Wednesday, September 30, 2020

National Stage, Local Story



Addiction took the national stage last night. It’s an important issue and needs to be addressed. But that was not what happened. Instead it arrived as a mocking barb from one candidate about the other’s child. In response, Joe Biden had this to say:

My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem. He's overtaken it. He's fixed it. He's worked on it, and I'm proud of him.

We don’t always like to talk about things we perceive to be personal weaknesses in Howard County. We like to be “world class”. Parents whose children struggle with addiction often feel shame as they live through the ongoing pain of trying to get help. There’s so much stigma. We all think we should be above average. We see so many preconceived notions of “what kind of people” have drug and alcohol problems. That can’t be us, we think. What would people say if they knew?

And so, that moment of outright ridicule by a nation's president must have hurt a lot of hearts around town last night. 

In Howard County there have been some very good people in recent years advocating for better local supports for people in addiction. Parents have created social media supports for other parents. The push for more local residential treatment beds is ongoing. 

From an article in the Baltimore Sun about a drop in opiod-related deaths:

This past May, Ball opened Howard House, the first county-owned treatment facility for individuals on the road to recovery. Grassroots Crisis Intervention, a nonprofit organization in Columbia, opened the New Beginnings Crisis Stabilization Center in December to prevent delays in treatment for those in need of referrals for substance-use disorder treatment. (Ana Faguy, Baltimore Sun)

Howard County has a sign that regularly notes fatal and non-fatal overdoses. It wasn’t always there. People had to advocate for getting that information out there. It’s meant to educate. To me it bears witness to a communty willing to face something painful and ugly rather than sweep it under the rug. 

Howard County Government has a page loaded with resources. If you or someone you know were in distress it might be hard to navigate so much information. It looks as though Grassroots might be a good first call?

Grassroots 24/7 Crisis Assistance - 410-531-6677 (local) or 2-1-1(statewide)
Resources and Referrals - 410-313-6202
 

It always helps to feel as though you know someone when you embark upon something scary and unknown. I’m going to recommend to you local advocate Debbie Nix. I’ve been following her local efforts for some time now. If you need someone to point you in the right direction or even to be supportive listening ear, reach out to her through the Addiction Support in Howard County Facebook Page. 

From a recent post about the process of recovery, Ms. Nix writes:

It works if you work it! Any way you participate in recovery, I am proud of you and want you to know that you are loved, your life matters and you bring light into this life. If it's one day or 30 years or more, recovery happens moment by moment. Be brave and keep on keeping on. You are not alone!

Local stories of addiction and recovery are happening every day in Columbia/Howard County. They are every bit as much a part of our story as a community as land use, business profit and loss, school curriculum, environmental initiatives, traffic studies, because each human being affected is also a working piece of all of those other stories. 

Being ashamed doesn’t change that. Mocking people who suffer brings no lasting improvement.

I’m hoping that, at least here in Howard County, support for those facing addiction isn’t up for debate.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Hush




News from the Howard County schools files: there continues to be a vocal chunk of residents who believe that mask wearing and public health decisions to combat coronavirus are a threat to the community unto themselves. I’m serious. They are pinning all ills to mask-wearing and school closures. Everything would be fine if we’d just open up everything. 

Interestingly enough, there does seem to be significant cross-over in this group to people who believe that addressing issues of race makes you a racist.

My head hurts.

Why do we care so much about our school system and want so much for our kids to learn and succeed if we are completely opposed to using the expertise and good sense that comes from a good education to deal with the challenges in our lives? Ignoring COVID-19 neither prevents the spread nor finds treatment or cure. Ignoring racism: same.

Not talking about things because they trouble us has never been a recipe for success. The first thing that comes to mind for me is how girls and women were long kept in ignorance about sexuality and their own bodies. This didn’t make anyone more happy, wholesome, nor pure, but rather led to fear, manipulation, abuse, subjugation, and often illness or death. 

Education is meant to open up worlds, not make them smaller. Whether our children learn the scientific method, explore artistic expression, develop critical thinking skills, or examine the rise and fall of ancient cultures, they are engaged in a process that involves growth and change. If you do not want your children to have these life experiences, why on earth do you want them to be in school? That’s what school is all about! 

Taking precautions to prevent the spread of disease does not make you a fan of disease. Talking about racism does not make you a racist. (Talking about sex doesn’t make you a slut, either, for what that’s worth.) But trying to shut down legitimate conversations about difficult topics in our community does make you something: anti-education. And I’m not so keen on letting the anti-education folks have a go at being in the driver’s seat in Howard County. 

Who knows what they won’t want us to talk about next?

Monday, September 28, 2020

One Too Many


 

Goal for the day: getting dressed and going for a walk, even if a short one. Does anyone know if Dunkin’ still has apple cider doughnuts?

I have a question for you today: how much are you driving today, as compared to pre-pandemic times? The same? More? Less? If you have other drivers in your household, how have they been affected? Do you notice you are buying gas any less frequently?

