CAMBRIDGE — Dancing, ceremony, speeches, discussion and fellowship marked this town’s very first “Day of Resilience” Saturday, Sept. 7 — a day that commemorates the 400th anniversary of the Atlantic Slave Trade with the watchwords return, reconcile, reunite and rejoice.
The day started at the Dorchester County Courthouse at noon where a crowd responded to a drum call and pouring of libations. Prayers, comments and performances were enjoyed, given by Pastor V. L. Cornish, Adrian Holmes, Donald Pinder, Chaniece Holmes, CoTina Murray, Suzette Prittchet and Baba Ademola.
The crowd joined in for a processional walk “The Healing Journey” from the courthouse to the Harriet Tubman Museum & Educational Center on Race Street.
Front and center was the large, new Harriet Tubman mural that covers one side of the museum and educational center.
Tubman is the legendary Dorchester County slave who escaped in 1849 but subsequently made at least 13 missions back to lead many more to freedom, including family and friends. She later worked as an abolitionist, army scout and spy and for women’s suffrage. Tubman has been frequently called the “Moses” of her people.
In the mural a much larger-than-life Tubman reaches down and offers the viewer her hand to lead them to freedom. A photo of a child touching the mural Tubman’s hand went viral on the internet last month.
Part of the Day of Resilience activities was the dedication of the mural and ribbon cutting. The dedication included a performance by “A Master’s Peace” African Dance Ensemble to drums, and a rousing solo by Renna McKinney.
Executive Director of the Dorchester Center of the Arts Barbara Seese said she read about Harriet Tubman when she was a little girl.
“But it would take another 50 years before I learned my 6th great grandfather Aminidab was enslaved on the plantation of Colonel Southy Littleton in Accomack Virginia,” she said. “I don’t know if a hand of strength, offering freedom, was ever extended to him.”
The mural was commissioned in 2018 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Maryland State Arts Council as a part of the Arts Across Maryland initiative. Project partners were Alpha Genesis CDC, and the Harriet Tubman organization.
Seese also thanked Cambridge Main Street for additional funding, and Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley and the City of Cambridge for support.
Muralist Michael Rosato became emotional when it was his turn to speak.
“I was so proud to be asked to paint this.” he said. “She’s truly an American hero.”
Also speaking was Liesel Fenner of the Maryland State Arts Council.
The afternoon of “A Day of Resilience” had multiple events happening simultaneously. After lunch that was provided by Humble Hearts Catering, the crowd dispersed to several venues.
At the Cambridge Marina, the 7th Annual Remembrance Ceremony memorialized those lost at sea during the “middle passage,” the journey that Africans endured in the hold of a slave ship between Africa, Europe and the Americas. Libations were poured on the water.
At the Waugh United Methodist Church on High Street, there was a town hall meeting featuring keynote speaker Dr. Julius Garvey and Dr. Djibril Diallo, PhD London, President & CEO of the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network, Inc.
Three ambassadors from Africa were featured on a panel: Ambassador Monica N. Nashandi, Embassy of the Republic of Namibia; Ambassador Frederic Edem Hegbe, Embassy of the Republic of Togo; First Counselor Honorable Alpha Konate, Embassy of Mali spoke as honored guests.
Their presentation was the first of a three-part effort, the 2019 Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series, that will conclude with two events held in Washington, D. C. later this year. The series is sponsored by the Constituency for Africa (CFA).
Others who spoke on Saturday included the Rev. Johnathan Weaver, pastor of Greater Mt. Nebo AME Church in Bowie; Ambassador Robin R. Sanders, President of FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative and the former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Congo and to Nigeria; Izmira Aitch, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.); Dr. Runoko Rashidi, anthropologist and historian with Global African Presence; Dr. Nemata Blyden, author, “African Americans & Africa – A New History;” and Melvin P. Foote, President of the Constituency for Africa (CFA).
Presentations included those by Jeannine B. Scott, Chairman of the Board of Directors, CFA; Adrian Holmes of AlphaGenesis CDC; Mary Turner of the Harriet Tubman Underground Visitor Center; Walter Black of the Frederick Douglass Honor Society; Rip Cornish, freshman at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School; Dr. Julius Garvey, son of the legendary Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey; LaShon Foster of Cambridge City Council; Rev. James Whitaker of Waugh United Methodist Church; and Tony Regusters, broadcast producer and documentary film maker.
Dignitaries attending included Harriet Tubman relatives and descendants; representatives from the City of Cambridge council; Dorchester County Council; Dorchester Chamber of Commerce; Sen. Chris Van Hollen(D-Md.)’s office; Rep. Andy Harris’ (R-Md.-1st) office; Maryland Delegates Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot and Chris Adams R-37B-Wicomico; Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore; Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson Stanley and many more.
Late in the afternoon, some participants took a tour at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitors Center, about a 20 minute drive from Cambridge, then joined others back in town for “The Gathering” at Cannery Way. Performers there included spoken word artist Christie Camper, Harriet Tubman reinactor Christine Dixon, soloist Suzette Prittchet and many others.