Day 2 - 28 Love Letters to Black Women
This Black History Month, I am sharing 28 stories of Black women who shaped me and showed me the way towards liberation. Because Black women are often not cited for their ideas, I thought this would be one way to give flowers to those who influenced me.
For Day 2, I thought I'd share how the life and story of Harriet Tubman has shaped me and what I think about collective liberation. If you grew up in the US, you might have learned in school that Harriet Tubman is one of the most famous conductors of the Underground Railroad. Harriet was born enslaved in Maryland by the Anthony Thompson family. After finding her way to freedom in Philadelphiain her 20s, Harriet returned to Maryland to guide her family and others to freedom. She made 13 trips and helped ~70 enslaved people find their path to freedom. Harriet Tubman was also a Union Scout during the Civil War and was the first woman to lead an armed assault that freed more than 750 enslaved people.
I am grateful for what Harriet Tubman's story has taught me about collective liberation. We are often taught her story as one of a single hero. Harriet was definitely one of the most heroic figures in history, but like every other hero there were others who helped her along the way. While Harriett was enslaved, an overseer threw a 2 lb metal weight at her head, which caused a head injury that would shape the rest of Harriet's life. As a result of this injury, Harriet would have dreams and visions about escaping to freedom - it was these dreams and visions and her deep faith in God that guided her path. In one of these visions before she escaped to freedom, Harriet saw herself trying to fly to freedom but not having enough energy to fly all the way to liberation. Harriet dreamed of women who would create spaces of shelter, comfort, and care for her to allow her to rest as she made her way to freedom. When Harriet did make her way to freedom, and on her subsequent trips to guide others to find freedom, she was aided by people who provided shelter and food, warned her of blocked paths, and ensured that those who escaped slavery would be set up for a new life in the North. The Underground Railroad was truly an act of solidarity for collective liberation. https://nmaahc.si.edu/explore/stories/harriet-tubman
When we create spaces of refuge and care for each other, we can find our way to freedom. I truly believe in the power of acting in solidarity with each other in pursuit of our collective liberation. I've been lucky to have other women create spaces of shelter for me during my career. From the boss who protected my time off for rest fiercely to the consultant that came to my aid to advocate for me when I was being racially harassed at work, I've experienced first hand how the cover of solidarity has helped me to move towards my own freedom.
Image Description: Photograph shows Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) at midlife. She is seated, turned toward the left. One hand rests on the back of a wooden chair, another rests in her lap. Powelson, photographer, 77 Genesee St., Auburn, New York