Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Travelin' with Harriet

Today's post is by Askhari Johnson Hodari

Women's History Month

The train does not wait for the passenger. (Mozambique)

Harriet Tubman


i found the shirt i have with her name on the back. Harriet. The shirt i wore when i ran the marathon. 26.2 miles. When you run a marathon, everyone, thousands of people stand on the sidelines and cheer. These people call your name. i knew if someone, if anyone called me Harriet, i could and would keep going. i knew hearing her name would keep me keeping on. With her name on my back, i would not quit. i kept heading north or south or in whatever direction i was going in. Who knows after more than 11 miles, 17, 21? Harriet knew.

Harriet is a 26.2-mile woman. A 30-mile woman. A thousand mile woman.

She is beautiful to me.

i woulda been her sisterfriend. Kept her secrets. Brushed her hair. Rubbed her temples when those blinding heachaches attacked her. i woulda done something to hurt John Tubman for having another woman in her bed. i’da cut him.

i woulda comforted her. Been her Ben, her Rit, her Marry. Been her more than friend. Her “go with.” Her “road dawg.” i would not have made her wait for me. Not asked her to wait with me. i’da looked for freedom with her.

i woulda learned to read and write just so i could warn her when we saw “wanted posters.” Dead or alive. Tell her `bout the Fugitive Slave Law. `Bout how the entire U.S. government had been called on to chase down and hunt free Blacks. Hooded, apparently mentally impaired, dressed as a man talking in tongues, i’da known Harriet on Saturday night. Told her that no matter how fast or far we ran, they would always be lookin’ for us; and smiled when she put on a disguise and pretended to read the newspaper or pulled a pistol. i’da told her there was nothing in the U.S. worth keeping if we couldn’t be free even though she already knew that. i’da moved to Canada with her, then.

i would not have turned back. Never made her pull her gun. On me?

i’da rubbed her shoeless feet. i’da let her get some sleep with that $40,000 bounty on her head.

She would not have been the only woman, Black or white; free or slave to plan, lead or carry out
an armed expedition against enemy forces during the Civil War. No. i’da been her “next to;” her “go to;” her “can you?”

i’da been real sweet home Alabama nice to Nelson. i’da sat in a rocking chair next to her in her home for ex-slaves with nowhere else to go. i’da told her she was better than Moses.

Lawd, Lawd, Lawd, i have always loved her.

i’da felt for moss as we escaped. i would not have let a woman only five feet tall walk through the dark looking for the North Star alone.

She was alone. Following the North Star. Heading somewhere free, on foot.

"I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scared, and foot-sore bondmen and women, who you have led out of the house of bondage and whose heartfelt `God bless you’ has been your only reward. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witness of your devotion to freedom." –Frederick Douglass to Harriet Tubman, August 28, 1868

Araminta “Minty” Ross.

What manner of woman is this?


Kristi Bernard said...

This is awesome. Thanks for posting it. I had never seen this documentary.

(im)perfect_black ☥☥☥ said...

Excellent post. I can never read enuf about this courageous woman. GI

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

Kristi, thanks for stopping by. I am grateful to those who keep Harriet's memory alive, as in that documentary - what a woman!



Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

(im)perfect black, thanks much for visiting my blog and sharing your admiration for Harriet. What an example of courage and determination!




When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at