Saturday, March 25, 2017

Columbia in Review

The week began for me at the official kick-off of Columbia's 50th Birthday, held at the Mall. It had bagpipes, a procession, pageantry, songs, and speeches. But the highlight for me was the playlist that let up to the event itself.

Winchester Cathedral
There's a Kind of Hush
Brown-Eyed Girl
The Beat Goes On
A Different Drum
Ain't No Mountain High Enough

...and more from the musical treasure trove of my childhood. Yes, I was singing along to everything, and so was the woman behind me. Oh, the memories. I may not have lived in Columbia, but the music gets me, just the same.

Elijah Cummings was speaking when I had to leave to pick up my daughter from church. As I walked across the parking lot to my car I could hear his voice ring out and echo off of the shops and restaurants around him. I wondered if that had ever happened before. His words were, as they usually are, strong and stirring. (You can see it on his Facebook page. You'll need to scroll down a bit to find it.)

It made me think of the concept of Columbia as Resistance. I'm still thinking about it.

Last night I went to the storytelling event for Columbia's 50th at Owen Brown Interfaith Center. I appreciated what an excellent variety of stories were chosen. Differing topics, differing perspectives. It was a beautifully balanced event. One speaker, Steven Sachs, spoke of the passion and idealism of Columbia's beginnings and suggested that its founders and pioneers had forgotten to share that and pass it along to to the next generation. I was struck by his wistful thought that some days he wished he could return to the time that "Columbia was my Camelot."

Columbia as Resistance. Columbia as Camelot.

What about Columbia as Experiment?

In "Experiment in Community: Lessons from Columbia", Doug and Ken Ulman reflect on both America's social ills today and the goals of Columbia at its inception. Are they still relevant and applicable? It's worth the read. I was a bit startled by the suggested that community life requires:

...arenas for intimate and personal collisions.

Not sure what that means but it sounds awkward and embarrassing. Perhaps that's just my social anxiety talking.

It's only been one week and the one thing I know about Columbia's 50th celebration is that it will have many voices and points of view. 

I like that. 

Comments?  Post them here:

Friday, March 24, 2017

Columbia Talk

This is happening tonight. Be there!

Columbia storytellers on deck are:  Kathie Rouse, John Butler, Min Kim, Candace Dodson Reed, Dr Ashai, Hector Garcia, Lisa Schlossnagle, Sue Garner, John Slater, Ainy Kazmi, Steve Sachs, and Sean Harbaugh.

In a faculty meeting this week, a colleague mentioned a quote which I can only paraphrase: stories are the most basic and influential unit of human existence.

Come on out tonight to the Interfaith Center in Owen Brown to be a part of some Columbia stories.

I hope I'll see you there.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Birthday Request

Update: Forest Ridge Community Center Fundraiser - Here is how to donate: You can come by tonight and attend or leave a donation.  If you would like to send a donation by check, make check payable to Enterprise Homes, Inc. and mail to Rena Ross, Forest Ridge Manager, 5890 Stevens Forest Road, Management Office, Columbia, MD  21045

So, today is my birthday. I know you probably want to help me celebrate. So, here's a suggestion.

Forest Ridge Community Based Learning Center
Fundraiser at The Other Barn
Thursday, March 23, 2017
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
An invitation to the Oakland Mills Community  - Please join us for a Fundraiser at The Other Barn to support the children at Forest Ridge Apartments who attend  
the Forest Ridge Community Based Learning Center.

