Reflection and prayer for Black History Month
“Hold your head up and be ready to answer any questions.” That’s the advice Marie Buchanon gives to escaped slave Harriet Tubman about the way to conduct herself as a free woman in 1845 Philadelphia.
As I watched the movie Harriet recently, I had to marvel that persons of African descent living in this country during the early 19th century might be either slave or free, depending on the circumstances of their birth. Harriet has been schooled to walk warily with her head down because people looked at her as property. Marie had grown up where people looked past her African features to treat her as a useful citizen.
Though her master’s son Gideon taunted her that God didn’t hear the prayer of slaves, Harriet knew that the Bible said that God shows no partiality. She knew in her heart that God doesn’t see as humans see. Clearly she felt the inner strength of God’s touch when, against terrific odds, she made the choice to claim freedom for herself. That experience of freedom was transformative, allowing her to become her true self and pour her spiritually based energy into opening the path for others.
The annual designation of February as Black History Month prompted me to search out stories of others in that era who were likewise attuned to God’s inner promptings. What a treasure trove of inspirational people I found! Yet their stories were embedded in a history of punitive social obstacles. It took a Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery in the United States, but the attitude of superiority and prejudice still lingers among many in our society.
What will help me see as God sees? What can I do to gain a fresh perspective? How can I tap into this deep well of our American heritage? Surely the exuberant rhythms of the African American worship style would help cut me loose from my settled thoughts. Maybe I could attend a Sunday service with a Black congregation. Just to get started, I searched out a YouTube recording. Even remotely it sure helps to “get down” as a way to raise up. It’s worth a try.
I’ve incorporated these stories and music styles into the prayer service for Black History Month that I created with Sister Kay Manley for the Providence community. Would you and your family or group care to join us in prayer and reflection?