Do have have teens in your household who drive? Do you have teens in the process of learning to drive? I have driven so little since March that the concept of getting one’s driver’s license seems like some kind of odd leap of faith. Sure, you can do it, but where will you need to go, exactly?

Would you say traffic is any better around Howard County? Is there such a thing as “Pandemic Driving” and, if so, how would you describe it?

I realize I lead a sheltered life. Not everyone can self isolate and plenty of folks are out there on the road because they must be. And some of you are out there using your changes in schedules to add in things like shopping and volunteering to help other people in need. I salute you.

Okay: here’s what is really on my mind: I’m worried that we have been experiencing far too many traffic fatalities among young people in Howard County over the last few years. That has nothing to do with the pandemic but, if we choose to take a hard look at it right now we might be able to use this strange period in time to address it in a more systematic way. What could we be doing better to prepare our kids for driving?

I haven’t done any research on this so I don’t have any numbers. But even one child lost is too much. We have so much affluence and so many opportunities here in Howard County and the rite of passage of being able to drive independently as a teen seems like a normal part of life. It shouldn’t be so matter-of-course that we put kids out there without the readiness they need to be truly safe.

Suggestions? Opinions? Offer them here



Sunday, September 27, 2020

Who Loves You?


 

I saw an advert for a greeting card the other day.


And it brought to mind how I’ve been trying to reorganize that old mish mosh drawer. You know, I got started, had good intentions, got sidetracked. I never really did finish. So, what’s in there right now?


I know, it should really be in my wallet. Not quite sure how that happened. Seeing it there, all by its lonesome, made me smile.

Right now it’s pretty gray outside and I’m still on the mend so what better reminder of all the things my Howard County Library Card can do?

I get fresh information in my inbox every weekend letting me know about opportunities and events coming up at the Library in the HiLights Newsletter. There are interesting topics to follow on library podcasts HiJinx and Chapter Chats. Just right for today might be lying around and enjoying content like music, movies, and tv through the HCLS Now! Streaming service. 

On a quiet Sunday when you know you’re not going to be getting out much, finding that old familiar card in the drawer is a great reminder of who’s really there for you no matter what.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Diversity and Noversity



Rain makes for great oversleeping. 

Today’s post is some food for thought from the Rev’d Lura Groen, the pastor of my church, Abiding Savior Lutheran. 

True confessions: white liberals want people of color in the room, at the table. We really do. I don't know a single white liberal for whom this isn't true. We like diversity. 

But we also like our ways of running meetings,
our communication styles, our assumptions of how things are done, our models of leadership. 

Sometimes we like these things better than we like "diversity."

And then, at our worst, we get angry and upset when people won't come play by our rules.

This feels applicable to so many things going on in our community right now, whether it is at the Board of Education or in how people react to Black leaders in Howard County Government positions. We say we want people to be visible, but maybe we just want them to show up in the photo ops, not actually be fully present in the policy making. Not if it means things will be different. Not if our center of gravity feels altered and shaky.

Our Black neighbors are dealing every day with issues of life and death in this country and so many of us are heartbroken for them. And we’re also out here trembling within our very white world views, saying, “don’t make me uncomfortable.” 

We can’t have it both ways. 





 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Down by the Stream


I’ve been awake since seven am trying to come into focus. It’s not happening. So this will be stream of consciousness or not at all. I have been watching Discovery network home programming pretty much non stop since Tuesday and my brain is awash with white people with disposable income and I feel generally anesthetized and sad at the full weight of that. 

Moving on.

Tomorrow are the Columbia Orchestra Carnival of the Animals concerts at the Chrysalis. Get your tickets.

Tonight local podcast Elevate Maryland will interview author Matthew Iglesias at 8:30 pm on his recent book, One Billion Americans: the Case for Thinking Bigger. Here’s the link

Clark’s Elioak Farm will have a pumpkin season and you all better behave yourselves and not mess this up, health-wise.  Those pumpkin patch trips are often the bailiwick of grandparents and right now grandparents are at high risk so wear your masks, wash your hands, and leave lots of space between groups. Make an appointment in advance. 

I would like one small pumpkin. You may leave it outside the house.

There’s an event coming up on October 3rd at the Howard County Conservancy. It’s called Gallery in the Garden and it looks like an excellent opportunity to enjoy their facilities and support their programs. Take a look here for more information.

Teachers are still working from the moment they get out of bed until they fall into it and from what I can tell, sometimes while they are sleeping. My sincere thanks to parents who are understanding that and trying to work collaboratively rather than raging to burn it all down. It’s wildly hard for parents and kids, too. Teachers know that. That’s the biggest part of why their hearts are aching right now.

A shout out to my husband who was teaching his students the intricacies of audio recording from his home music studio when our HOA had the tree trimmers come by to take down some trees. 

Love to you all. 


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Love it or Leave It


 

You probably saw it.