Due to budget cuts that are directly influencing the Howard County Public School System, the Community Based Learning Centers have lost a lot of the financial support they previously obtained. This weakens the prepared weekly lessons centers hold on healthy lifestyle, since they can't even afford to provide examples of healthy affordable foods. The Community Based Learning Centers are taking it upon themselves to raise the necessary funds in order to keep their centers alive. They are also working to collect the necessary donations in order to keep the quality of their centers high.
We hope that this fundraiser will help bring in a substantial amount of funds in order to keep the Forest Ridge Community Based Learning Center up and running, while still upholding its high standard. We also hope that the presentation the students will put on for the community will remind everyone the benefits of these Community Based Learning Centers and their necessity. We know it takes a village to raise a child, and if you take away the unity and safe space the community has, then raising these students to reach their highest potential becomes even more difficult than society has already made it.
This fundraiser is not only critical to save the Forest Ridge Community Based Learning Center, but it is here to save the Forest Ridge Summer Enrichment Program. To run a success program, funding is needed, and opportunities should not be denied to children simply off of limited financing.
Understanding Your Past to know your Future
The students of the Forest Ridge Community Based Learning Center researched their family's history during Black History Month. They then reflected on their own goals and compared their opportunities and circumstances to those before them. The students also shared how the Community Based Learning Center has helped them explore these ambitions while reinforcing positive skills for success academically and beyond. All the information will be put together in a presentation and all those who attend this event can learn more about our students through a gallery walk. After the gallery walk, dinner will be served and great music will be played, so come on out and enjoy the event!
Date: March 23, 2017
Time: 6 - 8pm 
Cost: $7
Place: The Other Barn 5851 Robert Oliver Place Columbia MD 21045
Donations are welcome.  

I learned about this program when I visited Forest Ridge Apartments when I was running for CA rep in Oakland Mills. The director of the program, Sharon Fulton, told us about an upcoming event that the children were preparing. She was passionate about the students and what they were doing. Her commitment and enthusiasm were impressive.

If you don't have dinner plans tonight, or if you just want to stop by and make a donation, that would be awesome. I'm trying to find a way that you can mail a check and/or click and donate. This would be a great place to invest in the future of our kids.

And it makes a lovely birthday gift, too.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Reason to Fear

I've been sitting on this piece because it felt too difficult, but when I read this post yesterday from a former colleague, I knew it was time for me to speak.

She writes:

I don't know it all, but I feel disgusted about those using the awful rape of a high school girl in Montgomery County as a platform against immigrants and Latinos. I understand that it's an absolutely horrific crime. This does not mean that all immigrants are rapists. It does not mean they're all violent. From 1990 to 2013, the number of undocumented immigrants tripled from 3.5 to 11.2 million, according to an American Immigration Council study. However, violent crime in America dropped 48% during that period, indicating that higher immigration doesn’t mean higher violent crime, which includes murder and rape. The U.S. Government Accountability Office study found that of the three million immigrants — legal or not — arrested during that period, only two percent were for sex offenses. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey shows that whites commit 71% of all documented sexual assaults, while Latinos accounted for 9%. All sexual assault is wrong. But claiming it happened because these men were undocumented is a lie. Using it to spread fear and build support against immigrants is unconscionable.

Since the report last week of the brutal rape of a Montgomery County High School student,  I have read a number of comments which begin, "I am the mother of a girl and I fear for my daughter..."

I'm the mother of a girl, too. And do you know why I fear for my daughter?

White boys. Yes, white boys, right here in Howard County.

White boys like the one who taunts a lesbian student in class that she'd "be straight if she just got good d***."

White boys like the ones who got drunk and posted a racist video online.

White boys like the one who drugged a girl and raped her, then bullied her until she no longer believed her life was worth living.

White boys.

When are we going to stop with all this coded language about "thugs" and Section 8 freeloaders," or "illegals and that criminal element" and really face the ugly truth of the toxic version of white masculinity? When are we going to discuss the price everyone pays when these boys are raised to believe that they are the norm, the Center of the Universe, and that everyone else is defined in relationship to them, their rights and their privilege?

White boys who believe that the rules don't apply to them do things without caring how others could be affected. Those same white boys will get a slap on the wrist or a warning while young men of color would face suspension or criminal charges for identical acts. Who do we protect in perpetuating a culture of entitled white boys who grow into white men who feel justified rather than responsible?

Yes, sometimes I fear for my daughter.

But it isn't skin color or nationality that makes me afraid. It's what is carried in the heart, values, humility, strength of character--or the lack of it--that's on my mind today.

Comments are welcome here:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Names and Relationships

You may already have seen this, but I was struck over the weekend by this post about Open Space by Ian Kennedy.

The Battle for Donoughe Hill and the future of Columbia’s Open Space

Kennedy paints a picture of Columbia's Open Space as more than anonymous locations on a map, but places that are known and loved. Places whose characteristics and "personality" have given rise to relationships and even name-giving, as Kennedy does in the anecdote for "Donoughe Hill." What makes Open Space special and worth defending is how we engage with it: walking, biking, playing, exploring, having neighborhood get-togethers, taking photographs, using our imaginations to engage in new ways.

