Love Thy Neighbor - Eric and Harriette Lowery
The needs of a neighbor often can feel like the needs of family and friends if you grew up in one of the communities on the Mid-Shore.
Everyone has the ability and desire to give in different ways, whether it is donating money; giving your time through volunteering; lending your shoulder or a listening ear; cooking or delivering meals to those in need; or lending your voice to a cause you are passionate about.
Eric and Harriet Lowery of Unionville have lent their voices and their time to causes passionate to them since the 1970s, the couple said. Harriet said much of their philanthropic efforts are rooted in giving their time, as well, and focusing on the power of knowledge and history, because she finds it to be a more fulfilling way of giving back.
Harriet was born and raised in Easton and left when she was 14 and moved to Baltimore. In 1998, she and Eric moved to Unionville.
“I think it's important that we be an example — a good example — for the community, and for young people, especially,” Harriet said. “And hopefully that's what we're doing, because that's the goal for us.”
Eric said he and Harriet began their relationship in 1970 with a discovery of Black history. It was through their research and reading about Black history that they became involved in community action committees that were doing things to help African-American community members, he said.
Giving people knowledge and history has been an important part of their humanitarian deeds. Eric said Harriet was instrumental in the research and telling of the story of the 18 African-American Civil War soldiers and founding members of Unionville laid to rest in the small cemetery there.
Eric said Harriet grew up seeing the struggles and needs of African-Americans in Baltimore.
“We know our people in that type of environment, and we see a need for volunteerism to help out in any way that we can,” Eric said. “This same thought process came with us to the Eastern Shore and we gradually got involved in different community organizations.”
Eric, a Vietnam veteran, also is the first vice president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 648 in Easton, as well as a member of both Veterans of Foreign War posts in Easton; Post 5118 and Post 77. He also works with the Talbot County Historic Preservation Commission and is a Talbot Mentor, giving his time and providing guidance to local children. The Lowerys both belong to the Talbot County NAACP branch.
Eric and Harriet echoed a sentiment of Frederick Douglass': “It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.”
“What do we need to do to create a better future for our people and the people that we live with — the whole society?” Eric said. “I think that's why we're so embedded in carrying on the legacy of Frederick Douglass. Because Frederick Douglass stood for equality for all people, and when you free all people, you free your own, and yourself.”
Harriet said their work in the community led to co-founding the Frederick Douglass Honor Society with the American Legion Post 77 in Easton, the Talbot County branch of the NAACP and the Samuel T. Hemsley Elks Lodge 974 in Easton.
Eric said the society began in 2009 out of frustration that the project to erect a statue of Frederick Douglass outside the Talbot County Courthouse had stalled. The organization since has grown to include artists, teachers, and activists who are passionate about the legacy of Frederick Douglass. Eric said the group drummed up support in the community for the statue, and held fundraisers to help fund its creation.
“It was very important to us to have people understand that (Frederick Douglass) is not an African-American hero, but an American hero … So that we can all share in the legacy that he left … and everybody be proud of that,” Harriet said.
The statue was unveiled June 16, 2011, on the Talbot County Courthouse lawn. The statue represents Douglass' return to Talbot County in 1878, and the speech he gave on the courthouse green.
Harriet also has been on the board of the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area, on the board of the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake, and was a local Girl Scout leader.
Harriet said the Frederick Douglass Honor Society has partnered with the state and about 30 other organizations to put on an elaborate celebration of Frederick Douglass' 200th birthday in February 2018.
Eric currently is helping VFW Post 5118 and VVA Chapter 648 to bring a movable replica of the Vietnam Vetarans Memorial to Easton at the end of the May. Every name on the wall in Washington, D.C., will be available on the replica wall.