‘Still Relevant Today:’ Harriet Tubman Traveling Exhibit Unveiled in Auburn | Local News | Auburn, NY | Auburnpub.com

AUBURN — Discussing a large statue he made honoring famous abolitionist and former Auburn resident Harriet Tubman, sculptor Wesley Wofford said he felt Tubman guiding his hand.

Wofford was one of several speakers on Saturday for a Tubman tribute event unveiling a cast of a statue Wofford made for a traveling exhibit called “Harriet Tubman – Journey to Freedom.” The event took place at the Harriet Tubman Home, 180 South St., where she lived as a free woman for more than 50 years. The tribute and unveiling were part of various festivities Auburn held this year to honor Tubman’s 200th birthday.

Speaking to more than 100 people, Wofford said he was honored to be in “this sacred place” to honor Tubman.

“Even today there is still so much that is tearing us apart and dividing us, the structural racism that exists and the color lines that it draws, and I think it is still relevant today to what we we all have to do it together,” Wofford said.

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He said he hopes to do his part to show “those underrepresented stories”.

“It’s a statue, and there should be at least 50,000 more to rival the 50,000 that exist that only tell one side of the story,” said Wofford, who drew applause and cries of “Yes!” public.

The statue depicts Tubman and a younger person holding her arm, with chains behind them. The exhibit was installed in Auburn on July 1 in the Tubman House, which is part of the city’s Harriet Tubman National Historic Park. The statue is expected to be at the site until August 31.

Earlier, the Reverend Dr. Laticia Hill Godette, President and CEO of Ottendorf Laboratories and District President of Camden, NJ, spoke. She spoke of people who work hard and work multiple jobs, but still struggle due to structural racism. Although Tubman’s statue was going to be unveiled, Godette said Tubman’s legacy and life could not be adequately recognized “without unveiling and exposing” the sins of racism, sexism and classism and speaking out about these problems.

“It’s easier to talk about what Harriet Tubman did in the past, it’s easier to talk about what she did for others back then, but how do we live the legacy if we don’t talk about it now?” she said to a burst of applause.

After becoming free, Godette said, Tubman helped free others. Godette told the crowd “we have to go back for those who have been marginalized”.

Other speakers included Auburn Mayor Mike Quill and Bishop Dennis V. Proctor of Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, of which Tubman was a member.

Then the statue was unveiled, prompting thunderous applause. Mentors and other officials from TRU-Impact Inc., a tutoring and mentoring organization for Rochester youth, viewed the statue with its students.

Student Rafael Belliard said whenever he learns about a historical figure who fought against racism, he likes to learn more, including Tubman.

“I think there are things in there that (in) my school they didn’t even bother to teach,” he said.

Jalyssa Tucker, a TRU-Impact mentor, spoke about what she’d like people to take away from Saturday’s event.

“Never go back on history. There are always things to learn and to be open to. And within our community, I don’t think people know what women (such) like Harriet Tubman did,” she said. “I really didn’t know she was fighting for women’s rights, which was very enlightening. So I’m going to take everything I got from here and bring it home.”

Olivia Price, granddaughter of Reverend Paris Price of Harriet Tubman Memorial AME Zion Church, spoke with Wofford as they viewed the exhibit. Olivia, 3, placed some small flowers she found on the statue. Pointing out the chains that are part of the sculpture, Paris Price asked Olivia, “What did we say about the chains?” Olivia responded by saying, “That was mean.” Price said, “They were mean, yeah, chain the others up.” Wofford said it was “a nice way to put it,” which people nearby agreed.

Price explained why she took Olivia to the event, adding that her granddaughter had two books on Tubman.

“I wanted her to see this statue to see the determination in her face and to see how she helps others find freedom, and it’s still relevant today,” Price said.

Managing Editor Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.