“I woke up this morning with one of the songs of our ancestors on my mind:
I’m a rolling, I’m a rolling,
I’m a rolling through an unfriendly world!
I’m a rolling, yes, I am rolling
Through an unfriendly world.
O Sister, won’t you help me?
O Sister, won’t you help me to pray?
O Sister, won’t you help me?
Won’t you help me in the service of the Lord?”
Our songs tell us that we knew how to ask our kin for help as we were risking it all to make our way through to freedom. Our kin learned to listen for the sounds of the ones headed to Beulah, to freedom.
What does it sound like when our kin are asking for help today to make it through to freedom? What are the sounds our ears and hearts need to be attuned to if we claim to stand on the shoulders of those whose “vocation” was the Underground Railroad?
I can not hear these songs as just disembodied tunes with meaningless or otherworldly lyrics. And, I think my ancestors would caution me not to think that being able to occupy the same burning houses of the masters whose greed created a world dependent on the subjugation of people, any people, is freedom. Anybody in the business of subjugating is adding another brick on the walls that hold up the world white supremacy, patriarchy, colonialism, and slavery made. I ain’t free until we are all free.
I don’t want a world that just replaces those powers with their cousins. I don’t want my grandchildren’s world to look back at me, tracing the contours of the chains I placed on someone else.
I believe another world is possible.
So, this morning I woke up with a determination to keep on rolling through.
To pray – to keep watch in God’s direction.
To stay in the “service of the Lord” – the work of liberation.
To own my vocation.
I am the Underground Railroad.
“There is a lot of embedded symbolism within the narrative of the piece. The contours of the base represent the Maryland/Delaware Peninsula, where Harriet was enslaved, eventually escaped, and continued to return for her freedom raids. The dramatic step up/cut is the Pennsylvania state line, and they are stepping out of the slave states to an elevated freedom. The wind illustrates the peril of the journey but is also a metaphor for the intense opposition she faced. The dress is enveloping the girl, billowing protectively like a flag, and is meant to represent all of the legal protections afforded every United States citizen-a symbol of the future equality to come. Each hand signifies an attribute, Determination, Protection, Fear, and Trust. The Union military coat represents Harriet’s time in South Carolina raiding plantations and bringing the freed slaves back to Union occupied Beaufort.” (Artist – Wesley Wofford)
One reply on “I Am The Underground Railroad”
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