Monday, May 27, 2019

Jumel Howard: Leading Howard County to Pride

Jumel Howard

So, check out this resume: MD Democratic Party LGBTQ Leadership Council Director, Vice President of PFLAG Columbia-Howard County, Membership Chair of PFLAG Columbia Howard County, HoCo Young Dems Sexual and Gender Minority Caucus Chair, 2nd Vice Chair of the Community Advisory Council of the Howard County Public School System, Member of the Board of Directors of The Pride Center of Maryland, Chair of the Howard County Sexual and Gender Minority Community Center Planning Committee, and Board Member of The Helping Hands Fund (Maryland Legal Aid).

It’s quite an impressive catalog of community involvement and activism for anybody who may be middle aged or older. But this resume belongs to Jumel Howard, who is just 23 years-old.  Oh, and by the way, Jumel is also the HoCo Pride Planning Committee Chair.

In taking on that role, which he did over two years ago when the planning began for the first ever LGBTQ Pride in Howard County, Jumel had to figure out how to manage his increasingly busy schedule.

“This is definitely a work in progress,” Jumel explains. “I have a lot to learn in this sphere of life. At this point I just take my work everywhere. When I’m at brunch I’m checking emails, when I’m with friends just hanging out I’m updating budgets and reading various policy revisions. Bottom line I just work till I fall asleep,” he says half-jokingly.

Jumel Howard has a paying job on top of all these volunteer positions as a Paralegal for Maryland Legal Aid—a legal services organization for low income individuals and families in Maryland. He understands that prioritizing his work is, well, a priority.

“Anything I know that has a timeframe of a week or less comes next and finally anything that has more than myself working on it comes last. I’m pretty good at knowing when I need to take a step back to breathe so I don’t burn out but again it is all a learning process for me.” 

Right now, the big project on Jumel’s docket is HoCo Pride, which is slated for June 29 at Centennial Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  It is being co-hosted by Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and the Howard County chapter of PFLAG.

Lanky and soft-spoken Jumel Howard is leading a group of dedicated volunteers on the HoCo Pride Planning Committee in an effort to make this premiere event a success. Members of the committee who have worked with and have been guided by Jumel these past two years note the talents and determination that he brings to the table. He ardently seeks results while maintaining a calm demeanor.

"This is my home and it is high time we showed our Pride."

“Jumel is the driving force behind HoCo Pride, and his ambition has been matched by his ability to lead and inspire,” says Christopher Hefty, the Sponsorship Coordinator who also coordinates with vendors, and for good measure he is overseeing the event’s entertainment.

“His love for the LGBTQ+ community is so genuine. The most notable point of mention about Jumel is how he calls out hate and injustice in all forms. Whether it’s the racial divide in the LGBTQ+ community or anti-transgender hate, he snuffs it out with a vengeance. He is a man I have come to respect very much. With his energy I feel that HoCo Pride will be something truly special, and above all else, a uniquely HoCo event!”   

Hefty, who works at Eastern Coral in the Columbia Mall, designs and creates an array of Pride scarves and jewelry that can be purchased on the HoCo Pride website with the profits benefiting HoCo Pride.

“Jumel, is, in a word, a dynamo,” says Akbi Kahn, a progressive activist and local blogger who is also on the Planning Committee.  “After I first met him in his role as a Vice President of Howard County PFLAG, we became fast friends. He has also included me in several other projects aimed at LGBTQ+ rights advancement in HoCo, which I think shows how he lives the ideal of inclusivity.”

Adds Bob Ford, another volunteer on the Planning Committee and who is Chair of the Howard County Human Rights Commission, “There is a bunch of talented and motivated folks on the Planning Committee. I can say that I have been especially impressed by Jumel’s leadership and his vision for what he sees as a great outcome for HoCo Pride.  His attention to detail is amazing.”

Jumel Howard being flanked by then Councilwoman Jen Terrasa now
MD State Delegate and then Councilman Dr. Calvin Ball now
County Executive at the HoCo Pride launch party June 28, 2018.
Photo: Andrew Howard
Jumel grew up in the Oakland Mills Village of Columbia, Md. but his contributions to the success of organizations have extended beyond Howard County. He is a member of Board of Directors of the Pride Center of Maryland, formerly called the GLCCB, and his colleagues have also taken notice of his character and abilities.  

Says Merrick Moses, venerable community activist and Board President, “Mr. Howard is a tenacious member of our board. He has a true heart for our community and works hard to create a better reality for the neediest among us.”

The logistics, volunteer coordination, community listening sessions, creative fundraisers, and the partnership with Howard County government are all coming together for this much anticipated event a month away.

“This is a completely grassroots, all volunteer-led effort,” Jumel explains. “We have been planning for two years and our kick-off event last June 28 was a resounding success that gives us good feelings about what the turnout for the inaugural festival will be!”

With the theme of Remember/Resist/Rejoice, the celebration will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.  As County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball put it, “At the 2019 Pride Festival, we will Remember those who fought for justice. We will Resist those who would turn back the clock on equal rights, and we will Rejoice because of the LGBTQ+ love we have in our community.”

Noting that Howard County has been in the forefront of LGBTQ advances in the state, Jumel asserts that the time is right for the county to celebrate LGBTQ Pride.

It has been 50 years since Stonewall, why are we waiting? Jumel asks. “We are supposed to be a community of acceptance and inclusion. Not everyone wants to have to go to a big city to celebrate and see their existence acknowledged. This is my home and it is high time we showed our Pride.”

Jumel is pleased that HoCo Pride is different from many other similar celebrations in that there have been to this point no corporate sponsorships. “This event has been completely funded by individual donations and contributions from small business, government agencies, and organizations that are all local,” he points out.

“I will measure the success of this event by the smiles on people’s faces. I don't care if we get 2 people and make $6 in profit. As long as those people come and feel a sense of love, acceptance, and community I will count it as a win,” he says.

Based on what Jumel Howard has accomplished in his young life, he has already won.



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