UPPER MARLBORO – The Prince George’s County Office of the Sheriff welcomed residents and local government officials to the rear of the County Administration Building for the fifth annual Purple Light Nights lighting ceremony on Oct. 1 to begin Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The event is an opportunity to illustrate the work done by Sheriff Melvin High’s Domestic Violence Intervention Division, which has operated solely to increase awareness regarding the issues and make known the resources available to those in need.
Held on the first day of October to kick off the national month of recognition, the ceremony drew a significant crowd and was heavily attended by law enforcement.
“It is a celebration,” High said. “Building awareness about domestic violence is exactly our goal. This is a celebration of the progress we’ve made over many years in our coming together as a community.”
During the five years of the programs, which provide purple lights to citizens to light up porches and windows in October to shed light on the issue, domestic violence homicide rates have fallen significantly, High said.
Chief Assistant Sheriff Col. Darren Palmer served as master of ceremonies opening the program then giving way to Sgt. Eric Douglas for a moment of prayer and to Deon Best for a stirring rendition of the National Anthem. Upper Marlboro Mayor Tonga Turner offered a welcome address, thanking the audience for showing up and reminding them of the nature of the issue.
“Domestic violence is not just a silent killer, it is a violent killer, one of the leading causes of death in women across the nation,” Turner said. “Domestic violence does not care about your color, your background or ethnicity.”
Rep. Anthony Brown followed Turner and gave a personal anecdote pertaining to her point, detailing the fate of his cousin a decade ago.
A 40-year-old second-grade teacher, Catherine Brown was gunned down in 2008 by an estranged boyfriend. The incident occurred in front of two Montgomery County police officers, who then shot and killed the perpetrator.
“It can happen to any family,” Brown said. “That’s why it’s so important, evenings like tonight, months like October.”
County Executive Rushern Baker, III delivered a keynote speech, focusing on theme of the event, ‘Great things happen when we work together.’ Palmer had explained that this mantra fits perfectly with the scope of the initiative, law enforcement reaching out to residents and them responding by using the purple light bulbs to support awareness of the issue.
As Baker finishes up his eight years in the position, the idea of a community assisting one another appealed to him as a worthy representation of his tenure.
“There couldn’t be a more appropriate theme for me…to end my time as county executive,” Baker said.
Baker then heaped praise on High, as many did during the evening, applauding the work he has done toward eradicating domestic violence in the county.
“For the last eight years, I have not had a better partner than our sheriff,” Baker said. “Whether it was at a cabinet meeting, an impromptu meeting, whether it was about anything, the sheriff was there, willing to roll up his sleeves to do whatever was necessary to move this county forward.”
To close the festivities, Office of the Sheriff Director of Communications Sharon Taylor took to the podium to recognize several distinguished guests who would be honored with Purple Light Bulb awards.
The fifth anniversary of the event spawned the institution of an awards presentation, done to highlight county and regional partners who have helped the cause.
Pepco Region President Donna Cooper received the inaugural Purple Light Bulb award, as her company served as presenting sponsor. Several other honorees followed, including County Executive candidate Angela Alsobrooks, Prince George’s County Police Chief Henry Stawinski and Denise McCain from the P.G. County Family Justice Center.
“Each of them has played a unique and important role in how we have advanced against this crime,” Taylor said. “They are people and organizations to whom we are grateful.”
The group then joined Palmer in counting down from 10, ending with the purple lights surrounding the stage lighting up, signaling the conclusion of the evening.