In 2015, I had an overwhelming unction to research the life of Harriet Tubman. I saw a status on Facebook and it resonated with me more than any status ever has done before. During that time, we were in the middle of an upcoming election year and my mind was overloaded with my work as an educator, writer, and creative. What could I do to calm my restless mind and unsettled heart? When I read these words in the comment section, it blew my mind. It said, “In times like these, I think to myself, what would Harriet do?” What would Harriet do? Would she speak out? Would she run? Would she face her fears and charge towards the centuries old fight with freedom and injustice? All of these ideas were perplexing to me. They seemed dated and beyond my reach as a human in this modern world. I mean, if she spoke out, what would she say? And if she ran, where would she go? This isn’t the age of physical shackles and chains. We are seemingly free. How much more unbridled and unrestrained could I be?
So, I decided to read more about Harriet. I discovered her love for her family, and daughter Gertie. I journeyed to Maryland with her; creating marshlands and oak tree lined paths in my mind. It just wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t shake her imprint on my life. Then, I was shocked on what I uncovered next. She was a walker. She walked over 90 miles from the Delaware border to Pennsylvania in 1849! Then, I teared up. I thought I had no immediate connection to Harriet but actually I did. I am a walker like her. Fit like her. In shape like her. I walk from Brooklyn to Queens. From Harlem to Midtown. I walk. Walking frees me. It helps me to connect to the world around me. It’s like I network with nature. It causes me to reflect and humble my constantly moving energy. Not only was I a walker like Harriet, but the thing is, I’m also a part of who she is. My grandmother took a DNA test ( I still need to take my own) and we discovered majority of our ancestors come from Ghana. Harriet Tubman is believed to be of Ghanian descent. She dreams, I dream. She walks, I walk. She’s Ashanti, I too, am Ashanti. These gems made me feel like Harriet and I were best friends, sprinkled with all the black girl magic and literally, family.
Harriet saw things. She was a visionary. She had visions of God leading her to the promised land. I see things too. Sometimes, the melodies and poems in my brain are just too much to handle. But, after reading Harriet’s story, she was hurt by people, doubtful of her journey, and often insecure with the people around her. She kept going, though. I’ve been let down but kept going, no matter what. She inspired me to keep walking and never look back.
Then, to solidify my alignment with Harriet, I saw a TED Talk that floored me. It knocked the breath out of my body for a few seconds. It was T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Harrison speaking about the influence of Harriet Tubman on their health and wellness organization, girltrek. Their most salient point, “When Black Women Walk, Things Change.” When Harriet walked, things changed. When I walk, things change. When you walk, things will change.
This month, I am walking 100 miles in solidarity with girltrek and their 100 mile journey along the Underground Railroad from March 6th to March 10th. Even though, I can’t make the trip, I will be walking for 30 days in the month of March as an homage to Harriet and all the ancestors that came before me. I want to do my small part to affect change.
“I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came up like gold through the trees, and I felt like I was in heaven.”