Alice Lovelace (writer, performer and activist) and Lisa Tuttle (artist) have created a collaborative temporary installation public art project "Harriet Rising."
The project was created for the launch of Elevate /Art Above Underground presented by the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program and Underground Atlanta (August 26 – October 30, 2011).
On this page Alice Lovelace writes about the project. To read one of Alice Lovelace's poems for the Harriet Rising project, please click here.
Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
Over the next four years, the nation will observe the Civil War sesquicentennial with ceremonies, books, recordings, films, lectures, exhibitions, concerts and encampments. One of the most unexpected heroes of the Civil War is Harriett Tubman, a true American hero. Harriett Tubman is commonly known as "Moses", a woman who walked away from the system of slavery that reduced her to property. Then, she walked back into the South to rescue others, over 70 people that she took to safety and hundreds that she taught how to get themselves and their families to the North where they would be free of slavery. The Underground Railroad continues to exist today as a physical and intellectual place peopled by individuals and organizations that place people above systems that seek to hold them in social or economic bondage.
Tubman’s life has been an inspiration to people around the world. When people wanted to escape the various wars in Central America during the 80’s they used Harriet Tubman as their symbol of the new underground railroad; even women in Iraqi speak of Tubman as they maintain the underground railroad there to help women who have been sentenced to death for minor offenses. Like Harriet Tubman, who helped create the network of underground routes that helped transport other slaves to freedom, OWLI and MADRE have co-founded two important projects that are helping Iraqi women flee violence. The Safe Houses project and the Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women provide emergency shelter for women in danger of "honor killings", and other forms of domestic violence and sex trafficking.
As a visual artist and public art specialist, Lisa Tuttle designed and created the visual and physical manifestation of the project. As a poet, I wrote original works about Tubman and these women of courage. Together, as women advocates, we chose women and organizations that are in keeping with Harriet Tubman’s legacy.
Harriet Rising, as public art, accomplishes several goals:
- Bring renewed attention to Harriet Tubman and her historical importance as an American hero.
- Draw parallels between the historical significance (Civil War to Civil Rights) of Underground Atlanta and the Underground Railroad.
- Lifting the visibility of courageous women and organizations working today in the Atlanta community for human rights, particularly those working on behalf of minorities and women, often unrecognized.
- Add dynamic visual, poetic, educational content to visitors’ experiences as they walk along Upper Alabama Street this fall.
The spirit of Harriet Tubman today
In the United States, there are many women who embody the spirit of Harriet Tubman, working everyday to make life better for women (and therefore for entire families) and working for a better world. The lives of these women are not as transparent as Tubman’s. They should be.
We want to bring attention to women-centered organizations like:
- Women Watch Afrika, Inc.
- Toni Cade Bambara Writers/Scholars/Activists Collective, Spelman College
- Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace.
- SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, composed of 70 women of color organizations across the country.
- 9 to 5, an organization whose Atlanta chapter was founded in 1983. Their mission is to improve the workplace for women and strengthen the ability of low-wage women in Georgia to win economic justice.
- GA WAND (Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions) that seeks to direct women's voices into a powerful movement for social change.
- Refugee Women’s Network, a national nonprofit organization created by women, for women, that focuses on enhancing refugee and immigrant women’s strengths, skills and courage through its leadership training, education and advocacy to promote independence, self-sufficiency and networking among its participants.
- Tapestri Inc., dedicated to ending violence and oppression in refugee and immigrant communities, using culturally competent and appropriate methods. As advocates for immigrant and refugee families affected by domestic violence, sexual assault and exploitation, we are committed to using education, community organizing, direct services and advocacy to effect change in the lives of these families.
8 columns with 4 sides:
The project is composed of 8 columns that run along Upper Alabama Street on either side of Pryor Street.
The four sides of each column contains the following imagery:
- Side 1: the image of Harriet Tubman along with a sequential story of her history and accomplishments
- Side 2: a photograph of a woman or women representing the Atlanta organization. Each woman is dressed in white, in response to a recurring dream that Tubman in the years before her escape to freedom in which she was flying over fields and towns, and rivers and mountains, looking down upon them "like a bird" and reaching at last a great fence, or sometimes a river, over which she would try to fly ... It " 'peared like I wouldn’t have the strength, and just as I was sinkin’ down, there would be ladies all drest in white over there, and they would put out their arms and pull me ‘cross." -- Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People, 1886 by Sarah Bradford
- Side 3: an original poem about the organization’s work, addressed to Tubman, by Lovelace
- Side 4: a listing of the organization’s mission, accomplishments, and contact information such as website.