Atlanta Council Honors one of its Critics, Ben Howard, Senior Advocate
By Patricia “Ma’ma Ajike” Williams, Special to The Atlanta Progressive News
(APN) ATLANTA — The City Council of Atlanta honored one of the strongest thorns in its side on Monday, July 15, 2013, when the Council declared the day to be “Ben Howard Appreciation Day” in the City of Atlanta.
Elected officials, community leaders, and friends gathered in the Atlanta City Hall Chambers for the Full Council Meeting, where Howard received three proclamations.
The proclamations were timed to coincide with Howard’s eightieth birthday, which was Tuesday, July 16.
Atlanta City Councilmember Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large), who presented the City’s proclamation to Howard, described him as “one who speaks truth to power, who is not afraid to go to Caesar and demand that Caesar does well for his people… someone who is not afraid of the halls of power and knows that only when something is demanded of it, will power concede.”
Councilmembers Kwanza Hall (District 2), Natalyn Archibong (District 5), CT Martin (District 10), Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), and Council President Ceasar Mitchell made remarks in honor of Mr. Howard.
Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts (District 2) presented the proclamation from the County. The Commissioner expressed his deep appreciation for Howard serving as his personal representative on Fulton County’s Commission on Elderly Affairs (COEA) where Howard is working to improve the quality of life of senior citizens throughout the county. Pitts told Howard that the Board of Commissioners “could not do what we do without people like you.”
State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta), presented the proclamation in honor of Howard’s birthday. Rep. Thomas then led the group in a spirited singing of the Stevie Wonder version of “Happy Birthday.”
Also attending the ceremony to honor Howard were Ray Abram of Neighborhood Planning Unit R, activist Steve Carr, Atlanta Progressive News Editor Matthew Charles Cardinale, Melinda Isreal of QLS, Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education candidate Anne McKenzie, Jim Schneider of the Atlanta Planning and Advisory Board, activist Ron Shakir, Jawara Uzachi of the Purpose Driven Men of QLS, and Patricia “Ma’ma Ajike” Williams, the present writer.
Many spoke of their love and appreciation for having been touched by Howard’s spirit, love, and commitment, which has inspired and motivated them for be more responsible citizens in this Republic.
Howard–who was surprised by the proclamation, which has been in secret planning for two years–made the following comments: “So I guess my task tonight is to write a letter to President Obama…”
“President Obama, I know you have a need for folks who can engage in a conspiracy, who can be sworn to secrecy, who can dig up information that you had long forgotten, you can get rid of the Secret Service, the FBI, all those folks, just hire these people,” Howard said.
“And I’m gonna have to double-check myself, since you mentioned eightieth birthday, about my own naivete. I’m sitting here watching all these faces and talking to all these people from my NPU, from all these places, and I’m tyring to figure out how can I have them all here at the same time? This has never happened in eighty years. Quite a coincidence,” he said.
“I want to say thank you for folks for this. I will cherish it, and as Council President Ceasar Mitchell said, I will continue to do my duty,” he said.
Howard served in the United States Army during the Korean conflict in the early 1950s; earned a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Speech from California State College at Los Angeles; and earned a Master’s degree in multidisciplinary studies including Administration and Education from the University of California, Irvine.
Howard worked with North American Rockwell, served as a Union Steward, created a Black Workers Alliance, and helped organize the first Civil Rights Strike in Los Angeles, California in the 1960s.
Howard served on the Board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles Advisory Committee, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Jackson, Mississippi.
Howard has had a successful career in the aerospace industry, as a computer technology instructor, and as a federal employee for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Howard has served as a senior advocate since his arrival in Atlanta as a retiree in 1997, including leadership roles with the Council On Aging, Tri-Cities Seniors and Law enforcement Together (SALT) Council, and the AARP Chapters for Ben Hill and East Point.
Howard has taken an active role in his community including active participation with NPU R and the Concerned Citizens of NPU R; and serving as Chair of the Committee on Committee on Council for the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board.
Howard has also served in leadership capacities with the Purpose Driven Men of QLS, and East Point Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC), and is an active member of Georgia STAND-UP.
Howard has been a frequent citizen participant in meetings of the Atlanta City Council and its Committees, where he has been an effective and compelling advocate for affordable housing, transparency, public engagement, and many other issues.
A video of the Ben Howard’s Appreciation Day and Birthday Celebration can be viewed on the APN website here: