Some of you may not know this but Howard County just suffered a big loss. A woman by the name of Wylene Burch just succumb to her illness on Wednesday evening. She was a class act. She was my sorority sister. But more significantly she was a respected African-American historian.
Wylene was one of the biggest champions of the African-American History Fair held nearly every February at Columbia Mall. I remember when she would ask for a minute of time during our sorority meeting in January to try and recruit people to man our chapter’s table. “I’m gonna send this sign up sheet around. We gotta keep this thing going Sorors,” she would say. And by ‘we’ she didn’t just mean our sorority. She meant ‘we’ as in African-Americans in Howard County. Don’t get me wrong. Her intentions were never to make Black History exclusive. Wylene was all about pride. She loved our rich heritage. Her pride and deep appreciation for her roots led her to become the founder of the Howard County Center for African-American Culture. And she didn’t stop with a Black History Fair. She also coordinated a talent showcase at Howard County Community College in the Spring to encourage us to support the youth and invest in our future. See? Still keeping this thing going.
When an elder in the African-American community talks about being proud of our history, it kinda pumps us up. It’s just the kind of encouragement we young people need to hear to regroup ourselves. It grounds us to hear about how far we’ve come, how much we have endured, and how our history and culture has been an integral part of the shaping of America. When Wylene made her request for volunteers at the Black History Fair we would all scramble our brains to rearrange our Saturday schedules and make time to man that table if for no other reason but to “keep this thing going”.
I will miss her dearly. There will never be another one like her. But don’t you worry. She has instilled plenty of pride and appreciation for our culture in the young folks of Howard County. We will keep this thing going for a very long time.
I highly encourage you to read more about this county gem in this article from The Beacon and this one from the Baltimore Sun. There will be a gala at Savage Mill on October 24, 2014 to celebrate her birthday. I will post the deets as soon as I know more. Hope you can make it.