Gray-Howell Community Engagement Center
The Gray-Howell Community Engagement Center welcomes our community with:
- ADA parking and first-floor accessibility
- Indoor space for workshops, meetings, socials, and more
- Indoor classroom space for our education programs
- An area to prepare and share meals
- A library of books that illuminate our mission
- Four restrooms
- Office and meeting space for the CEI team
- Numerous sustainable design features
- A beautiful view of the farm and gardens!
Honoring Dr. Gray & Mr. Howell
*We are saddened to share that Mr. Howell passed away in early August. CEI is honored by the time we were able to spend building connections with Mr. Howell and send our deepest condolences to his friends and family. His memorial fund is available here. "
As the building-naming donor for this project, "the Reis Foundation was honored to put forth Dr. Vernon Gray and Mr. Sherman Howell's names for the Gray Howell Community Engagement Center at Freetown Farm. These two gentlemen embody community engagement - they’ve spent nearly a century between them building bridges across racial, economic, and cultural divides in the true spirit of Columbia. We’re certain the Center will help cultivate the next generation of citizens to follow in their large footsteps.” - Sabina Taj & Kyle Reis
At age five, C. Vernon Gray began attending political rallies with his parents. He grew up to become Director of Research at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, then chair of the political science department at Morgan State for 14 years, retiring after 35 years as Professor Emeritus. He also taught at five other universities. In 1982, Dr. Gray became the first African-American to be elected to the Howard County Council, and in 1998, he was elected to an unprecedented fifth term (and fourth as Chairman). He has served as the Administrator for the Howard County Office of Human Rights, the Judicial Nominating Task Force; and the Civiletti Task Force, and more. Dr. Gray is the President of the National Association of Counties and chaired the County Committee on Citizens Services and has been a board member for the Community Action Council of Howard County; Howard Hospital Foundation; and the African Art Museum of Maryland and more. Dr. Gray is a Lifetime Member of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and is a member of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. He's the recipient of numerous awards and honors recognizing his leadership and work in public service, including the Distinguished Black Marylander Award. Dr. Gray is married to Reverend Sandra Trice Gray, CAE, and has two adult children, Angela Gray Stango, Michael V. Gray, and a grandson, William Peter Parham.
Sherman Howell grew up in the segregated town of Arlington, Tennessee, marched for civil rights in the 1960s and was one of the organizers of the March on Washington in 1963. When he was looking for where to put down roots in 1971, he prioritized finding a place "that represented equality and respect." When he got to Columbia, he decided to stay. Howell serves as the Vice President of Research and Agenda Planning for the African American Coalition of Howard County. He has served as vice president of the Howard County Chapter of the NAACP and founded their chapter's newsletter, the Commitment. Howell also founded and was the first chairperson of the Howard County Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday Commission. He joined the coalition to convert the former Harriet Tubman High School, the county's first African-American high school, into a community center (now the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center). Howell has made a habit of testifying before state and local governing bodies to make his voice heard on critical issues. He's regularly been quoted by media publications, including the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News, the Baltimore Sun, and The Business Monthly.
deep thanks to our