Columbia has been named number 5 in Money Magazine's Best Places to Live in the United States in 2020. And, just like that, people showed up on the County Executive’s Facebook page to complain about it.

Good grief. Are there no other leisure activities during a pandemic?

No one is forcing you to live in Columbia and, if you don’t like it, apparently there are four spaces above us on the list. Take your pick:

*Evans, Georgia

*Parker, Colorado 

*Meridian, Idaho

*Rockwell, Texas

Maybe we could all chip in and send the most outrageous complainer to an entirely new city. 

Yes, every community has challenges and we are not immune. I’ve written about plenty of them right here. But the vitriol with which some people turn out on the occasion of Columbia receiving what is pretty much a feel-good honor is pretty darned pathetic. It smacks of racism towards the kind of city Columbia is by definition, and towards the Black Democratic County Executive who leads it.





Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Disappearing Chances


 

Many thanks for all the good words yesterday. All went well and hopefully the recuperation will be the stuff of dreams. 

Alas, one of the first bits of news that entered my consciousness post-surgery was that our local in Oakland Mills, the Second Chance Saloon, will be closing after twelve years. 

Well, dang.

The Second Chance came to Oakland Mills at a time when I was getting active in neighborhood things. For their opening night I created my first ever Facebook event page and invited everyone I knew to come. I felt extremely invested in their success. At the time Oakland Mills was living through one of those cyclical waves of negative public opinion: we were the bad part of town, the “hood”, no one in their right mind would want to come here.

I was bound and determined that we would give the Second Chance a good chance to make it, because a lively neighborhood place gave us a good chance to make it, too.

I don’t think any of us who rallied around the Second Chance at the beginning knew what an almost insurmountable challenge it would be to keep a mom and pop local alive in an aging Columbia Village Center with an absentee landlord. I salute them. They pushed on through a national recession in earlier years. The lack of support from Cedar Properties has been mind-boggling. Despite all this they have held neighborhood events, raised money for charity, promoted live music (almost always without a cover charge), established the first regular Drag brunch events in town, supported employees from Old Ellicott City businesses after the floods, and pushed on through the pandemic, largely to provide hours for their economically-strapped employees.

Here are some ways that I will remember the Second Chance:

      Dancing with preschoolers when I held “A Little Lunch Music” events in the back dining room. 

The hilarious Ladies Swap parties.

     My family dinner before my candidate debate night for CA Board.  

My older daughter’s Bridal Shower.

     Eating dinner on Tuesday nights with my fellow OM Board members. (Half-price burger night!)

Several blog parties for HoCoBlogs.

     Going down of a Friday night with my tween daughter to eat dinner, hang out, and crochet. Like you do.

     Several heart-to-hearts with my best Buddy when the day was rough.


Stop by the Second Chance  page on Facebook to see some of the special events they have planned leading up to their last day. If you can, pay them a visit. Raise one more glass. Leave a big tip. We owe them a lot of thanks for putting in the work over the last twelve years to give us a welcoming neighborhood hangout. 

They gave us a second chance. Whatever comes next we may need to give ourselves.





Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Bursting the Bubble


 

I’m putting my heart on the line today. While you are getting up and beginning your day tomorrow I will be getting ready to have surgery, getting checked in, receiving anesthesia. Those who know me in real life know that I have been ill for the past seven months, not enough to kill me, obviously, but enough to prevent me from doing many things I love, what with the pandemic.

So I’m just going to lay this post out there for you to read while I’m unconscious. I’m trying not to be maudlin, but in case anything should happen, I’d like to have taken leave of this space with some forethought. Later I may look back on this with some embarrassment, but I know I won’t regret it.

This post is for my moderate friends and acquaintances. Your careful weighing of issues of race these days has been breaking my heart. You are so knowledgable, you bring so much life experience to your decisions and you mean well.

But even with all of your years of good works and nuanced thinking you cannot see what an enormous an obstacle your whiteness is. You cannot see over it. It is your filter, your daily view, your world. You say that issues about SRO’s in our schools aren’t “black and white.” You are proud to say that. It makes you feel better than people with loud voices and strong opinions. Process matters a lot to you. People who make demands make you uncomfortable. In your world, they’re not crusaders for justice. They’re bullies. Sneaky. Mean.

If you recognize yourself even an inkling in my description I ask you this: what are your Black and Brown friends saying about this issue?When you have discussions with the parents of Black and Brown students - -  or the students themselves - -  about how school policing affects them, what do they say? 

From what I can see you aren’t having those conversations because those people aren’t in your “bubble”. If you do have any non-white friends in your circle they may not feel comfortable having these conversations with you. Or you just don’t know these people at all.

There are plenty of reasons why we as whites people are perpetually self-insulating from those who are not like us. Right now, as I see our community wrestle with the racist repercussions from school policing, I think that most of all we don’t want to see the reality and feel the injustice on the inside. On our side of the bubble. For a white person to draw a line in between themselves as a sort of high-minded “moderate” on an issue which is harmful almost entirely to Black and Brown students and families is not intellectually admirable. It is morally bankrupt. 

