The Equity & Restorative Practices Unit (ERPU) utilizes an equity-centered lens to infuse concepts of equity in the county’s service delivery, decision-making, and resource distributions. ERPU seeks to ensure a shared organizational understanding of racial equity and social justice by supporting departments and staff for transformational change and operationalizing equitable practices, policies, and procedures that result in more fair and just outcomes.   

ERPU honors and stands in solidarity with community members and organizers and all of the people who are agents of equity and racial justice.

Howard County Government is an active member of Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), which is a network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. The GARE framework to normalize, organize, and operationalize will assist in our equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) efforts to establish new norms and catalyze necessary conversations around racial equity.

Seven Core Beliefs that Guides Our Equity and Restorative Practices Work:

  • Learning and Equity Mindfulness. We believe an integral part of equity-centered capacity building is the learning that occurs through service, awareness, and community involvement results in the critical understanding of a person’s lived experience and develops a deeper commitment to justice and empathic engagement.
  • Social and Racial Justice. Our work reflects the vision of a more just working and living community. We seek to address the root causes of social and racial inequity by challenging the personal beliefs and social systems that create it and build meaning collaboratively.
  • Ethic of Service. We believe that each of us has the ability and capacity to influence our local communities, positively and negatively. Therefore, we seek to promote an ethic of equitable services and social responsibility. Through education, reflection, and community partnerships, we provide resources to individuals and groups in their quest to identify and respond to oppression and inequality, to bring about a fundamental change in social systems, and commit to a life-long investment in service and social responsibility.
  • Inclusion Matters. We believe that people impacted by a decision should be engaged in the decision-making process. We actively involve the voices and perspectives of community partners and engage as equal stakeholders.
  • Restorative Practice Framework. We believe that there is no racial justice without restorative practice. By centering a restorative practice framework within service delivery, here is an opportunity for achieving justice that helps restore the dignity of all people involved in a wrong-doing and puts in place a framework to share in mutual human development.
  • Authentic and Diverse Coalitions. We believe that equity is advanced when we identify our commonalities, build upon our strengths and expertise, and engage our differences. Our efforts to build authentic partnerships and coalitions across social, economic, and geographic boundaries and roles are sincere and based on engagement, honest and open dialogue, mutual respect, and a shared vision and goals.
  • Integrity. We believe that our commitment to service and equity mandates that we live our core values and act with respect, honesty, vulnerability, empathy, dignity, and compassion.
Who We Are
Dr. Denise Boston, Equity and Restorative Practices Manager

Denise Boston (she/her/hers), Ph.D., is a respected scholar-practitioner and Howard County Government’s inaugural Equity and Restorative Practices Manager (ERPM), charged with advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the County’s operations and community engagement. As the leading designer of the organization’s evolving EDI framework, Dr. Boston works with staff, leaders, and community stakeholders to refine and build consensus for an overall plan, operationalize its goals and establish metrics to monitor and ensure progress.

Before assuming the ERPM post, she was Dean of Diversity and Inclusion and Professor of Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, California (CIIS). Dr. Boston held a faculty appointment at CIIS from 2009-2019 in the Expressive Arts Therapy master-level program. She has presented at conferences and universities nationally and internationally, and delivered innovative programs anchored in EDI to city governments, public health agencies, and community-based programs, among other entities. Dr. Boston currently is a lecturer and mentor in the Kaiser Permanente Practitioner-Scholars Training Program at Trinity Washington University, teaching ACEs and trauma-informed practices and trauma-informed expressive arts therapy.

Dr. Boston holds a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Walden University, a MA in counseling and psychology from Goddard College, and a BFA in drama from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Alex Na, Equity Program Coordinator

Alex Na (he/him/his) is the Equity and Restorative Practices Program Coordinator in the Office of Human Rights and Equity (OHRE). He actively volunteers at food drives, Easter egg hunts, and community Thanksgiving dinners with his church in Bladensburg to assist the surrounding neighborhoods. He also worked with elementary and middle school students in Baltimore to empower their voices through debates and congressional hearing simulations.

