By Terry Ann Williams-Richard

 

A few years ago I saw a post on Facebook with a picture of a park bench and the question: “If you could chat with someone on this bench from the past or present, who would it be?” For some reason Harriet Tubman came to my mind. Yes, that is my choice for this curious conversation. Perhaps this name summoned me because Black History Month is 365 or maybe it’s because the struggle, fight, and dream of FREEDOM is real even today. From the constant questioning of Black lives mattering to the debate of taking a knee or allegiance to the flag, the fight is on. The “Me Too” Movement has many rising up. Scandal after scandal at the real-life 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has the dream under fire. It all “makes you wanna holler and throw up both your hands”. The dis-unity and self-destruction has you feeling if we are not careful, “y’all gonna make me lose my mind up in here”. Like Marvin sang, we are screaming “What’s going on?” The song “Stand Up” from the movie Harriet serves as a clarion call to continue the fight for freedom. The need is imperative to reach back for conversations with our elders for consultation, ways to face challenge, and the courage to act.

I shared the park bench post on my Facebook page and a few friends responded saying they wanted to talk to their parents who were now deceased. One friend even made another post reflecting on the person he wanted to have the chat with…his paternal grandmother. He wanted to get her biscuit recipe. He also talks about how she cooked on a stove without a dial and she never overcooked or under cooked a melt in your mouth, fresher than fresh dish or a meal. I had a phone conversation with a friend who recalled how she use to watch the news reports of the Civil Rights Movement on television in the late 1960s as an eight or nine year old disappointed that she had “missed it”.

What would I ask Miss Harriet Tubman? Miss Harriet, how did you know where to go when there were no roads paved and no streets? How did you know to follow the stars? Where do we go now when today people still spew hatred toward our children? In the classroom, a white teacher tells a young black boy his classmates will form an angry mob and lynch him. In another school a white teacher refers to black children as monkeys. What do we tell and teach the children Miss Harriet? What do we tell them to tell others who don’t seem to know what to call them or us?

This poem came to me in response:

Just Call Me Scholar

I am articulate, brilliant, courageous, determined, empowered, and free,

People often wonder what they should call me.

Just call me scholar.

I have a unique texture to my hair and a sparkling shine to my skin,

I have royal blood and God’s greatness flowing within.

My ancestors and present day elders cloak me with their love it’s true,

This casts out the hatred and false information our enemies spew.

My future is so bright is what my Momma and Daddy always say,

I am using, building, and sharing skills, talents, abilities, and gifts every day.

I make a difference in the world even right now,

My dreams keep getting bigger all I can say is Wow!

I am articulate, brilliant, courageous, determined, empowered, and free,

People often wonder what they should call me.

Just call me scholar,

that’s me!

Copyright 2018, 2020 by Terry Ann Williams-Richard

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