On The Cusp of History

I am not what you would call a history buff, but I have always enjoyed reading books about historical figures, watching movies and TV shows based on historical facts and hearing personal stories and lectures based on historical findings.  I especially admire those who devote their time and resources in research to uncover hidden truths of the past and give voice to those whose voices have been silenced or prevented from telling their truth

As a child growing up in the 1960’s, my parents were instrumental in cultivating my interest in history by taking my siblings and I to the many museums and galleries in and around Washington DC and Maryland. I have fond memories of exploring life in a city that wasn’t just the capital of our country, but to us felt like the epicenter of the world. During those years we also witnessed history as we saw the civil rights movement unfold with protests, marches, sit-ins, and civic activism for social justice. This point in time was described as the most turbulent and divisive in world history.

Many years later after I got married, my husband and I began looking for a community that we thought would be a great place to raise a family, and after some research and visiting various locations, we moved to the community of Columbia in Howard County Maryland. Similar to my parents who had moved to DC during the Great Migration of African Americans who relocated from the rural south to cities in the north, they came seeking a safe, fair and equable environment for their family that would open doors to social and economic opportunities. A lot has changed since my parents moved north, but so much more work still has to be done to address racial inequity.

As the year 2020 nears an end, we have witnessed peaceful demonstrations protesting the violence against people of color and systemic racism not just across the U. S. but thousands worldwide have shown solidarity with many of the voices crying for justice. The killing of George Floyd has renewed a movement for change that has united people of all ages, races and economic backgrounds. After viewing the video of what happened to Mr. Floyd, members of the UN Human Rights Council meet and issued a critique of the event as ” a modern-day racial terror lynching” and are calling for investigations on systemic racism. We are witnessing events that have similarities and differences with the civil rights movement of the 1960s that historians are just beginning to explore, and some are calling this time “A National Reckoning” and “The New Reconstruction.”  The cries for justice that are happening today are motivating many of our legislators, law enforcement and those in power to reexamine many of our legislative policies, and to move toward policy changes that better serve the common good. 

It is encouraging to see action for change happening in our local community. In June of this year, more than 400 current and former students from Howard County wrote testimonies and signed a petition that was sent to the board of education and the school administration saying how racism is a problem in the school system, and HoCo4 Justice held a March & Vigil for Black Lives at the lakefront in Columbia, MD. Also, this year The Maryland State Medical Society called racism a “tragic and ongoing public health crisis”, and has created the Empowerment and Advocacy Task Force, to make recommendations for how doctors and health professionals can promote equity and actively address issues of racial disparity in their work. In October the Howard County council voted to approve legislation to establish Howard County’s first Racial Equity Task Force that will study racial disparities throughout the county and make legislative recommendations to the council.

This year is leaving us with a lot of stories and information that could fill volumes of books, countless movies, TV shows and blog posts. As with the 1960’s, we are witnessing what could be the cusp of historical transformation.

I am thankful for this opportunity to share my thoughts as a founding member of the Howard County Lynching Truth & Reconciliation.

Gina Richardson