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Alesia Parson-McBean

August 24, 2013|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Alesia Parson-McBean speaks at The Women's Club in Hagerstown in this March 2012 file photo.
File photo

Despite advances in racial equality, the United States has a long way to go 50 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington, former Hagerstown City Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean said.

“I think we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go,” said Parson-McBean, who in 2005 became the first black elected to the city council.

Parson-McBean said it was hard for her to comment on how far the country has come since the Aug. 28, 1963, march because she had not been born at the time of the march and had not experienced conditions before that time.

“The things that have shaped my life have been from the change,” she said. “It’s no longer slavery and/or servitude, but it’s still not equal.”

Parson-McBean pointed to unemployment, the prison population and medical issues as examples of “glaring disparities” that still exist among different races.

“It’s no longer the struggle it was, and these things aren’t going to kill me, but I still live in a country where racial profiling is prevalent,” she said.

Parson-McBean said minority neighborhoods in the city, particularly Jonathan Street, lag behind other areas of Hagerstown in receiving government assistance.

As an example, she mentioned the Martin Luther King Center at 131 W. North Ave., which houses an Early Head Start program. She said that building hasn’t received a proper upgrade in at least 25 years.

In addition, Parson-McBean said she believes that the city of Hagerstown’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Program, which aims to help minorities and women succeed in business through grant funding, has lost steam since she left office in 2009.

She said the program was started with a $350,000 federal grant for which she lobbied in 2008 while she was on the council.

Parson-McBean said the Doleman Black History Museum is another organization that has been neglected since she left the council.

The museum features black-history artifacts that were collected from local homes over a number of decades by the late Marguerite Doleman, who died in 2000 at the age of 79.

During the course of her life, Doleman amassed thousands of items, including slave bills of sale, mid-19th-century quilts that former slaves made to commemorate their freedom and more than 100 buttons that portray civil-rights leaders from Malcolm X to King.

Doleman’s son, Charles “Sonny” Doleman, and family members and friends have been trying to find a more suitable place to show the items by acquiring a separate building to establish a museum.

“There’s a lot of things that have been neglected,” Parson-McBean said. “And why has it been neglected — because there’s no (black) representation at the table.”

Staff writer Caleb Calhoun contributed to this story.

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