There’s a reason people are loud and angry. There’s a reason people make demands: because we have hurt them and hurt them and put their concerns on the outside of our fluffy bubble of process and politeness and whiteness. 

If you are having heart-to-heart talks with your friends on social media about how people don’t understand how complicated this SRO thing is, and your good friends are holding your hands and reassuring you about it, and all of you are white, white, white: something is wrong. Look at the people who are harmed by school policing. Are these people in your bubble? Would you be willing to have uncomfortable conversations with them? Are you willing to make mistakes and learn you are wrong, get your feelings hurt and still push yourself to be better and work for justice?

Even if justice makes you uncomfortable?

I’ve said that I’m not going to write about the Board of Education race this year, and so far I’ve held to that. But I’d like to leave you with one thought: no one should be serving students and families in Howard County and still feel content to operate almost completely in a world of whiteness. That is not what the job entails. We cannot keep electing people who can insulate themselves from the harm being done to others. 

I admit that the events on my schedule for tomorrow are weighing heavily on me. It’s been a rough seven months. Maybe we can do some work together after I’m on the mend.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Small Wins






Last night my daughter, marooned on the couch from her college studies by the pandemic, allowed as how, though she missed being on campus and missed her friends, that the food at home was probably better. She is not given to high praise. I will take this as a win.


     After a weekend of grief and political turmoil small wins may be all I’ve got. 


     I see that at long last there is a concert coming up at the Chrysalis this Saturday, September 26th.



It’s another winning collaboration between Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods and the Columbia Orchestra: a presentation of Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. From the Columbia Orchestra website:


Join us for two live performances of Carnival of the Animals at the Chrysalis, presented in partnership with the Inner Arbor Trust! A small group of musicians and dancers from Dance Connections will perform Saint-Saën’s Carnival of the Animals and Aesop’s Fables by Richard Maltz at the Chrysalis for a small socially-distanced audience of 200 people. It may look a little different from our regular Young People’s Concerts, but your child is sure to enjoy this fun-filled introduction to the orchestra led by our entertaining Music Director Jason Love! (This event will last approximately 45 minutes.)


Rain date: Sunday September 27th


Tickets are ten dollars each, and there will be two performances: 10:30 am and 1:00 pm. Buy your tickets and learn more here.


One my readers expressed regret recently that there weren’t more outside, safely distanced events for the family right now. I’m happy to promote this one which can get us all out of the house and support these valuable local arts institutions.









 


 



Sunday, September 20, 2020

Locker Room Talk

 


So, starting on September 8, the Columbia Association has reopened locker rooms at its health club facilities. There’s a link to the new rules on their Facebook page. I know I saw some adverts about their fancy new sanitizing capabilities, but, since they are adverts, I can’t nail down their exact location. So, I headed to the website.

The Columbia Association website at the moment is primarily a launchpad to get people back to the gym. You wouldn’t know from the look of it that CA has any other function. You can learn about how they are striving to bring people back through their Reopening Playbook. They’re touting:

  • More alcohol-based hand sanitizer units throughout our facilities.
  • More gym wipe canisters (anti-bacterial/virus wipes), available everywhere.
  • New Air Purifying Fans with UV light filters designed to kill over 99% of surface bacteria and viruses and 97% of airborne viruses.
  • HVAC systems have been adjusted in all locations to increase the air turnover rate by increasing the intake of outside air and operating the exhaust fans on high.
  • Electrostatic sanitizing units are used in all fitness centers and Haven that kill 99% of cold/rhinovirus and flu viruses and MRSA. All gym equipment and facility surfaces are sprayed daily.

So, what do you think? Are we at a point in this pandemic that it is safe to use shared locker room facilities, which, by nature, are filled with plenty of moist air? Do we have confidence that other CA members will respect public health boundaries while at the gym and in the locker rooms? 

Do we really know for sure that any of these new-fangled sanitizing methods are effective against COVID? This could be a devoted community organization springing into action to meet the needs of its customers or it could be a desperate act of “security theatre” to bring people back in the door when funds are dangerously low.

 I don’t know.

If you are the kind of person who has made it a regular practice to work out at a CA facility, then you know far more than I what this decision means. I’m not a go-to-the gym kind of person. If you rely on regular exercise for your well-being you may have been struggling during a time when this has been limited or down right taken away. So, I’m asking you. 

How important is it for CA to reopen locker rooms at this point? Would you use them? Do you have concerns about locker rooms becoming a vector for the further spread of COVID as we continue to “reopen” in Howard County?

Oh, and while we are at it, I used to get regular emails from CA cluing me in on all this stuff. I miss those.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Darkness


It was a long night. 

I opened my eyes so many times and it was still dark. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is gone. The justice she worked for all her life hangs in the balance. The world feels palpably less safe. 

