daughter, though, has light skin and light eyes.  Until the age of 5, her eyes were blue.  They’re greenish/grayish now.

So she’s clearly lighter than me, and from the time she was born, people have asked me if she’s biracial.  Or mixed.  Or my kid (gasp!).  Or something.  And now that she can answer for herself, they ask her directly…”What are you?”.

When she’s answers that she’s black, the next question is often about the race of her father (I’m generally with her or they may have met me so they see that I’m a brown-skinned lady…I was gonna type a brown skinned cutie but I don’t want y’all to think I’m completely full of myself…But I digress…).

“You must be mixed.”  “Is your dad white?”

So why do we do this?  Actress Tatyana Ali had this to say, “There’s a safety in being able to categorize you or categorize a person. ”You can assign all of your preconceived ideas about who this person is: the type of person they are, what kind of behavior you can expect from them — only if they know what you are.”

Is this the reason?  Are people more comfortable with folks who they can categorize?  And if you’re black and you’re skin is lighter does that somehow help you?  Does it matter? Does it somehow help to know whether or not my daughter’s father is white?   I don’t know.

From the article, “Soledad O’Brien, an award-winning journalist and news anchor, says she was shopping for a new coat when the sales person behind the register asked her: “What are you?” When O’Brien responded that she is black, she says the sales person refused to believe her. “She said, ‘No, no, you’re not black. Because black people are thieves. So, what are you?’”

Ummm. WOW.  Advantage #teamlightskinned?

Skin color has definitely always been a “thing” (ever heard of the brown paper bag test?).  Is it generally the first thing people focus on when they meet light skinned women (or men)?  No one asks me where I’m from before they get to know me…

Help me out world.  What’s the deal?  And be honest!

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All of the stars, they don’t shine brighter than you are…Ain’t nobody in the world but you and I…You and I…You and I…

Nobody in the world tonight…Ain’t nobody in the world but you and I…

“So it’s gonna be forever…Or it’s gonna go down in flames…You can tell me when it’s over…If the high was worth the pain…”- Blank Space, Taylor Swift

This song doesn’t exactly fit with the theme of this post BUT Taylor Swift was one of Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People in 2014. And this song is the most popular song on Billboard’s Top 100 list.  And I love it.

For those of you who are not friends with me on Facebook or who may have missed the post, I decided to do a Most Fascinating List.

My status read: “You know how Barbara Walters does a “10 Most Fascinating People” list? Well, I want one of my next blog posts to be about the “10 Most Fascinating People in Howard County-2014 Edition”! If I get enough responses I’ll do it! So who makes the list? And why? I’ll add my own commentary too of course!”

Because this is Howard County, the response was overwhelming (Thanks!). And so, I came up with categories.  It’s not perfect..but it’s mine. And some of yours.

So here it is…My Most Fascinating People in Howard County-2014 Edition List Avec Categories! I had fun writing this, although it stressed me out a little!  Hope you enjoy it…

Note- This is not an endorsement of anyone or anything…This is about fascinating people/things.  You know I had to say that, right?!

Politics

Ken Ulman– I mean. Come on.  If you know me, you know why he’s on the list.  Innovative, creative, smart, cool, and down to earth.  I think EVERYONE in Howard (actually everyone in the state) was waiting to see what he was going to do next.  And now we know. #margravestrategieswillkickbutt

Dylan Goldberg- This guy.  Besides being a politically savvy twelve year old (just kidding. He’s like 19, though, right?), he routinely quotes West Wing, never sleeps, saves random dogs, and collects political paraphernalia.  If you need tickets to ANYTHING or information about some obscure political fact, call this dude.  No, seriously.

Mike Davis– I’ve known Mike for a number of years as he was the chair of the board of The Columbia Foundation (what is it called now?) when I was the associate director.  I knew him then as an estate lawyer slash philanthropic community advocate but later found out that he is also a political guru.  He has quietly headed up transition teams for two County Executives…without seeking the limelight.  Impressive in my book.

