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Q&A: How has Howard County's diversity shaped your perspective?

Three prominent Howard Countians explain how the county's commitment to diversity has opened up their lives.

Alicia Graf Mack

Director of the Juilliard Dance Division

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Alicia Graf Mack says that growing up in Howard County provided her with a safe place where she felt comfortable “being a young bi-racial ballerina with big dreams.”

Alicia Graf Mack
Alicia Graf Mack

Her big dreams have turned into reality with stints as a visiting assistant professor of modern dance technique at Webster University in St. Louis, an adjunct dance professor at the University of Houston, and a former leading dancer for Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

“As an adult, I aspire to share that same sense of generosity with the world, having experienced how human decency and love can inspire someone to achieve their fullest potential,” she says.

Linell Jackson

Linell Ellis handbag designer

Linell Jackson, a native of Columbia whose handbags have been featured in movies and TV shows and carried by celebrities such as singer Elle Varner and model Liris Crosse, credits her upbringing with her ability to maneuver through society.

Linell Jackson poses for a photo with one of her Linell Ellis handbags at her home in Columbia, MD on Thursday, December 8, 2016.
Linell Jackson poses for a photo with one of her Linell Ellis handbags at her home in Columbia, MD on Thursday, December 8, 2016. (Jen Rynda)

“Columbia has played a big part in how I view race in the world. Everyone co-existed peacefully,” she says.

“That’s how I grew up. ... I learned from an early age that everyone in Columbia was special because we were building an environment that was meant to be diverse, so any outlook on life had that lens. It has a huge positive impact on my world view.”

Allan H. Kittleman

Former Howard County Executive

Allan H. Kittleman, a lifelong resident of Howard County, is no stranger to race relations. His late father, Robert H. Kittleman, was the president of the Howard County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Kittleman, who now works as a gubernatorial appointee on the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission, attributes his approach to race to three things growing up in Howard County.

“I was raised by a Howard County civil rights leader who taught me the importance of equal rights,” he says. “At the suggestion of my high school teacher, I took [a] black history [class] in my sophomore year where I gained an appreciation for the struggle for equality and justice. Third, growing up with Columbia (I was 9 years old when Columbia was established), I experienced first hand a community that valued inclusiveness and diversity."

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