I loved this:

Imagine a future where you look at a map of Columbia and you see the familiar pathways, pools, schools, neighborhood centers, and lakes, but on top of that you see things like sledding hills, fields for free play, streams with names, spots of interesting scenery or ecological features –like the awesome stand of old beech trees in Long Reach or a boulder-strewn stream in Swansfield that feels like it belongs in the mountains of western Maryland or an isolated rock outcrop overlooking the Middle Patuxent River.

Some years ago I wrote about Tot Lots and how they seemed to exist in secrecy, making them virtually impossible to find for new residents. While the Columbia Association has done wonderful things with signage around town, I have yet to see one sign which announces, "To the Tot Lots". Sigh. 

In "Come To My Party" (2013) I wrote:

Maybe tot lots, pathways, and open spaces need their own fan clubs in each village. We hold concerts and festivals in our Village Centers. We have annual pool parties, often rotating each year from one village pool to the next. If our outdoor spaces had annual events, or ongoing programs, it would be one more way to invite and engage residents to enjoy this wonderful amenity.

It looks like Ian Kennedy is a SuperFan for Open Space. Take the time to read his piece in its entirety. Does it bring to mind particular places near your home? Have you ever thought of giving them a name? 

Maybe you should,

Monday, March 20, 2017

APFO 101 Makes Its Debut

Add this to your calendar if you'd like to understand more about how Howard County ticks:

"APFO 101" at Savage Library 3/22/17, 7:00 pm.   

APFO means Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. Schools, roads, sewer, water, police, fire dept, hospitals, recreation--the kind of things we often take for granted. If you are curious as to how decisions for new housing construction are made, or have concerns about school overcrowding, this would be a good place to start.

This event is described as a meeting put on by community members for community members. Hosted by North Laurel resident Judy Fisher George, the goal is to present APFO information for those who have an interest but haven't known where to get started in getting the basics.

People who served on the APFO task force will present information  and answer your questions. Seating at the library is extremely limited. Depending on interest, they may have another session.

This informational session is being held in preparation of the APFO report being brought to the County Council.  New APFO legislation is coming up in May. It's an opportunity to learn the various county entities and regulatory components, and how they work (or maybe don't work) together. The goal is to help ordinary people understand the necessary connections that make for better schools, roads, infrastructure.

Shedding some light on the process will contribute to creating better-informed citizens who can be more successfully engaged in the process. And if you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know I'm a big fan of that.

This is clearly not my area of expertise, so maybe I should turn up 
to get a better grounding, too.

Comments are welcome here:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Downtown Day

I seem to mention a lot here that I rarely go downtown. Well yesterday was a Downtown day for me.

I had my first real experience of navigating the road closure at Little Patuxent Parkway. I wanted to go to FedEx/Kinko's to make some color copies for work. I wasn't sure what to do at first, but it was a fairly uncomplicated cut-through route via the Mall.

Having left my work to be done at the copy place, I decided I'd return my overdue book at the Downtown branch rather than driving over to Ellicott City. Hmm. After a bit of reconnoitering I found the Mall exit and made it to the library. And the parking lot was packed. As it always is. That place is a hotbed of humanity on Saturdays. . Had a "wow, we really are multi-cultural" moment.

I returned my book, paid my fine, gave profuse apologies. The forgiving clerk actually thanked me for my donation. (!)  Headed out to the parking lot. How on earth could I get back to FedEx? I ended up taking a right and going almost all the way home again. Possibly not the best choice. Passed Whole Foods. Thought, "Ooh! Lunch!" Kept on driving.

For those keeping track at home, I'm on my second enormous loop through Downtown.

While waiting in line to pick up my copies, I met Laurie Lundy, the admin of Addiction Support in Howard County and also of the blog hcCircleofAngels . She was picking up posters for the yoga classes she teaches at the Serenity Center in Oakland Mills on Thursday nights. Mentally awarded myself extra cool points for real human interaction during my Downtown trip.

Back on the road again, I decided to yield to my urge to get lunch at Whole Foods. Saw so many families with young children. Had that "wow, we really are multi-cultural" moment again.

So I went Downtown. I got every thing accomplished on my list and I even got lunch. And, although there was still snow on the ground, it was a sunny and beautiful day. All around me were signs that Columbia will soon be in full bloom.