Maureen Evans Arthurs– Maureen took a shot at school board this past year and I truly believe that voters missed the mark by not electing her.   She worked her butt off and her message resonated with so many in our community.  She’s also a super talented writer and she’s not afraid to speak her mind.  Oh..and she’s sharpening her skills in this year’s Emerge, Maryland class.  So she’ll be ready.  For whatever she chooses to run for.

Alice Giles- The League of Women Voters’ guide and recorded forums were a lifeline for many during this election season.  If you couldn’t make the forums (kids!!!), you could certainly learn a bit about the people who were competing to guide our county and state.  Alice led this organization through Election 2014.  Someone also told me that she’s a NAMI advocate and she definitely writes some hilarious FB posts about her experiences as an employee of the library (is she still there?).  And then there’s the hair.  Fascinating indeed.

Calvin Ball– One of my FB commenters said it best…”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). Another fascinating dude!”  What more can I say? (Name that tune! Hint- The artist is married to Bey.) Go ahead, CBall.

Courtney Watson and Allan Kittleman– Executive candidates from Howard County- check.  Graduates of our public school system- check.  Smart and witty- check.  Paid their dues as county council members- check.  Super cute kids who look like they stepped out of a magazine- check.  The County Executive race was fascinating for so many people in this county.  These two leaders had to make this list.

Rich Gibson– During the election season, someone said to me, “Where did he even come from?! I like him”.  He challenged a strong incumbent for State’s Attorney in HoCo and made folks pay attention.  He’s a smart prosecutor for Baltimore City and a family man who lives in Ellicott City.  Can’t wait to see what’s next for him!

Vanessa Atterbeary- Ran for and won a delegate seat in District 13 while parenting two toddlers and pregnant with her third child. Oh and she’s super smart and fly.  Badass.  Can’t wait to see what she does in Annapolis as an advocate for working mamas.

Education

Dr. Renee Foose- In 2012, Renee became the first female Superintendent of the Howard County Public Schools.  Two point five years later, she’s shaken things up a bit as she tries to ensure that our public schools educate all 50,000 plus children and have them prepared for college and the workforce.  She implemented the first strategic plan for the system (Vision 2018) and launched the (often talked about!!) Elementary School Model.  Many folks are interested in her efforts to close the achievement gap and hire a more diverse workforce (me, me, me). She was picked as one of “50 Women to Watch” by The Baltimore Sun.  And people are certainly watching to see what she does next.

Evening in the Stacks– If you don’t know, you better ask somebody.

Cindy Vaillancourt– I don’t know Cindy well so I will be making a point to sit down with her sometime in 2015 to get to know her better.  Someone once told me that people either love or dislike Cindy.  There’s no in between.  Say what you want about her, Cindy kicked some rump and was the top vote getter in the 2014 Board of Ed Race after a very interesting public year for her.  One commenter said, “She faced crazy obstacles to re-election, stayed true to her objectives, was top vote-getter despite everything.” She is definitely one of the most fascinating people in education.

Frank Eastham– I can’t tell you how many friends reached out to me when Frank left Oakland Mills High to become the executive director of school improvement and administration.  People with kids who were going to attend OMHS were freaked out.  People who had kids who had attended during Frank’s tenure were near tears.  Sara Toth wrote an article about it (that doesn’t always happen when principals leave a school).  If you don’t know Frank (or his story), it may help to read this article…http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/columbia/bs-md-ho-principal-eastham-20130410-story.html).  I also know Frank from his great work on the Human Rights Commission and he was the moderator for our Beer Summit that I mentioned in a previous post.  Frank is not afraid to talk about and address issues head on.  Good dude.

My mom, Patricia Dodson– If I got a dollar every time someone mentioned that my mom taught them, I’d be a rich lady (money rich…of course, I’m thoroughly blessed because she’s my mom).  She’s taught a pro golfer, the new head of the Olney Theatre, the communications director for the public school system, a former pro soccer player, and the sports doc for the Eagles and 76ers..to name a few.  I’m not saying they wouldn’t have been successful without her but I’ve been told that it certainly helped that she taught them reading…and believed in them.  Love you, mom.

