“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…”

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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.

SO.MUCH.GOING.ON.

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:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ellicott-city/ph-ho-cf-miller-boe-1022-20151019-story.html

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.

“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…”

“Thinkin’ of a master plan…’Cuz ain’t nuthin’ but sweat inside my hand”- Paid in Full, Eric B and Rakim

You were singing along, weren’t you? Lol

So there are a couple of things that I want to talk about.  One of them you might have heard (read?) about before during one of my rants.  One is new.

Let’s start with the old thing.. Well, the revisited thing…

So, obesity, sugary drinks, healthy food, etc.  I know, I know.  Bear with me, please.

Last month, I listened in on a presentation hosted by an organization called Leadership for Healthy Communities (http://www.leadershipforhealthycommunities.org).  In their words, they are, “…a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation designed to support local and state government leaders nationwide in their efforts to reduce childhood obesity through public policies that promote active living, healthy eating and access to healthy foods.”  I decided to listen in on the call because I’m just so confused as to why some people are so adamantly opposed to supporting government’s efforts to encourage good nutritional standards for healthy living.

Now, perhaps Howard County wasn’t ready for restrictions on the types of beverages/food one could purchase on county property.  I don’t fully understand the anger around this but ok, you want to buy your Coke and hot dog at your kid’s Rec and Parks basketball game. Fine. (Note- For the record, you could have brought it..just not bought it..)

But NO standards?? Why be adamantly opposed to some nutritional standards?  Have you seen the effects of diabetes?  It’s not sexy folks.  Have you paid attention to what happens to your heart when you’re overweight?  I’m no medical expert but geez.  Do you know that our children have a shorter life expectancy than we do, Gen Xers?  Not good.  And for the everyone fend for yourselves, your mom should have told you how to eat, bottom-line folks, I’ll just say this….healthcare costs.

So back to the presentation.  The presenters made a great case as to why childhood obesity is a health equity and social justice issue.  They talked about food deserts and access to healthy food options.  Nutritional standards for communities and school based wellness policies. (Sidenote- KUDOS to HCPSS for flipping the script on their plan and subsequently earning national recognition for their improvements.  Please go ahead and comment about the fact that the kids can’t have cupcakes for Halloween.  I’m ready for it.)  They talked about education and awareness.

(Click the following link for the powerpoint as I obviously can’t write about the entire thing.  http://www.leadershipforhealthycommunities.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/LHC-REM-Webinar-Slides-FINAL.pdf)

They also talked about our collective responsibility AND our individual responsibility.  (Yes, of course, just like anything else, there’s a personal responsibility piece.)  But when you talk about community responsibility, we should look to our local and state leaders to have the courage to implement policies that benefit the collective good.

I’m not bashing anyone here.  That’s not helpful.  (I can talk politics all day but I don’t think we should play politics with people’s health…).  I am, however, encouraging our local leaders to revisit this and implement SOME nutritional standards and guidelines for our great county.  YOU really can make a real difference in the health and wellbeing of your constituents.  Why not talk it out and worn through the differences?

_____________________________________________________________________

So the new thing..and this will be really brief as I believe blogger, Tom Coale, covered this brilliantly in his post called, “Leave Your Guns At Home, Howard County”.  http://www.hocorising.com/2015/02/leave-your-guns-at-home-howard-county.html

If you missed it, in January, the Baltimore Sun posted an article with a tagline that read..”You can pack heat in some county government buildings, but not others.”  And apparently, in Howard County you can currently come into a library, the nature center, a community center, etc. with your weapon.  Umm. Why would one need their glock at story time at Miller Library? Yikes.

Councilmembers Calvin Ball, Jen Terrasa, and Jon Weinstein have pre-filed a bill that would prohibit this.  Thank you.

“And we outta here…Yo, what happened to peace?…Peace, peace, peace…”

“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…”

“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…

“They say it’s your birthday…It’s my birthday too, yeah…They say it’s your birthday…We’re gonna have a good time…I’m glad it’s your birthday…Happy birthday to you…”- Birthday, The Beatles

I was so tempted to post… “Go Shorty, it’s your birthday..We’re gonna party like it’s birthday…” by 50 Cent but this post is about my kid.  So no.  That doesn’t work.

