As we kick off Black History Month, I’m reminded of the opportunity I had in 2006 to speak at the dedication of the Harriet Tubman statue in Bristol, PA. Because of her, I know that each and everyone one of us is made up of some pretty tough stuff. Often our unfounded fears are the only thing in the way of being free – free to pursue our unique purpose and unfettered happiness.
I have admired and been inspired by the life and work of Harriett Ross Tubman since I learned about her at the age of 8. Her vision, courage and self-discipline have always inspired me to push through my fears and reach for my dreams. Because of the way she lived her life, I know that I am free. I hope that you will choose to look at her life and see the amazing lessons in living that she offers to all of us.
Harriet Tubman was not defined by who others thought she was or what society said she was. She decided who she was. She didn’t let circumstances or other people’s fears define her life. She decided who she was and she decided that she was free.
The circumstances of her life, the adversities she lived through and the adversities she was likely to face made her stronger and all the more determined to pursue her vision of liberty and freedom. So I say to you, no matter what the circumstances of your life or the challenges and hardships you face, know that you are free.
The facts of Harriet Tubman’s life were no match for her vision, courage, self-discipline and her relationship with God. The facts that you and I might see were that she was a slave, she was black, she was a woman, she was poor and she was handicapped. She had no friends, she was betrayed by her husband, she was illiterate and she traveled by the dark of night through rivers, streams, forests, up and down mountains. She slept on the ground and ate what strangers gave her. She didn’t know who to trust. She had no human being to rely on other than herself and the few strangers who would choose to help her. Yet, she knew that she was free. She knew that she had a right to liberty and freedom and to determine her own destiny.
Born into bondage, into slavery, she decided who she would be. She not only defined her own life, she helped others find their way to a life of liberty and freedom. You and I must do the same, we must know that we are free…free to dream big…free to fulfill our dreams. Like Harriet Tubman you and I have a right to liberty and freedom and to define our own destiny. We must always remember that we are free.
So think about Harriet Tubman’s self-determined freedom when you’re feeling bound up by the circumstances of your life. When you are feeling alone, afraid, abandoned, without resources, remember Moses, General Tubman, the conductor of the underground railroad. Think about her life – her pursuit and achievement of liberty and freedom – and know that you too are free.