Community Activism

Ian Kennedy- You might hear him talking around town about Oakland Mills and bikes and paths and drinks with sugar.  Ian is the smart, communications director of the Horizon Foundation by day and the bearded, family man, extreme biker by night.  He’s a great writer, used to have a blog that a lot of people read (come back!) and he once played Merriweather with his band (They sang one of my favorites tunes that night…”Use Somebody”)…  He believes in our community and the community listens when he talks.  Hope he runs for some political office someday. Hint, hint.

Candace Avent Montague– Candace is not on this list because she shares her name with the author (although it’s awesome that she does and spells it the right way).  She’s on the list because she is a talented writer and educator who flies under the radar in Howard County.  Candace is a self-proclaimed introvert who drops knowledge and information on FB and in her published works.  And she’s funny as heck.  Check her out.

Bill Woodcock– I didn’t know Bill well when he ran for office back in the day but I added him to this category because of his passion for this community.  Bill pays attention to the hyper local races and uses his blog to weigh in on hyper local issues.  If you want the real deal, go read it. Bill is another person who people seem to have a “love-dislike-no middle ground thing” with but I can’t knock his genuine love for his community.  Keep on, Bill.

Tom Coale– You thought I was going to place Tom in a different category, didn’t you?  Yes, I know that Tom ran for a delegate seat in District 9B but what made Tom most fascinating to me this year (besides that beautiful new baby girl, Harper!) was that he continued to advocate for the folks in Ellicott City even though he didn’t win the elected seat.  Umm…what?! Tom showed up at Executive Kittleman’s first hearing a couple of weeks ago to testify on behalf of the folks on Main Street.  And I have a feeling he’ll be back.  He’s got a new baby at home and it’s the holidays.  He didn’t have to show up.  But he did.

Jason Booms– Anyone who has a strategy whiteboard in their house and uses words like bupkis in their blog posts deserves a nod on this list.  I met Jason a couple of years ago when my friend was running for a Columbia Council seat.  I find Jason to be interesting, smart, and thoughtful.  And I’ll admit it, sometimes I have to read his blogposts twice to make sure I understand. I’ve said it to him before and I’ll say it publicly, I sure hope he runs for something.  And yes, yes, I know he used to be a Republican.  And?

Larry Walker– Husband, father, grandfather!, mentor, preacher, community advocate, and appointed Board of Ed member (his term just ended in December).  Larry loves Howard County and truly tries to lead by example.  The only knock I have on Larry is that he’s a Steelers fan.  Geez.  Regardless, I hope we see Larry again on the Board of Education.  Heck, I even wrote his name in this last election.

Julia Jackson McCready– If you don’t know what community Julia lives in or what/who she advocates for you may be living in a barn.  Julia is a talented, outspoken writer and teacher who stands up for what she believes in.  More than once, Julia has made me think about things I’ve felt strongly about.  And that doesn’t happen often for me.

Health/Medicine

Dr. Donna Neale– Dr. Neale was my neighbor, back in the day! One of my commenter’s reminded me that she is a “former record-holding track star at OMHS, current assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins Medicine Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics and director of the Center for Maternal and Fetal Medicine at HCGH. Dr. Neale serves as a reviewer for medical journals including, Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine.”  And she runs triathlons and is on the board of Better Bed Rest.  Can someone say rockstar?

Deneitra Hutchinson– Gonna try to type this one without tearing up.  Dee inspires me.  Period.  She is beautiful (stunning!), kind, smart, and funny.  And she’s battling her second round of cancer with a grace and strength that cannot be put into words.  Check out her blog at http://losingalifelongfriend.blogspot.com/.  She’s fighting AND educating. You may recognize her as the face of the Columbia Association’s show, Columbia Matters, but I just recognize her as my friend.  Continue to kick cancer’s ass, lovely lady.

