Harriet Tubman’s life is the foundation of my consulting practice

Harriet Tubman, the Moses of African American people, accomplished astounding feats of heroism. She led many enslaved people to freedom, at a time in history when the brutality of slavery was at its worst. Yet, to me, she represents something greater than the accounts of her life as a slave, abolitionist, or armed scout in the United States Army. Her life is a testament to the belief that we can create the life we imagine.

When I was eight my grandmother integrated the largest white church in Minnesota.

In 1960 when the white clergy returned to Minneapolis after the ?freedom rides?, they realized that their own Northern congregations were as segregated as the American South’s. My grandmother had been a member of Border?s African Methodist Episcopal Church. The pastors of Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church visited Border and invited their parishioners to join the largest Methodist Congregation in the Midwest, a reputation the church still maintains. Not many of the Negro Boarder?s AME worshippers accepted the invitation, but my grandmother did and left the familiarity of her neighborhood to sit in pews with strangers.

As her oldest grandchild I integrated the Sunday School. Hennepin Methodist Church had a tradition of giving a bible to each child in the Sunday School class. In the third -grade students were expected to read a passage from their Bible to the class. I was a good reader but I was afraid to read out loud. Even at eight years old, I knew the stereotypes that Negros were less intelligent than Caucasians. I was smart and could read above my grade level, but I had problems pronouncing words, even when I knew the meaning. I now know I had an undiagnosed hearing problem and couldn?t hear the different intonations of certain phonetic sounds, so I memorized pronunciations. With a month to prepare, I began reading everything I could get my hands on out loud. A teacher gave me a book about Harriet Tubman and her story gave me the courage to overcome my fears and the confidence to show strangers my vulnerability. This was the first of many times in my life where I was racially different than my classmates, co-workers and subordinates. At 8 I learned a valuable lesson; Anyone can change the circumstances of their life if they believe they can.

Harriet was motivated from within. Her faith inspired her to ignore the social and legal practices that were in place to control every aspect of her life and death. She saw herself differently– free, and responsible for her life and the lives of the people she led to freedom. In the realm of miracles, she earned the title Moses bringing over 300 enslaved people to free states and Canada.

We want to believe that she was a Saint and granted special powers.

But in her own words she taught that every great dream begins with a dreamer. She asked us to always remember that you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.?

I too believe people are motivated from within. Motivated by interests and curiosity and that social and cultural factors can facilitate or undermine the attainment of our desires. Yet, everyone has the power to change their circumstances with their thoughts. I have practiced this belief since I was eight years old. Harriet?s story changed my perception of what is possible. Harriet couldn?t read. She spent her childhood life enslaved in a ten-mile radius, and yet she envisioned herself a free woman and that is what she became. How did a black woman born in slavery see a different possibility for her life? The circumstances of her future were determined by the United States Constitution and slavery was a highly profitable business model that fueled the economic foundation of America. Nothing about Harriet?s situation supported her vision for her life and yet against the insurmountable odds, she achieved her life?s purpose.

Harriet?s life taught me that everyone has the power to determine their destiny. As a coach I help leaders define their lives + themselves to achieve the life they imagine.

More to read