Linda Harris first got a book on Harriet Tubman as a little girl from her dad. It sat on the bookshelf for a long time until 2020.
“I think it was the events of 2020 that really changed things for me. I was taken aback by the senseless killings by police officers. I felt depressed as if my freedoms had been taken away.”
Her Harriet Tubman book seemed to glow on her bookcase, so she picked it up to re-read. She was just an hour and a half from the Harriet Tubman Museum. So she took the drive and met the host at the visitors center who shared more with her about the underground railroad.
Linda felt inspired to walk like Harriet in search of her freedom and she got 7 other women to walk with her.
“We walked with Harriet in spirit the 156 miles from Cambridge to Philadelphia.”
Her first walk was such a success that she planned another event walking from Selma to Montgomery - a total of 84 miles.
Now the next group is training for her next walk from Cambridge to Kennett square. Kennett square is where Harriet Tubman knew she was free in 1849. She had crossed into freedom almost 43 miles early when she crossed into Delaware, but hadn’t been sure of it.
Now walkers from as far as Chicago are training to walk with her on this journey.
The group will walk 20 miles a day with a logistics team, with water and snacks on hand to help them. At night they stay in hotels along the route. The plan is to start in the morning, walk 10 miles, take a break, and then walk 10 miles in the evening.
“On the initial walks, we developed such a sisterhood talking about life, the journey, and ancestors. So then you forget about the walk.”
Linda wasn’t always a long-distance walker; she started to train with 3 miles a day and increased to 5, then 10, and 15.
“If you train 3 days a week on longer walks that tends to be enough. Plus the walk is not a race. Everyone comes and does the part of the walk they can. Its focus is on inclusion.”
Linda isn’t just walking the walk she decided to make her walk of freedom her lifestyle. She moved to Cape May and started working for the Harriet Tubman museum.
“My mission is to make sure that the little museum building built out of the spirit of activists to Harriet Tubman stays there and keeps its mission of promoting freedom.”
Linda finds walking very therapeutic and freeing.
“I’m a senior citizen now but walking is the most healthy thing to do. Most people who can walk just need a good pair of shoes. Walking then clears the mind, heart, and soul. It allows me to be in nature and I feel like I'm connecting with my ancestors and ever more present to what they endure.”
By finding Harriet in herself she feels changed forever, even though she’s only done one small segment of what Harriet did.
“Everything we need is inside of us. We need to practice learning who we are and what our purpose is. To do that you have to follow your passions so we can share what we have with others.”
Harriet Tubman walked to freedom and that wasn’t enough for her; she wanted to help others to freedom as well. Now Linda is following in her footsteps and helping others to find freedom in their minds and souls through walking and self-discovery.
“The walk is really about finding out who you are. I’m glad I have found that at this stage.”
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Since its Texas origins in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States. The holiday serves to commemorate African American freedom by emphasizing education and achievement. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing across the country. It is the perfect opportunity for people of all races to join together to acknowledge a period in American history that shaped and continues to influence society today.
Currently, the Senate has passed a bill to make Juneteenth an official holiday though the measure needs to pass in the House and be signed by President Biden in order to become an official law.
On Juneteenth, Linda will be at Kennett square with other like-minded individuals celebrating an important part of history by reading to kids, and imparting the knowledge she’s gained about her ancestors to others.
“Juneteenth is part of our American history. We get pigeonholed that our history is separate. Our history is American history. As more people become aware or become woke. I think we are going to see more movement as we embrace our history. It is what shapes us."
If you are interested in learning more about Juneteenth and celebrating the holiday, join the discussions on GetSetUp June 19th.
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