Thursday, April 21, 2016

The currency of Harriet Tubman

What wonderful news: that Harriet Tubman will be honored where most Americans will see her every day, on the face of a new $20 bill.
    Harriet Tubman is a heroine in American history, the most successful “conductor” on the Underground Railroad that helped escaping slaves to gain freedom before the Civil War. Yet the secret of her achievement has rarely been told. She was a dreamer and a seer. In her dreams and visions, she could fly like a bird, over landscapes she had never seen with her physical eyes. From her aerial maps, she was able to find the right roads and the river fords and the safe houses to get escaping slaves out.
   Her gift was related to a terrible wound: a blow from an angry overseer that nearly killed her. Surviving her near-death experience, she came fully into the power of the Ashanti dream shamans in her ancestry.
   Her life story is a model of how dreamers can contribute to the liberation and progress of a whole community.
   I wrote a chapter about Harriet Tubman's dreaming in my book The Secret History of Dreaming. I was also inspired to write this poem for her:

Glory Falls: On Harriet Tubman

Because you could fly
you made us stand up and walk
and become self-liberators
even when fear tore at our souls
rougher than the spikes of the gum nuts,
winter’s nail bed of pain.

You rode the wind on hawk wings
and saw roads out of the shadow lands
and made maps for us from your flights.
When we were too scared to trust you,
you sang courage back into our hearts.

You guided us through the night woods
on leopard feet, vanishing and reappearing,
never bound to one form. Through your pain
and sudden sleeps and the terrible wound
that branded you, you taught us
that gifts of greatness are in our wounds.

You led us into the province of wonder.
The engine of your fierce intent carried us
to where glory falls on every thing.

   People are dreaming of Harriet Tubman today. Sometimes she appears as a messenger. I dreamed I found her on duty in the window of a very special post office: a place where you can go to pick up your lost or undelivered dreams. In these troubled times, we need to go to that window, collect our lost dreams, and learn two great and essential things: that we can claim a gift from our deepest wound, and that we can dream the way to a brighter future, for ourselves and our communities.


James Wilson said...

Congratulations that someone you admired so much is bestowed this honor Robert. The first time I've ever heard about her was when I read your story in your book, and I was impressed with her as a person, her talent and what she had achieved. I hope people learn about her talent as well. And hope that everytime they'll have a 20 in their hands they also will remember her talent, the great things she has done with it and then realize the dream too.

James Wilson said...

*they dream too