I wish I had something valuable to say.

I’m an adult. I feel like I should know what to do. There’s a particular kind of of fear and grief when the world is going up in flames around you and none of your years of life experience is remotely helpful. I’ve always thought that generations before us who faced similar horrors knew how to step up: Brave, resolute, ready.

But maybe they felt small and unprepared. As I do today.

I’ve made my contributions in life in the small things. The small things will not be big enough now.

I am so, so grateful for people like Justice Ginsburg who were willing to make contributions in the big things. Her life is an illustration of how crucial it is for women to take up space, push forward, open up worlds. I pray that more such women will grow from the seeds she has planted. 

To my daughters: live big. To your daughters: be bold. Do not oblige those around you by shrinking down or fitting in or apologizing for your brilliance. Our country needs you. You are exactly who you ought to be. 

I will fight for you.

There was a point during the night when I began to wonder if daylight might not come. I kept willing myself to close my eyes again and bring morning and some sense of reality with it.

Grief is like that, and shock. We struggle to come back into focus. We don’t really want to.



Friday, September 18, 2020

Arts Within Reach




 



It’s finally happening. Tomorrow is the Grand Opening of DoodleHATCH  in the Long Reach Village Center. You may remember that DoodleHATCH is newest brainchild of Lee Andersen, founder of Manneqart. You’ve also seen her whimsical creations at the Fantasywood Festival at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods.

What is DoodleHATCH? It’s described as a “Department Store for Mythological Creatures, Time Travelers, Gallactic Tourists.” It sounds like a hotbed of immersive creativity. If you are feeling playful, come in costume. Looking for a place to get out of the house with your kids? This looks good. Lamenting the canceled RenFests and Fantasy Cons? This might provide a longed-for taste of what you are missing. 

From their website:

A Unique, Fun, and Affordable Experience! 


Created by artists, students, fashion designers, craftspeople and an army of volunteers, The DoodleHATCH Department Store has transformed an empty supermarket space into an immersive experience for the young, the curious, the creative and those who mistakenly believe they are not.


I’m particularly excited about this venture because it feels to me like a taste of the community’s desire for an arts hub in the Long Reach Village Center is finally coming to pass. In addition,  in the years-long battle about what reinventing an aging Columbia Village Center really means, it seems like a combination of creative thinking and mom and pop ventures is coalescing into something new. Get over there and check them out for their grand opening or in the near future. 

To learn more about the revitalization of the Long Reach Village Center, check out the County’s press release here.

You’ll need to reserve a time for your group to ensure adequate spacing for public health considerations. Contact DoodleHATCH here to buy a ticket and reserve your time window. They remind you to wear masks, wash your hands, and observe the distancing footprints on site. (Be forewarned that there is strobe lighting at the entrance, if that’s a consideration for you.)

I’m still self-isolating so I’m going to miss this. Please, please, if you go:  let me know how it went! 




Thursday, September 17, 2020

Protest vs Process

 


Yesterday County Executive Calvin Ball, Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano, and Chair of the Board of Education Mavis Ellis release a joint statement addressing the issue of SRO’s in the Howard County Schools. You can find it in a number of places. I read it on the County Exective’s Facebook page. This morning Ilana Bittner of HoCoMoJo posted a narrative account of events beginning with SMOB’s proposal in last week’s BOE meeting to remove SRO’s from the schools. 

I’m still going over the joint statement, so I won’t speak to it today.

What I do want to address is how difficult it appears to be for many in Howard County to place themselves in someone else’s shoes, specifically, when it comes to issues of race. And, to be clear, I mean white people. 

A parable: once there was a young mother who was struggling with her four year old daughter and she saw in herself the evolution of toxic behaviors of her mother in her own childhood. And so she sought out a therapist whose field of expertise was this particular kind of work. The mother learned a lot about herself over time. She learned better parenting skills, too. But much of the work centered on addressing ways that she was damaged by her own relationship with her mother.

One day, some years in, she sat in a session and lamented a feeling of on going brokenness. 

“When am I ever going to fixed? I thought I was coming to therapy to get fixed.”

In that moment she realized she could never go back and erase the harm that had been done to her. Being in therapy was to learn to fully see the truth, and learn to live in a healthy way with that truth. This was not a happy realization. It initially made her angry. She grieved for a long time.

I tell this story because I see many white people who do not want to do the work of addressing the violence and injustice that was present in our nation from the start. They don’t want to dig deep enough to see how it was perpetuated far beyond slavery into system after system deeply interwoven into what they think of as “the American Way.” For them the American Way centers whiteness as the norm and they feel uncomfortable when faced with ugly truths that reveal what that norm is built of.

In Howard County there are people who can read page after page of student testimony about racism in our schools and, instead of wanting to address it, would be far more comfortable questioning the lived experiences of our children. There are those who want to remove language about racism from an official statement about equity. Indeed, some have gone on the record that our Student Member should have no official voice, now that he has used his voice in support of Black and Brown students and families.

