Inauguración de la estatua “Harriet – El viaje a la libertad'' del escultor Wesley Wofford, Wofford Sculpture Studio. City Hall, North Apron, Filadelfia. (Foto: Cortesía/Mary Luz Marques)

The City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE) unveiled the temporary bronze statue of the American abolitionist “Harriet Tubman –The Journey to Freedom”by sculptor Wesley Wofford, Wofford Sculpture Studio, this past January 11th to celebrate Black History Month, Women’s History Month and Harriet Tubman’s 200th birthday. The 9-foot traveling sculpture is in the City Hall, North Apron, until March 31st. Now, the residents of Philadelphia can immerse into the history of the Underground Railroad and participate in the community events around the city.  

Kelly Lee, Chief Cultural Officer and Executive Director of OACCE, mentioned during this symbolic and emotive presentation that this office had scheduled more than thirty programs in partnership with local and cultural organizations that will help “celebrate the legacy of Harriet Tubman.” 

Kelly Lee, Chief Cultural Officer and Executive Director of the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE). Unveiling of the statue “Harriet –The Journey to Freedom». City Hall, North Apron, Philadelphia. (Photo: Courtesy/Mary Luz Marques)

In addition, Lee highlighted that these virtual and in-person programs include a combination of exhibits, screening of the movie “Harriet,” artist panel discussions, musical events, and a birthday party to celebrate Harriet Tubman’s birth in March of 1821. 

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. Unveiling of the statue “Harriet –The Journey to Freedom». City Hall, North Apron, Philadelphia. (Photo: Courtesy/Mary Luz Marques)

For instance, the Free Library of Philadelphia will be presenting the authors Solomon Jones, Jabari Asim, Elie Mystal among other authors at Parkway Central Library. According to the calendar of events of the OACCE, there are going to be a few exhibitions entitled:“Harriet Tubman, An Introductory Timeline” and “The Threads That Hold Us Together” at the City Hall of Philadelphia. 

Vocalist Valerie Gay. Unveiling of the statue “Harriet –The Journey to Freedom». City Hall, North Apron, Philadelphia. (Photo: Courtesy/Mary Luz Marques)

The Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said to the audience that Harriet Tubman’s incredible legacy, heroism, resilience, hope, and activism is a story that we all learn from the individuals as well from the community. Kenney stated that telling stories throughout public art is important for “learning and reflecting” and connecting our communities to our “mutual histories.” 

Community leaders. Unveiling of the statue “Harriet –The Journey to Freedom». City Hall, North Apron, Philadelphia. (Photo: Courtesy/Mary Luz Marques)

After these introductory remarks, the vocalist Valerie Gay performed a musical tribute of “Wade in the Water” and “Go Down Moses.» During this performance, Gay sang a cappella the profound lyrics that many abolitionists had sung to signal escape or rebellion. 

Harriet Tubman –born slave as Araminta Ross in Dorchester County, Maryland– got the nickname of “Moses” after the prophet Moses in the Bible who led his people to freedom. Following the North Star to the free land, an intuitive vision to end slavery, a commitment of solidarity to her people, and a deep spiritual believe; Harriet Tubman, embarked to a journey of freedom or death throughout the Underground Railroad mission for eight years helping several hundreds of runaway slaves reach out to the promise land of freedom. 

For additional information about the calendar of events, please visit OACCE website at https://www.creativephl.org/programs/harriet-tubman/.

A verse of “Go Down Moses”:

When Israel was in Egypt’s Land, 

Let my people go, 

Oppressed so hard they could not stand, 

Let my people go. 

Go down, Moses,

 Way down in Egypt’s Land. 

Tell ol’ Pharaoh, 

Let my people go

“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say —I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” –Harriet Tubman.

“Harriet –The Journey to Freedom.”

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