My brother, Dr. Christopher Dodson- So, my brother doesn’t live in Howard County but he’s from here..and this is my blog…and he is another rockstar doctor so I’m adding him.  Product of Howard High School, Ivy League educated, awesome husband and father, former Dove model, team doc for the Phillies and Eagles, and a partner at Rothman Institute Orthopaedics.  He is only 38 years old! (I’m allowed to brag, I’m his sister…)  He’s also an incredibly nice guy (read- not arrogant).  I’m really glad Philly folks realize what a gem they have as they named him one of the Top Docs in the area and awarded him with one of those Best 40 Under 40 things.  Love you brother.

Law Enforcement

Chief Gary Gardner– Howard County’s new chief  He’s a great officer and a really good guy but I’m going to tell you what really stands out as fascinating for me.  After the Ferguson ordeal, the Chief met with the African American Community Roundtable (his idea) to talk about how the Howard County Police Department could initiate more community conversations with the black community. A partnership is blooming…Umm. Model for the country?  Perhaps.  Stay tuned.

Chief Bill McMahon and Sherry Llewellyn- One of the FB commenters said it best, “Sherry for her masterful, human-centered communication skills that set the tone for Howard Countians to respond as they did to the Mall shooting.”

I added the Chief with Sherry because there was just a way that the two of them (with Ken) made us feel good after such a local tragedy.  I don’t have words for it so help me out if you’d like.  I know it’s their job to respond to these incidents but I think our community and our country, perhaps, felt like we really got really lucky to have such wonderful people in those positions.

Sergeant!!! Stephanie Wall– If you haven’t met Steph, you should.  Community police officer, community advocate, volunteer extraordinaire, and a diva.  As one FB commenter said, “she is a female leader in a male dominated profession who is a graceful role-model for all us (battling sexism and racism with a smile on her face). Talk about amazing!”  Yep, I agree.

The Howard County Police Department and Howard County Fire and Rescue– The men and women of these two agencies do a lot of great stuff. True heroes. They will forever be known for how they handled the Columbia Mall Shooting with skill, grace, transparency, and class.

Sports

Zach Lederer- If you haven’t heard of “zaching” you also may live in a barn.  This Howard County kid was a leader and an inspiration to people across the country…even world.  I came across this quote from a 2014 Baltimore Sun article, written by Frederick N. Rasmussen, ”It is clearly evident in the response to his passing that he was a truly unselfish and giving person who committed his energy to the kids, programs and the school. He took tremendous pride in our school and never stopped demanding that from others,” said Chad Hollwedel, who coaches Centennial’s varsity basketball team.  Pretty sure his lesson on pride and courage went far beyond Centennial High School. Rest in Peace Zach.

Tatyana McFadden– This may seem lazy but click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatyana_McFadden.   You’ll see lots of Olympic gold.  Lots of awards.  And she also won the woman’s wheelchair division of the New York City Marathon recently. I don’t know Tatyana but I truly admire her courage and resilience.  Beast.

Michael Campanaro- You could hear all of Howard County cheering when this River Hill grad turned Baltimore Ravens wide receiver scored his first professional touchdown.  Nothing better than a homegrown sports guy playing for the local pro football team (yes, I know there are two local teams.  I’m talking about the one with the winning record and who are headed to the playoffs (whew!).  Go Ravens!

Arts

Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission– Downtown…arts….culture…Merriweather. Period.

Deborah Ellinghaus– This Wilde Lake grad is the newly minted managing director at the Olney Theatre Center and the chair of the previously mentioned Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission.  She is smart and talented and very cool.  She is set to reinvent the “theatre world” in Maryland. Oh..and go check out The Little Mermaid at the theatre and tell Debbie that CDR sent you.

Coleen West–  Coleen leads our Howard County Center for the Arts/ Arts Council really, really well. You can’t talk about the arts in Howard County without talking about this advocate.   And she is super flexible and creative.  I remember calling her on a Tuesday to talk about something big that was going to happen in less than two weeks.  I needed her help. Coleen hopped right on it and got it done.  The thing I called her about?  Reinventing Long Reach.

