A Reflection for Black History Month

By Rev. Lamar Bailey

’Twant me, ’twas the Lord. I always told him, “I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me,” and he always did. ~Harriett Tubman~

Since I was a child, one my favorite heroes was Harriett Tubman. I have always shared my love for and fascination with Harriett Tubman with my children. A few months ago, my wife and I took our elementary age daughters to see the movie Harriet. The theater was packed with people from all over the world, with different backgrounds, both young and old. They all came to see a movie about an incredible enslaved woman who escaped to freedom and returned numerous times to lead others to freedom. The movie was both agonizing and hopeful. At the end of the movie, this diverse audience all stood and applauded; some were moved to tears.

I could not help but wonder what Harriet Tubman would have thought about the movie and about the reach of her story. I think she would have been amazed that her story and actions resonate with and bring hope to so many different kinds of people. And beyond that, I think she would have been positively shocked by my family as well as so many other diverse families in America today. My immediate and extended family does not look like a lot of families in this country. European Americans, African Americans, bi-racial, Black, working class are just some of the ways members of my family self-identity. I think Mrs. Tubman would be amazed at the sight of my two thriving and educated young girls, not to mention a Latina bishop. More than she expected and hoped for.

This past month, many awe inspiring Black figures in American history are rightfully lifted up and honored. However, many of the uncelebrated heroes are often forgotten or overlooked. In my personal experience, heroes are the folks who have passed as well as those who are alive today who have had an impact on my life. In particular, I am thankful for people like my mom, dad, and grandparents. My mom and dad scarified a great deal so that my sister and I might thrive and love. In word and deed, they showed us how to stand up for ourselves and others, the importance of self-love, and to trust that God leads in hard times. My grandfather always, always, demonstrated the power of personal bible study and how to stay out of trouble. My family heroes showed me how to navigate the challenges of being a person of color in our society with a spirit of love and hope and at the same time speak out against injustice.

Yet as Black History month comes to a close, it’s possible to look around and see the continued legacy of slavery and bigotry. Still today, communities are held in economic bondage and are the targets of hate. Now is not the time to lose hope, but a time to trust God to lead. Mrs. Tubman reminds every generation and all people that what seems impossible can be possible. I give thanks to God for all the saints who have prepared the way for me, my family, and all who are oppressed. Let us continue to pray for our nation and congregations and for a deeper awareness of racism and poverty. May our days in the coming months be equally filled with hope and signs of God’s promises and leading.

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