City dedicates Tubman mural, ‘Take My Hand’

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
The Harriet Tubman mural in downtown Cambridge was dedicated during “A Day of Resilience” on Saturday. City, county, state and federal officials were joined by guests from around the nation and a delegation of diplomats from Africa. Artist Michael Rosato, center, cut the ribbon as a large crowd applauded.

CAMBRIDGE — It was a time to recognize a painful past, to honor work being done to achieve advancement, and to pray for a prosperous future. “A Day of Resilience” took place on Saturday to dedicate the Harriet Tubman mural titled “Take My Hand,” and to celebrate the contributions of African-Americans to Dorchester’s culture and history.

Ms. Tubman’s work to free slaves and guide them on the Underground Railroad is well known, as are her roots in Dorchester. But Michael Rosato’s mural has touched viewers locally and across the nation in a way that illustrates the power of public art.

The piece was funded by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, applied for by Dorchester Arts Council. Alpha Genesis Community Development Corp. was a project partner.

National attention
The image, painted on the outer wall of the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center on Race Street, shows the heroine known as “The Moses of her people” breaking through the wall, looking directly at the viewer, and reaching out. Finished earlier this year, the mural proved compelling enough to become famous long before it was officially dedicated.

News outlets across the country picked up the story, and visitors began arriving to experience it for themselves. Groups have traveled from distant states, arriving not only in cars, but in caravans of motorcycles and in fully loaded tour buses.

Mr. Rosato has a national reputation of his own, and has composed many murals in the county. But this one was different, and he knew it.

“I had a huge responsibility,” he said in remarks preceding the ribbon-cutting ceremony. He had to keep his comments brief — as his voice broke with emotion, he once had to stop and just wave to the crowd, asking for their patience.

“She is truly an American hero,” he said, as the audience responded with applause.

The day began in front of the Circuit Courthouse with African-style drumming performed by a group led by Dover, Del.’s Dennis Minus. Mace’s Lane Middle School Teacher Cotina Murray read a poem, and a dance interpreting a slave auction was presented by Chaniece Holmes. Adrian Holmes and Jermaine Anderson, leaders of Alpha Genesis, welcomed the crowd.

Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley was on hand to greet visitors, as were County Council Members Ricky Travers (District 3) and Lenny Pfeffer (District 4). They were joined by many state and federal representatives and a group of diplomats from Africa, including Ambassador Frederic Edem Hegbe from the Republic of Togo.

Togo is part of the West African area from which many were taken for the slave trade. “I would like to thank the citizens of Cambridge for inviting us,” Ambassador Hegbe said. “There is no distinction” among human beings, he said, and called for forgiveness and unity.

The event’s full title was “A Day of Resilience: Return, Reconcile, Reunite, Rejoice. The 400th Anniversary Commemoration of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.” In addition to the mural dedication, there was a Town Hall Meeting on Africa, presented by the Constituency for Africa (CFA). Dr. Julius Garvey was the keynote speaker at the meeting.

Helping hands
Among the individuals who participated were event planners Rose Khasiala Amolo, Euricka Huggins, Adjo Adjaka, April Byrd and Robin Stanley; Omeakia Jackson; Kyna Clemons; Pastor V.L. Cornish, who offered the opening prayer; Harriet Tubman Organization President Donald Pinder, who told the story of the courthouse rescue; Vocalists Suzette Prittchet and Renna McKinney; Barbara Seese of the Dorchester Center for the Arts; Flutist Ashley Watkins; Melvin Foote president of the CFA; City Commissioner La-Shon Foster; the Rev. James Whitaker; Jeannine B. Scott of the CFA; Mary Turner of the Harriet Tubman UGRR Visitor Center; Walter Black of the Frederick Douglas Honor Society; C-SD student Rip Cornish; documentary filmmaker Toni Regusters; former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and the Republic of Congo Dr. Robin Sanders; Christi Camper of Chesapeake Kinfolk Genealogy and Enrichment Services; drivers Armah Dasheill, Maury Wright and Walter McGriff; sponsors Mid Shore Community Foundation, Provident State Bank, Sunburst Pharm, and Dorchester County Tourism.

“Let us all continue to return, reconcile, reunite and rejoice each day, until we as a people are all made whole,” Ms. Holmes wrote in the event program.

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