Denee Barr– Denee is awesome.  She’s a talented singer, photographer and artist, and all around neat lady.  Denee keeps me abreast of “all things art related” in Howard County.  Her talent sometimes flies under the radar but her radiant personality definitely earns her a spot on this list.

Wylene Burch–  You cannot talk about African American culture/history in Howard County without mentioning this beautiful, fabulous, eccentric gem.  Wylene was legendary and her passion for the Center of African American Culture inspired generations.  May you rest in peace, Ms. Burch.  (Note- Please consider supporting the Howard County Center of African American Culture #legacy- http://www.hccaac.org)

General 

Sang Oh- Not sure there are many developers (and no, that’s not a bad word) in Howard County who haven’t sought out Sang’s guidance.  Sang is a smart, super witty real estate lawyer who previously worked in County Executive Robey’s administration.  What people generally don’t know about Sang is that he is incredibly philanthropic.  The Altholton grad is a former Columbia Foundation board member, a longstanding supporter of Columbia Festival of the Arts, and a generous donor and celebrity bartender for the Howard County Library System.  Oh..and he can cook.it.up on the grill!

My dad, Cloyd Dodson– You probably saw the article in Her Mind Magazine about my dad and what he’s taught me.  I added him because he’s simply awesome.  And fascinating. And a teacher, listener, animal whisperer, and all around best Papau around.  (You see what I did there. If you missed it, I included almost my entire immediate family in this post.  The last one gets a post of her own on her birthday.)

Mission BBQ- One of my FB commenters said, “I can’t remember a restaurant opening that had such an impact.”  And I agree.  The lines were out the door and just about every event that I attended after the opening was catered by Mission.  The food is great, the people are nice, and they give back.  In a major way. I can’t even list all of the organizations that Mission supports so click here http://mission-bbq.com/giving-back.  You go, Mission BBQ. You go.

Howard County Citizens- After the Columbia Mall shooting, our community came together in a big way and rallied to support the Mall and each other as The Mall reopened just days after the shooting. We provided comfort to one another after our local world was shaken. Don’t get me wrong, we are not perfect but we’re better than many.  THIS IS Howard County.

Jessie Newburn-  What word do you associate with Jessie?  Say it with me: blog.  Jessie put the Howard County blogging scene on the map in her own, very unique way.  And because this is small world Howard County, Jessie was my neighbor when I was a toddler.  Crazy.  (Jessie, I WILL be submitting my blog to your site!)

Michael McCall– In 2014, the word “downtown” became legendary in Howard County. I’m fairly certain we said that word about 546,986 times in our office.  And you can’t mention that eight letter word without mentioning Michael McCall.  As one commenter said, He is the“driving force behind a new vision for Downtown Columbia. Just thinking about how much of 2014’s conversation centered around Inner Arbor.”  Inner Arbor..yes.  More legendary words.  As my friend and fellow blogger, Spartan, says, “Stay tuned, as more will follow”.

African American Community Roundtable– Ok so, disclaimer.  I founded the AACR and I’m the current president, so, of course, I love it.  However, this two year old group, of 20 plus member organizations, (we are sororities, fraternities, churches, museums, and educational groups) is quietly doing some really great work in the community.  And it’s the members who are doing it.  This year, we:

  • 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
  • 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 for our adopted foster children
  • Supported each other at various events that the individual member organizations host
  • Launched a partnership with the Howard County Police Department
  • Held several ACA workshops
  • Announced our Parent Academy                                                                       And this doesn’t even include the wonderful work that each individual organization is doing!  Check us out.  Fascinating? Yep. #totalbiasandthat’sok

Special category– Jess, David, Sam, Mark, Elizabeth, Josh, Jeremy, Wendy, Buffy, Wendy, MCat, Kim, Regina, Ginnie. Hearts.

Hope you enjoyed the list!  This is waaayyyy longer than it needed to be but I had fun.  Who would you add?  Take away?

“Nice to meet you…Where you been?…I could show you incredible things”

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!