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Celebrating Black History

Zach Sparks
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February 13, 2018

Traditions And Storytelling Remain Keys To Preserving The Past

As a pastor, a former radiologist and an umpire for rec league baseball, the Rev. Jerome Howard lives a purposeful life. But it’s a life that may have been entirely different if not for the influence of his grandfather, the Rev. George White.

A longtime resident of Severna Park and an area known as Town Neck, White was a farmer and the owner of four school busses and a septic tank business. He did lawn care for Skip Carr, the Severna Park real estate agent and community activist. During the summer, White would also undertake odd jobs.

“He taught me how to be honest and earn a dollar,” Howard said of his grandfather, who had 13 grandchildren. “You work hard and don’t swindle anybody. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

Howard took those lessons to heart and he cherished family memories. When asked about the importance of Black History Month, Howard thought of his grandfather. He thought of rabbit hunting with his family on Christmas (all family holidays were celebrated at White’s household). He thought of watching White preach.

“I was amazed how he could hold an audience for 20 to 30 minutes,” Howard recalled. “He was a dynamic speaker. He was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he would jump over the pulpit.”

The Rev. George White was revered for his work ethic, but not to be outdone was his wife, Estella.

“Estella White was the backbone that kept the family together,” Howard said. “Her job was a homemaker, and she would help the Rev. George White in the fields and sell cookies, candy, cake, snowballs, pop, coffee, cocoa and anything she could to help provide for her family.

“My grandmother planted a seed of patience in each of her children and grandchildren,” Howard continued. “She believed that if we pray and ask God, he would answer our prayer when it was the right time, and to love our neighbors no matter what color they were is what she preached to all who would listen.”

That seed of patience would come in handy when Howard was attending radiology school in Sinai Hospital in Baltimore during the infamous 1968 riots.

Each day, he boarded the bus. “I didn’t want to be hit in the back of the head, so I sat in the back of the bus,” he said.

Eventually, he transferred to Anne Arundel General Hospital (now known as Anne Arundel Medical Center) in Annapolis, which had six radiology students, according to Howard, who became the first African-American one.

“I wasn’t liked much; they were prejudiced. One supervisor would call me the N word just about every other day,” recalled Howard, who did garner some support from others. “Dr. [Robert] Frazier, a chief radiologist, appreciated my work ethic.”

He continued his work with nuclear medicine, working at Baltimore Washington Medical Center and other local hospitals. Eventually, he heard a different calling, pastoring at John Wesley United Methodist Church (three years), Mt. Calvary United Methodist Church in Arnold (nine years) and Hope for the Living Ministries (seven years). Through it all, his wife, the Rev. Iva Howard, was by his side and his grandfather’s lessons were ingrained in his mind.

Traditions Help Us Keep History Alive

Having that link to the past is important, said Chris Haley, who works at the Maryland State Archives as director for the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland. “Traditions are just a manifestation of that effort to keep or family history alive and reinforce our own value,” emphasized Haley, who attended the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society’s February meeting at Severna Park United Methodist Church.

Haley teachers people about the practical use of genealogy and celebrating the past. His Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland has a similar purpose.

“The main focus of the study is to bring to life the hundreds of thousands of people who were unknown, who weren’t Frederick Douglass, or Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth,” Haley said.

“If they were citizens in the state of Maryland, we will document their lives and note their existence so they’re not overlooked any more than anyone else with African-American descent, and we can give those people dignity where they can be a Kunta Kinte, and note that they took up time and a space and shared some fellowship.”


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