“Why do they want to make everything about race? We shouldn’t be talking about race.”

Why? Because we cannot go back and erase the harm that has been done by white supremacy. Our responsibility is learn to fully see the truth, and learn to live in a healthy way with that truth. And that means being willing to be uncomfortable. In this particular case it means being willing to take action to deconstruct systems that benefit whiteness and harm Black and Brown students. 

I have had several online conversations with people who insist this isn’t about race, it’s about process. Parents who have seen their children’s educational experiences diminished by school policing would disagree. Acts of protest, acts which are meant specifically to adress injustice, are not often subtle and they are not designed to make people feel comfortable. 

That is a good thing. That’s what brings about change. If we care more about what makes us uncomfortable instead of accepting the lived truth of our Black and Brown students and families, we reveal that centering whiteness is our number one priority. 

It is very, very hard to accept that we cannot easily “fix” the generational injustice in our country. It’s very uncomfortable to sit with that and to begin to realize our complicity in it merely by existing peaceably with the status quo. It is scary to realize how much work there is to do and that we don’t truly know the outcome of that work.

We need to do it anyway.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Cupcake Stories




True confession: this blog post began with a conversation with my daughter Alice, aka HoCo House Hon


Know any good cupcake stories?

     Not really.

I sort of backed myself into writing about cupcakes.

     Oh goodness. Did you not have a plan???

It was a joke to begin with...

     Oh my gosh this whole time I’ve been thinking you had a cupcake post all sketched out.

Well by tomorrow I will, by golly.

     “Do we need our news to be bite sized in order to process it?”

With filling?

     Do we depend on the fallacy of choice when most outcomes are arranged by the machine of capitalism?

 Alright, that’s a doctoral thesis.

     Hahaha but cupcakes come in lots of flavors but they are all cake!

“What kind of cupcake are you? Take this quiz to find out!”

     Maybe it should be: what your favorite cupcake reveals about you & where you live in HoCo.

Oh my word.

     Red velvet: Clarksville.

Hmmm... Columbia: Party sprinkles.

     “Is a muffin a cupcake: the great debate!” What we call things matters. No one would eat a piece of “cake” for breakfast, but a muffin...

“Are you a cake or an icing person? Residents are divided.”

     Icing!

Cake!

     The ancient feud.

 “The cupcakes these people bought reveal more about their voting habits than you might think.” 

     Hahahaha you should write about this conversation!




Cupcakes were all the rage some years back. They’ve been surpassed by other food crazes such as bubble tea, poke bowls, healthy smoothies, among others. I hear that crab cake egg rolls are taking off in Baltimore at the moment.

I’m still a fan of cupcakes as long as they actually tast like something and aren’t overburdened by frosting. I enjoyed the cupcakes (from Whole Foods) pictured above because the fresh fruit kept them from being too cloyingly sweet. I’ve also had delicious cupcakes with fancy fillings from Touché Touchet. 

Now it’s your turn! I want to know where you’ve had the best cupcake in Columbia/HoCo. Tell me what kind of cupcake it was: cake, frosting, filling (if any). Why do you think it was the best? Respond in the comments section on Facebook or reach out to the email account associated with blog.

And if this post inspires you to try out a few new places in search of the perfect cupcake, I want to know about that, too. Submissions will be shared in a future post. 

Can we stir up a little local cupcake interest? I bet we can. After all, everyone has at least one good cupcake story.










Monday, September 14, 2020

It Never Fails


 

I used to be concerned that my blog posts did not receive many comments from men. A high percentage of the responses on the blog’s Facebook page come from women. I’ve written about this before. I suppose my underlying concern was that, for some reason, men didn’t take my blog seriously. It was’t worth the trouble of engaging. 

Why this would bother me is probably something I should give some thought to at some future date.

While I am grateful for all the people who read the blog and interact in the comments, it seemed odd to me that it was somehow viewed as a “women’s blog”. My topics are not stereotypically “women’s topics.”

Yesterday was, perhaps, a reminder of why I should be happy with what I’ve got.

I had several visits from angry white men who were there to set me straight. One was aggressive and accusatory and went after other commenters. One took the approach that my comments section was a place for him to post multiple arguments, links, etc, to prove me wrong. I began to wonder if my page should have a “post no bills” warning.

This was less like commenting and more like spam.

The thing that never fails to amaze me is that it’s only the angry white guys who come to my blog and admonish, “You can’t say that!” Of course I can say that. It’s *my* blog. By the end of the day I was actually searching the Internet for some kind of a meme that articulated the sentiment:

Do I look like a woman who was just waiting for a man to tell her what to think?

There isn’t one. Yet.

I have banned only three people from the page since I put the comments on Facebook. All are angry, agressive white men. Part of the reason I moved comments from the blog to Facebook so that folks like this could no longer troll in anonymity. It has helped quite a bit.

