WWHD – What Would Harriet Do?

We are in a war with the media (and each other) for our image and worth and legacy. I choose to believe that far more of us are heroes than harpies. I choose to believe that, like Harriet, we are hopeful not hopeless in the face of adversity.
When I was approached about sharing some thoughts here on ForHarriet.com, I couldn’t help but think how far African-American women have come since the days of Harriet Tubman. Almost immediately after pondering our growth, came another more sobering thought… have we come as far as Harriet dreamed? What would Harriet think of us now?

I wonder what she would think of the constant onslaught of criticism from the mainstream media; would she get angry and bitter or set out to do something to change the dialogue? What would she think of these over the top famous-for-no-reason women from reality TV? What would she make of our images in music videos?

Would Araminta (Minty) Ross AKA Harriet Tubman take one look at all of that and say, “For this I trekked through snake-filled waters, dodged bullets and risked certain death?” This is a woman who once said, “There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other."

Yes, we’ve come a long way baby. We vote, we work, we own things, and we have a seat at the table. The past few generations have been afforded the luxury of choice. The majority of us have the opportunity to be whatever we want to be, as long as we are willing to work hard enough to get it. That has to be the kind of freedom that Harriet only dreamed of… actually she probably could not have conceived of a world where African-American women sway votes in the Senate, run global media conglomerates, sleep legally next to the President in the White House.

We are the realization of Harriet’s fondest hopes and dreams… aren’t we?

I hardly think that Harriet would be pleased at the number of us happy to take short cuts to get ahead. Or those of us consumed with having the hottest bag, the latest couture, the highest heel or being the baddest chick in the room. In Harriet’s world, the “baddest” chick had freedom papers and something to eat at night. Your shoes were “boss” if you owned a pair.

By no means do I think we should all toss away our material goods (I’m a bit of a shoe addict myself), but I’m wondering if perhaps we, as the Sisterhood, can’t reach down and find a little bit of our inner Harriet right about now? Have we lost our way? With so many choices in front of us and challenges around us, do we not know where to go or what to do when we get there?

Related: Fill The Void in Your Life: Finding Purpose During Your Journey

Perhaps we need to embrace Harriet’s way of concentrating on the problem and goal at hand. In the words of Harriet, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

We are in a war with the media (and each other) for our image and worth and legacy. I choose to believe that far more of us are heroes than harpies. I choose to believe that, like Harriet, we are hopeful not hopeless in the face of adversity. I choose to believe that we are the most powerful resilient group on the planet. We are the descendants of the women who cooked and cleaned this nation’s houses, raised this country’s youth. We are Harriet’s daughters.

Harriet’s daughters uplift each other. Harriet’s daughters demand to be respected: revered not reviled. Harriet’s daughters protect our children; honor the men that honor us. Harriet’s daughters work for what they have and fight for what is right. Harriet’s daughters reach one, teach one and reach back for another.

Listen, I’m no Harriet. I can’t even imagine the physical, mental and moral fortitude it took to make that journey time after time. Personally, I might have tried it once and patted myself on the back for my effort. Would I have continued to risk life and limb for people who may not have appreciated my efforts? Harriet once said, “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” That resonates with me today.

So I’m adopting a new attitude. As I go about my interactions day in and day out, I am going to stop and ask myself – What Would Harriet Do? Harriet didn’t get weary on the journey, Harriet kept her eyes on the prize, Harriet never lost a passenger, Harriet rose above whatever life throw her way and kept on going.

I’m going to give it a shot and I invite you to join me.

-Michele Grant

Michele Grant is a native Texan, sports fan and Mexican food enthusiast. A self-described Southern   chick with a thought (or two), a keyboard and a sense of humor - she is a writer, lover of all things purple and speaker of mind. Her first book, Heard it All Before, is in stores now. Her second book, Sweet Little Lies is due out in February 2011. You can find Michele blogging at www.blacknbougie.com, tweeting as @OneChele or via email at onechele@gmail.com.

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