Before joining OHRE, Alex served as the Staff Assistant for Invariant, supporting the firm’s day-to-day operations by assisting visitors, supervising interns’ administrative tasks, and managing office inventory. Alex also interned with Invariant’s Health Care Practice Group, where he provided background memos of Members of Congress and their staff, drafted lists of Congress members on various committees or caucuses, and covered congressional hearings.

Alex worked at the North Korea Desk and for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State. He was the Personnel Security and Insider Threat intern at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). Alex also served as a Teaching Assistant for a conflict management and international development course at the University of Maryland, College Park.

He earned his B.A. in Government and Politics with an International Relations concentration from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Novia Brown, ERPU Intern

Novia Brown (she/her/hers) joins the ERPU as an intern for the 2022-2023 school year because of her interest in social justice and human outreach. Through her internship, she hopes to reference this experience in working for justice as she contemplates her major before attending a four year college next fall. Novia is a senior at Marriotts Ridge High School and is very active in her roles as President of Black Student Union and Treasurer for Sexuality and Gender Alliance. She also exhibits her passion for music through her participation in her school’s gifted and talented choir as well as Tri-M Music Honors Society. She incorporates these interests into her community service through performances at local community events and holiday fundraisers for varying issues. In her free time she enjoys writing songs and reading.


Equity Advisory Committee
About the Equity Advisory Committee

The Equity Advisory Committee is a diverse group of Howard County staff who are committed to helping make Howard County Government a more equitable and inclusive workplace culture and service provider. Our role is to research, inform, guide, and make recommendations to the Equity and Restorative Practices Manager and ERP Unit as it works to enact the Equity Strategic 3-year Plan.

Committee Members
  • Dr. Denise Boston – Chair, Office of Human Rights and Equity
  • Melissa Maloney – Vice Chair, Department of Fire and Rescue
  • Chynáe Vicks – Vice Chair, Department of Health
  • Alex Na – Secretary, Office of Human Rights and Equity
  • Carrie Anderson-Watters – Office of Transportation (year 2)
  • Captain Terrence Benn – Police Department (year 1)
  • Sucora Best – Howard County Local Children’s Board (year 1)
  • Maggie Carnegie – Department of Housing and Community Development (year 1) 
  • Jinal Contractor – Economic Development Authority (year 1)
  • Derrick Harding – Department of Inspections, License, and Permits (year 2)
  • Stephanie Hill – Department of Social Services (year 2)
  • Dean Hof – Office of Purchasing (year 2)
  • Christine Lowe – Department of Public Works (year 1)
  • Victoria Olivier – Department of Planning and Zoning (year 1)
  • Kim Pruim – Department of Recreation & Parks (year 1)
  • Tara Roundtree – Office of Human Resources (year 1)
  • Yolanda Sonnier – Office of Human Rights and Equity (ex officio)
Resources & Glossary
Resources & Glossary

This is a collection of resources for the community. Please explore and engage with content to grow. Racial Equity Analysis has been collected and analyzed locally and provides rich data sources, podcasts, and dynamic stories to share.  


​​Library Brave Voices Brave Choices, Racial Equity Alliance

Racial Equity Tools Glossary; MP Associates, Center for Assessment and Policy Development, and World Trust Educational Services, December 2020.

Kirwan Institute: Implicit Bias Training


When Mindfulness and Racism Intersect with Barry Boyce and Rhonda Magee

“So You Want to Talk About Race” author, Ijeoma Oluo with Lauren Schiller and Ijeoma Oluo

Eyes on Whiteness with Christine Saxman and Shelly Tochluk

Leveling Difference: The Antiracist Struggle for LGBTQ+ Justice with Ibram X Kendi and Don Lemon  

The Rise of Latinx America with Ed Morales

A Life Worthy of Our Breath with Ocean Vuong and Krista Tippett

Going Beyond Accommodations with Kathy Martinex and Judith Heumann

For The Wild with Corrina Gould  

Developing a shared vocabulary: Introduction to Othering, Bridging & Belonging


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