And then I thought about posting some lyrics from Taylor Swift’s song “Fifteen” (I’m liking her lately…and it’s the correct age…) but I Googled the lyrics.  Whoa. And…no. Absolutely not good for this post about her.  Nope. (or as M says, “LMANo”)

Where do I start?!  Well, HAPPY BIRTHDAY M!!!!

(Bear with me.  I’m gonna brag just a little because I’m very proud of this girl.)

M, you are my superstar.

You started out as my little baby who didn’t want to cry (they forced you to use those lungs!) or eat (you must always give me props for feeding you with a syringe because you refused to open your mouth or latch or even drink from a bottle!) and who pooped on my arm two seconds after you were born.

You became my precocious toddler/preschooler who talked super early and walked super late (It’s a shame when you can say “please come over and pick me up” before you can walk…) and who potty trained herself (Thanks. I’ll give you credit. You made up for the feeding situation.) and who loved school (Go JBMS!) and Baby Born (that baby doll went everywhere) and nature (especially woodchips!) and pacifiers (which led to some really expensive braces) and giving other kids haircuts…that you charged money for!  And who disliked anything related to a swimming pool, clothing, and basketball, tennis, soccer, or any sport with a bat or ball. (Expensive lessons but we had to find your thing…)

Then there were the school years- elementary and middle.  You blossomed into a lovely, smart girl who still loved school (Except for gym.  And art.  I may be the only parent who had to have conferences with the elementary school gym and art teachers.)  We rocked through the middle school years (some drama! but not too bad.  Well, 7th grade was a little interesting..). You met some lifelong friends and fell in love with small boutiques, cheerleading, skinny jeans, certain cities, dogs, random kid fads (those ugly skater shoes!), helping others, smoothies, Instagram, winning awards/medals, and Uggs.  So many pairs of Uggs.

And now you are:

Still my early to bed and early to wake kid (I thought this would change when you became a teenager!  Please learn to sleep in!)

My math/science girl who is just trying to crank out very decent English papers (your words).

My sarcastic, witty funny girl who cracks jokes regularly. (My favorite of this year was when I asked you about the volleyball team you guys were playing.  I called them a powerhouse.  You said they are the….(drumrole)…mitochondria of volleyball).

My “I’m gonna go to a high school where I don’t know anyone and I’m gonna make it work (because I don’t quit) even when it’s tough to make friends” kid.  And now look.  Great job, M!

My (brand new) volleyball player, former (?) cheerleader, and current track star.  My actress and chorus lover.  Even though I sigh sometimes, I’m perfectly happy driving you all over the place! for your activities.  I love to watch you run, cheer, hit (spike?), sing, and act.

My homebody who would rather stay home and watch “Bones” than hang out.  (I’m enjoying that! I know it won’t last forever!)

My “sometimes I just say the first thing that comes to my mind and it gets me in trouble” girl.

My model (Sorry but I’m still not sure about this…)

My addicted to texting kid (“Please don’t take my communications tool away as punishment, Mom..”)

So like I always tell you, our lives are not perfect (and neither are we) and they never will be.  Try to make good decisions (or as I told you everyday you got out of the car at JBMS..”make good choices, M.  Choose challenging work. Don’t cut anyone’s hair or throw wood chips. Lol”), use good judgement, work hard so you can play hard, use your words, and have faith.

Thank you for being my kid.  You changed my life for the best.  It’s hard to be down or upset or sad when your beautiful face wakes me up (super early!) every morning.

You are smart, beautiful, kind, and helpful. (And as you know, I was saying that way before The Help came out…lol)

Happy, happy birthday.

Love you. Mom (And stop calling me Candace! And bae! And bruh!)

I would like you to dance (Birthday)…Take a cha-cha-cha-chance (Birthday)…I would like you to dance (Birthday)…Oh dance! Dance.