There is no requirement that readers agree with what I write. I’ve had many fascinating conversations in the comments that began with disagreements. I do object to boundary-violating behavior, though. Some people are amazed that I enforce that.

So far, they have all been men.

Tomorrow I may write about cupcakes. Get your good arguments ready.




Sunday, September 13, 2020

All Deliberate Speed


 

If you were surprised this week that Student Member of the Board Zach Koung made a motion to remove School Resource Officers from the Howard County Public Schools, you have not been paying attention. 

There has been steady and increasingly frequent feedback against having police in schools, from:

Current Students
Former students
Teachers
Community Members
Board of Education candidates and elected members 

There are locally generated reports and state studies on discipline disparities in our schools by race. 

Koung himself raised these issues as a candidate for Student Member of the Board. The students who voted for him knew where he stood. 

Let me be blunt here. Having police presence in our schools is wrong. Putting police into schools was never sound practice from the start, because the history of policing in the United States is profoundly anti-Black. 

White parents may think of a police officer as a protector or role model. They may have warm and fuzzy memories about “Officer Friendly”.

But Black and Brown community members have seldom been assured of this kind of respect from the police. Study after study bears this out. One need only read the news or scan social media to see how grievously policing has harmed and is harming those who are not protected by whiteness. Placing that culture into schools causes distress for students whose families, friends, and neighbors have suffered disrespect, harassment, even violence, from people who wear the same uniform. 

From this summer’s petition on racism to the Board of Education:

My first major concern was the presence of a police officer in the school who usually followed Black students around and made many of my peers feel targeted and under surveillance in a place that’s supposed to be a learning environment. - - Iftekar Husain, HCPSS graduate.

In addition, statistics show that having police in schools has resulted in the growing trend of criminalizing behaviors of Black and Brown students which, in white students, are considered typical student misbehaviors.  Overall, school policing does not make schools safer and it makes the educational experience for Black and Brown students substantially less safe.

It was bad policy. It has been found to be both ineffective and harmful.

But Howard County wants more time. These things take time, right?

Let’s talk about time. 

1952  The Supreme Court hears arguments in Brown v. Board of Education.

Early 1950s  Kingdon and Mary Gould saw a need for an independent, non-sectarian school in Howard County.

1954 In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education overturns Plessy and declares that separate schools are "inherently unequal."

1954 The Goulds, along with Mr. and Mrs. John T. Mason Jr., Judge James Macgill, Mr. Albert Gallatin Warfield, and Mr. and Mrs. William Shippen, opened Glenelg Country School in Howard County on September 23.

Update: I’ve been challenged on the following paragraph, which I wrote in good faith, based on information I had. If I’m not able to confirm it satisfactorily I will retract. - - jam

Will you look at that. A group of highly motivated Howard County citizens got an all-white segregation academy* up and going in just a few years. Speedy.

1955 In Brown II, the Supreme Court orders the lower federal courts to require desegregation "with all deliberate speed."

1965 Howard County School are fully integrated.

Yes, you read that right. Full integration of schools as required by law took eleven years.

Segregation was always wrong. It reinforced racist ideas and shortchanged generations of Americans  from the quality of education that should have been theirs by right. School segregation walked hand in hand with other strictures imposed on Black Americans to uphold institutional white supremacy. 

To review: School segregation was bad policy. It did nothing to promote education and was actually harmful.

But Howard County wanted more time. And those in power took their time, to the detriment of every student whose education was compromised, every young person who was less prepared for higher education or a decent paying job. And all of that meant fewer possibilities, lower salaries, less access to health care, reduced life expectancy. This was not a victimless crime. 

White Howard County was in no hurry to do the right thing because the pain of segregation was not borne by them or their children. And so they moved “with all deliberate speed” for eleven whole years before meeting the requirements of the law.

There’s no wisdom in that. There’s nothing reasonable, or balanced, or admirable about that. People who had it in their power to do good did their utmost to perpetuate harm to school children, for as long as they possibly could.

Refusing to take action on something because you yourself have not experienced the harm in it is precisely where we are today. It reminds me very much of a cartoon by Nathan Pyle:





I’m not surprised that Koung raised the motion to remove SRO’s from schools. Anyone who has been paying attention could have seen this coming. I’m also not surprised that it failed. Howard County’s reputation on ‘taking its time’ on issues concerning race is well-established. But it needs to be raised again. And again. 

School policing actively diminishes the futures of Black and Brown students. Gaslighting community members who bring this issue to the Board is not a victimless crime. 

Moving “with all deliberate speed” is not enough. 









* Information on Brown v. Board taken from the Teaching Tolerance website.
**Glenelg Country School has long since evolved from its racist beginnings, but its origins are widely known. 


Saturday, September 12, 2020

It Still Matters


Good morning, Columbia/HoCo. I’m currently working on a long-ish piece about this week’s BOE meeting and it is making my brain hurt. With any luck it will be ready to post tomorrow. 

