The Montgomery County Council celebrated Black History Month with a commemoration Tuesday.
This year’s theme is Black resistance. Councilmember Will Jawando said he thinks it is one of the most important Black History Months in a long time.
“Black history is under attack at this very moment,” he said. He mentioned recent actions by the Governor of Florida to challenge an AP African American studies course.
“Black history is American history,” Councilmember Gabe Albornoz said. “And there are policymakers around this country that would do well to remember that. We will never forget that here in Montgomery County.”
“For this year’s Black History Month theme, resistance, I am so proud to be here as the first Black woman and first of Jamaican heritage to be elected as a councilmember at-large in Montgomery County, Maryland,” said Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles.
She noted the importance of political representation.
“Having a seat at the table offers the ultimate form of resistance, as it guarantees the voice of the communities who are leading the resistance are represented,” Sayles said.
This year’s theme “recognizes African Americans’ resistance to historic oppression in the pursuit of self-determination and equality,” Council President Evan Glass said.
Councilmember Dawn Luedtke said she is grateful to live in a community that recognizes and celebrates Black history and “does not try to bury the past.”
Councilmember Kristin Mink recognized her and the council’s responsibility to ensure they are listening to, engaging with, uplifting and prioritizing marginalized voices, especially the Black community. And especially, she added, at a time like this when Black history and the community are “absolutely and unquestionably under attack.”
Council Vice President Andrew Friedson noted the celebration was taking place in the county council building, where a jail once stood and where two Black men were held before a mob took and lynched them in the late 1800s.
“Not lost on us that we carry on that legacy,” Friedson said, and also the legacy of people like Josiah Henson, county councilmembers and community leaders who continue resistance in the face of “unthinkable adversity and challenge.”
Councilmember Marilyn Balcombe said it is the council’s responsibility “to continue to resist oppression and to ensure equity in all realms including our thriving economy.”
Councilmember Natali Fani-Gonzalez noted disproportionate student performance rates by race.
“It’s not about warming up the seat and saying that I’m here, it’s about really making a difference and making a change,” Gonzalez said.
“So, while we celebrate today the amazing contributions the Black community has made here in Montgomery County…we also have to own the work that needs to be done to address the built systems that have excluded Black residents from opportunities and have created disparities,” said Councilmember Kate Stewart.
Councilmember Sidney Katz said he has been involved in Montgomery County since public schools integrated up-county in 1956. Of all the celebrations he has been part of over the years, he said the Black History Month commemoration is “one of the best — perhaps it is the best that I remember.”
Community leaders also made remarks, including Emory Grove United Methodist Church Pastor Rev. Timothy Warner, Historic Emory Grove Rotary Club President Carolyn Taylor, Former Chapter President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Kenneth Clark and Chapter President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Michelle McNeil Gill.