Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King Day

In honor of Martin Luther King Day I am going to repost my Martin Luther King Day post from last year because I think it is worth thinking abut again as we commemorate Dr. King:

In honor of Martin Luther King Day it might be worth noting how far we have come and how the planning of Columbia moved King’s dream forward. The hardest thing for me to comprehend growing up was that my parents had lived during a time when there was segregation. I grew up in what my peers and I call the “Columbumble”. It is that little utopia of Rouse’s creation that among its features encourages people to interact with people of all backgrounds and by getting to know each other as individuals breakdowns stereotypes. Through all the housing being mixed income and using community design concepts that bring people together Rouse encouraged people to interact with each other. Now we may complain and joke about some of these community design concept, such as not allowing private swimming pools, but how many friendships grew as kids played together at the community pools. And yes, the cluster mailboxes only brought people together when people’s mail ends up in each other boxes and neighbors have to bring the misdirected mail to each other. But other concepts like the fenceless yards encouraged some great neighborhood football games and movement and interaction of people. And of course one of the most successful of concepts of the Interfaith Meeting Houses, that welcomed and encouraged the interaction of people of different faiths. These are all small items, but together Rouse used them to build an experience that encouraged kids to interact and growing up knowing people as individuals and weakening stereotypes.

Yet, how will future development plans affect the further progress of the breaking down of stereotypes? The proposed 22 story condo building for the Lakefront is proposed to have half million to a million dollar condos and a private pool on the top level. Not only is this not mixed income, but by including a private pool it further breaks down one of the traditional mixing devises Rouse used to breakdown stereotypes and build community.

Let us continue to plan our community to reach Martin Luther King’s dream:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.


Blogger Ken Stevens said...

Indeed, Columbia did play a significant role in moving Howard County toward the kind of society contemplated by Martin Luther King, Jr. As is apparently well known, Jim Rouse created and proclaimed it as the kind of place that would be open to all comers and the kind of people who moved into the new planned community in the first few years of its existence had quite an impact on what was then a fairly segregated society. Of all things, the state still had an anti-miscegenation law on the books until sometime after the first people moved in. The schools were desegregating one grade at a time during the mid-60s. There was also discrimination in public accommodations (like restaurants and motels) and in housing. Rouse's vision ran contrary to all that and a lot of the newcomers seemed to be moving in because they wanted to live in a place that tolerated their differentness even within their marriages.
I had been in Howard County since 1961 and within a short time joined the county NAACP to help in the anti-discrimination struggle. I remember well that some of us were at an NAACP Executive Board meeting when we heard that Dr. King had been shot. You can imagine what that news did to the group of us.
At any rate, the influx of open-minded and tolerant newcomers to Columbia brought significant reinforcements to the struggle and the path toward the dream was made a lot easier.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Ken, thanks for sharing. I think many in our county are unaware how much our county has changed and how great an impact Columbia (both its design and the people it inspired to move here) had on making the county what it is today. Those who lose sight of the mechanisms Rouse used to achieve this are undermining the great progress that have been achieved.

11:27 PM  
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5:34 AM  

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