by Dr. Vatreisha Nyemba
Her plight is ours
The waters from the rivers and the streams must have been cold beyond description. Her journey is ours. She led over 70 human lives (men, women, and children) made in the image of God, through swamps full of mud, blood-sucking slugs, horrid smells, and Lord knows what else towards a life of freedom. We share in her call to humble, courageous servant-leadership. Mysterious sounds in the night, the pounding heat of the sun by day, blood curdling fear, palpable uncertainty, but yet and still hope and determination ran through her veins. Her determination is in our DNA as well. These scenes and experiences run through my mind as I think of the life and legacy of Harriet “Araminta Ross” Tubman (1820-1913). It is almost incomprehensible to me that Mama Moses successfully made at least thirteen (YES 13!!) trips to the confederate south, steeped in chattel slavery, on missions to lead her loved ones out of the grip of oppression and degradation of their very humanity.
Let’s remember and honor her. Let’s embrace the reality that many of her strengths also lie within us. Let’s recognize that her plight remains active in the daily work and service we render within our neighborhoods everyday. Let’s say her name and be encouraged!
Her strength is ours
As we reserve space for honoring women past and present this Women’s History Month, I invite you to join me in remembering and honoring Mama Moses. There is no end to what we all can draw from her exemplary life. As a woman of color, I smile and release warm soothing tears of Godly pride that swell up from a fountain deep within myself when I think of the lived experiences of my brown skinned ancestor, Harriet Tubman. These sentiments were intensified as I sat and watched the two hour biopic dedicated to her surreal life (Harriet, 2019). I am inspired to espouse the reality that some of what Mama Moses was made of lives within me today. I invite all of my sisters (honestly brothers too), no matter what your ethnicity, to know that by the grace, goodness, and plan of God, Harriet Tubman’s dynamic courage, amazing resilience, and tremendous love all lie within you as well.
The wind beneath her wings is ours
I am challenged to adequately gather the words to express what happens to my spirit, soul, and body when I think about how Mama Moses demanded her God-given freedom (she said “NO!” to the bondage of slavery) and served up a buffet of unrelenting love by risking her life time and time again for the wellbeing of others. As if this tremendous resume of escaping slavery and being an unmatched Underground Railroad conductor isn’t enough, I am further challenged and empowered knowing that Harriet Tubman was also a Union scout and spy, women’s suffragist, founder of a home for aged and indigent colored people, nurse, abolitionist, guerilla soldier, keynote speaker, mother, sister, wife, aunt, friend, and visionary leader. (Learn more about Harriet Tubman here.) The “stuff” that Abba made Harriet Tubman with lives within us as well. For many of my sisters and fellow community leaders we innately wear A LOT of hats. We have vision. We run an unrelenting race to see God’s heart for justice and transformation realized in neglected spaces. We lead teams and we nurture our loved ones. We love hard and we sacrifice for others. May we find encouragement and wind beneath our wings as we remember Harriet.
She is our mother
This Women’s History Month I encourage us all, especially my sisters, to lean into what our foremother has laid out for us and see ourselves in her courage, her God-given strength, her fight, and her action-based love. Let’s honor her in how we live out our journeys and come alongside the journey’s of others. Recognize that while we are first and foremost children of Abba Father, we are also sons and daughters of Mama Harriet’s life and legacy. Let’s say her name; Harriet “Araminta Ross” Tubman (1820-1913). Courageous fighter, lover, resister, and a foremother to us all.
About Dr. Joshua Brockway
Joshua Brockway is director of spiritual formation for the Church of the Brethren. He has taught immersion courses on urban ministry in partnership with Bethany Theological Seminary. He holds a PhD in Early Christian History. He lives in Elgin, Illinois with his wife and four kids. For that last two years, he has worked with the Elgin Police Department on the Citizen’s Task Force on Policing, and has worked to bring Kingian Nonviolence training to the department and the community.