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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

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.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Going on the Offense

For Dems to succeed in 2020, they must take it to Trump.

As the field of Democratic candidates for president in 2020 swells, each hopeful is desperately searching for a lane that will distinguish himself or herself from the rest of the pack. Some choose specific issues, such as climate change, Wall Street, health care, jobs, gun restrictions and others. 

But in the end, the winner of the primaries and who will ultimately take on Donald Trump will be the one who can convince voters that that person can engage Trump on his own turf and beat him.

Of course, many believe that our political discourse is already uncivil mainly because of the historic elections of Barack Obama in which birthers and racists like Trump tried to de-legitimize.  That was followed by the 2016 election and subsequent vile tweets and other offerings from Trump himself that have clearly degraded the office of the presidency.

In normal times we would want to push for civility and dignity in the White House and on the surface that would make a strong campaign issue.  But these are not normal times.  Democrats are facing an uphill battle as it is with Trump constantly on the offensive, an economy that at this point hasn’t tanked yet, Trump’s immovable and loyal supporters who are motivated to vote, a sycophantic GOP-controlled Senate,  and a likely intervention by Russia to ensure that Putin’s puppet remains in power.

Two years ago, I wrote a piece titled, “Where’s the Flamethrower,”  a call to action for any prominent Democrat to take it to Trump. Prior to the Midterms I wrote this piece, "Democrats Must Play the Trump Card" with a similar message.  There are so many areas in which Trump could be attacked, so much vulnerability. The Democratic electorate craves that person, and so do I.

The 2018 midterms whereby the Democrats rode a blue wave to take back the House of Representatives did so largely based on their anti-Trump fervor. Sure, health care was listed as the number one issue and rightly so, but the motivation, the energy and the drive was powered by the voters disdain for Trump and Trumpism.

Democrats in the race need to exploit Trump’s many weaknesses.  That will get under his skin and he is sure to make a huge unforced error during this volatile election cycle.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, replete with a ton of baggage from his four decades-long career, remained at the top of the polls and leads by a seemingly insurmountable margin.  Yes, the nostalgia for the Obama presidency and name recognition has a lot to do with it.  But the surge occurred after his rollout in which Biden went right after Trump from the get-go by reminding voters of Trump’s callousness regarding the 2017 racist and anti-Semitic march and demonstrations in Charlottesville, which led to the murder of Heather Heyer.

Biden was wise to roll out his campaign that way.  The Charlottesville episode was a nadir in the Trump presidency. Biden came out of the gate and pushed the Charlottesville tragedy right into Trump’s face.  Trump’s weak, yes I said weak, response was that many were heralding the exploits of General Robert E. Lee.  Keep in mind that Lee, a slave owner, was a traitor to the U.S. by leading a civil war against our nation.

There are a number of such Trump vulnerabilities to exploit, and given there is so much time left until the voting begins in the primaries including the pivotal debates, it would be wise for the other candidates in the field to execute that strategy and fire up their supporters.

Below are just two examples of where Trump is ultra-sensitive.

Trump’s lack of intellect. Trump threw Mayor Pete Buttigieg a 3-0 fastball down the middle of the plate when at a rally he said the mayor resembles Alfred E. Neuman, the mascot for MAD magazine.  Instead of hitting that cookie over the fence, Buttigieg checked his swing and fouled it off when he replied that he’d have to Google it to check the reference and that it was a generational thing. A better response was called for.

But later on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Buttigieg took a better swing and made solid contact.  “You know, we talk about elevating the dialogue, so the fact that I inspired him to make a literary reference possibly for the first time…” he said to great laughter.

Personally, I would have said, “I didn’t realize the president’s reading comprehension level has risen to the level of MAD magazine.”

Image by CNN.com
Cowardice.  Trump boasts and brags how tough he is, how he is the best person in the room, the smartest in the room, the bravest in the room. Not so fast, conman.  The reality indicates that he is a blustery coward, and Dems should irk him to no end by dubbing him “The Avoider-in-Chief.” Consider:

. Trump avoided military service by feigning bone spurs.
. Trump avoided paying taxes by losing nearly $1 billion from his businesses.
. Trump has avoided revealing his tax returns when all other presidents in modern history have.
. Trump avoided a face-to-face interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
.  Trump avoided on two occasions the usually lighthearted White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner for fear he would be made fun of.
. Trump avoids condemning Putin for Russian interference in our election and other aggressive actions undertaken by Russia.
. Trump avoids reading briefing materials on national security.
. Trump avoids revealing his high school and college transcripts.
. Trump avoids condemning Nazis and other hate groups in a sincere, convincing manner.
. Trump avoids any semblance of truth telling.

The list breathlessly goes on.

The Dems need to go after Trump as he will certainly do to them. He already welcomed each new candidate to the race with insults. Sure, “Little Marco” Rubio’s return volley fell flat and lost his home state by 20 points in the primary.  But Trump wasn’t president then; Rubio never expected him to even be the nominee. 

Democrats have a whole lot of fodder to choose from, and they must attack Trump relentlessly. Not only is this necessary because the charges are true but it will hopefully gin up enthusiasm and unify a fractious Democratic Party in time for the election.

Disregard what the pundits and polls say.  This election is not about issues as much as it is all about Trump. If you think that Trump has been bad and scary for our nation the past 2-plus years, imagine how an unbridled Trump would be in another term with no accountability to the American people.