In the meantime, I highly recommend this piece by Colin Campbell on what Hogan’s cancelling of the Red Line did to the communities it was meant to serve:

Five years later, many across Baltimore bitterly lament Gov. Hogan’s decision to kill the Red Line Light Rail - - Colin Campbell, Baltimore Sun

This is excellent, thorough local journalism. The evidence presented shows that Hogan’s priorities have never been aligned with the people who the Red Line would have benefited. After the cancellation of the Red Line, Hogan:

...returned $900 million in federal funding and shifted $736 million of state money to roads in the surrounding, predominantly white counties.

This piece is particularly relevant in light of candidate Kimberly Klacik’s claim that Republicans have plans to get Black Baltimoreans to work. How, exactly, when Republican state leadership killed the biggest thing that would have enabled them to get to work?

By halting the Red Line, Hogan engineered an “explicit and blatant transfer of economic investment from Black communities to white communities,” [NAACP] Legal Defense Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill said.

An undercurrent in this piece is empathy. Who has it? Who doesn’t? What happens when people in positions of leadership are unwilling and unable to put themselves in the shoes of others who are far different than they are? What are the long term effects of continuing to invest in projects that benefit whites at the expense of cutting programs that benefit Blacks? 

Think Red Lining in residential real estate. Think the outrageously skewed G.I. Bill. Think the Red Line light rail. This is systemic racism. 

This is what happens when white people in positions of power choose to be far removed from those who are different than they are.  The most normal thing in the world for them is to bolster their own whiteness and view the lives of Black constituents as “other”, unworthy of investment. 

More than anything, my take away from this piece is a deep sadness for the community members who worked so hard for so long only to have their work come to naught, their hopes shattered. 

What happens to a dream deferred? 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Scars and Healing

 


Many will pause today to share memories of 9/11. As I scan social media that theme is already apparent. We all have memories of where we were, what we did, how we felt. It was a day like no other which has scarred our nation. 

How will we remember the hundreds of thousands who have died in the COVID-19 pandemic? Will there be a day for them? Will there be monuments, scholarships for the children of frontline workers who have perished fighting the deadly disease? 

Right now every day feels like a national day of mourning, and yet, not. Our attention is called away from one disaster to the next. Encouraging people to observe proper public health behaviors to prevent the spread of illness is seen as an aggressively political act by those who equate being unmasked to a celebration of their individual freedom.

But people keep dying. When will we mourn?

It is very important to be able to grieve loss. That is why we go through these annual recollections and moments of silence and reflection on this day. We need to. Grief ignored or suppressed is poison to the human spirit. We need to sit with our feelings of horror and sadness about this day in order to heal.

The loss of human life to the coronavirus far exceeds those lost on 9/11. And it goes on. Death and long-term damage is far from over. That does not make the observances of this day unimportant. But it does point to how crucial it is for us to acknowledge and grieve this horrific event in the history of our nation.

We are losing friends, and family, and neighbors, and co-workers. We are losing trust in our government and in those around us. These are wounds that run deep.

When will we mourn?

How will we heal?



Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Ugly Side


 

If there’s any theme to today’s post it would have to be “things that are really ticking me off.” The local scene seems to be bubbling up with them lately. I apologize for being the bearer of bad tidings but perhaps it will briefly take your mind off of national events.

First off today is a letter to the editor in the Columbia Flier from a former member of the CA Board who shows a good bit of misunderstanding/ignorance of the First Amendment and Free Speech. I’m not even going to delve into the rest of what he says. Remember, friends, the First Amendment protects you from criminal prosecution for what you say. It does not protect you from the consequences of what you say - - losing your job, for instance. 

A test on the First Amendment is not specifically a requirement for serving on the CA Board, but, gosh. Understanding it would be helpful.

Next up is the random person on Twitter who screen-grabbed a happy Howard County teacher’s photo of their back to school “swag bag” and reported it to Donald Trump. Why? Because, nestled in with items of teachery goodness, was the book “White Fragility”. Yes, the Howard County School System has been reported for being guilty of “indoctrination”. 

Does the future hold searches of teacher tote bags in order to confiscate books disapproved by the current (national) Executive? How many of our coworkers and neighbors see themselves as citizen reporters as this poster clearly did? Creepy.

And, lastly, this exchange which made me ashamed of having any association with Howard County whatsoever:

Speaker A: Howard County is not Baltimore - something its residents seem proud of.

Speaker B: Howard County is in Maryland. We are a suburb of Baltimore - we are pretty proud of that - except when the trash from the city takes the bus to our little town...

I don’t have adequate words to respond to this. 

Sorry to be such a downer today. For a change of pace I recommend listening to the recent episode of Elevate Maryland with Baltimore City Council member Ryan Dorsey. It’s intelligent, informative, and manages to be hopeful at a time when hope is in short supply.