Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the Public Facilities and Spaces Commission through Executive Order. The Commission will review and contextualize the history surrounding the namesakes for public facilities and spaces. Ball was joined by Shawn Gladden, Executive Director of the Howard County Historical Society, who will serve as Chair of the Commission; Ani Begay Auld- Navajo Nation Tribal citizen & co-director of Protect Native Elders; and Kori Jones, First Vice President of Howard County NAACP. Photos of the event can be found here.
“The current landscape of our country demands that we address and confront the ugly truths of our past and present, and that includes ensuring the namesakes of our facilities and spaces reflect today’s values,” said Ball. “This commission is vital to review and contextualize the relevant history surrounding the namesakes of many facilities in our county. We need to face our history, learn from it, and move forward with an honest understanding of who we’ve chosen to honor by naming our spaces after them.”
The Commission will complete their work over the next eight months. Members of the commission will be responsible for:
· Reviewing the history surrounding the namesake for public facilities and spaces to determine if the namesake participated in or encouraged the oppression of African Americans, indigenous Americans, and other individuals of color and contributed to the history of systemic racism and similar biases.
· Report on named public facilities and spaces, including and not limited to:
· County-owned streets;
· County-owned buildings, including schools, libraries, and other facilities;
· County-owned parks;
· County neighborhoods; and
· Statues in County-owned parks.
· And recommend any names that should be changed, contextualized, or added for consideration to future naming of assets.
“I would like to thank Dr. Calvin Ball for asking me to lead a commission that will look at and reevaluate street names, buildings, and landmarks in our county,” said Shawn Gladden, Executive Director of the Howard County Historical Society. “As a lifelong Howard Countian and a professional historian, I accept my role as someone who can assist this administration as we look at our own history with a fresh perspective, identifying opportunities where we may be able to honor individuals from our past whose contributions to our society have been minimized or lost.”
“The true reflection of a community is evident by how its citizens are incorporated into its values,” said Ani Begay Auld, Navajo Nation Tribal citizen & co-director of Protect Native Elders. “As a resident of Howard County and Tribal citizen of the Navajo Nation, I welcome the ever-present inclusivity that abounds here in Howard County, historical treaty land of the Susquehannock. As we embark to incorporate names that embody our values, I would ask that these first inhabitants, now removed from the land be honored in namesake. Though currently removed from the land, they leave a rich treaty history.”
“Nobody should serve to be awarded or recognized but if one’s history doesn’t work to show value to all individuals in our community then namings undermine what the honor is all about,” said Kori Jones, First Vice President of Howard County NAACP.