COURTESY OF MORGAN OME
Community members gathered for the rededication ceremony on Saturday.
A portion of Wyman Park Dell, a park south of Homewood Campus and the former site of a Confederate monument, was rededicated to honor Harriet Tubman. The rededication ceremony took place on Saturday, March 10, which marked the 105th anniversary of her death.
Tubman was an abolitionist and conductor of the Underground Railroad in the late 19th century. She was born in Dorchester County, Md.
Several community leaders and government officials attended the ceremony, including City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who was the first to introduce legislation to create Harriet Tubman Grove. Clarke represents the 14th district, which includes Charles Village and the surrounding area. She spoke about the significance of taking back spaces that previously honored Confederate generals.
“This is the day we reclaim and celebrate the dedication of this grove to Harriet Tubman, the first rededication since our mayor gave flight to four public Confederate memorials now vacated and today reclaimed in the spirit of the Baltimore community,” she said.
In August, Mayor Catherine Pugh took down the City’s four Confederate monuments overnight, following a unanimous City Council resolution calling for their removal. Since then, the pedestals on which the Confederate monuments once stood have remained empty.
Tierra Brown, a representative from the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, was optimistic that the Dell would grow to be an important location in the community.
“Since the removal of the Lee-Jackson statue, this park has become a gathering place for city residents of all backgrounds to meet, talk and enjoy the location as a space that symbolizes hope,” she said. “We are honored to be here today to support the name change to Harriet Tubman Grove. [It] will provide the city an opportunity to correct a historic injustice to a Maryland native.”
Civil rights leader Marvin “Doc” Cheatham has been taking efforts to remove Baltimore’s Confederate statues since 2013 and reflected on how community members affected change.
“What I see here today is young and old, black and white, all folks coming together for something very important,” he said. “This community — you did what needed to be done.”
Ernestine Jones Williams, a family member of Tubman, expressed her gratitude for those who worked to honor Tubman.
“It is such a privilege and an honor to be here today to witness such a great gathering,” she said. “We stand on the shoulders of this great woman... I want to thank each and every one of you for your attendance here today. We are overwhelmed.”
Jubilee Arts, a community organization that offers arts programming, created commemorative fabric bags to honor the rededication of Wyman Park Dell. The organization sold the bags, which depicted Tubman carrying a lantern, alongside t-shirts and other merchandise that members of Jubilee Arts designed.
Deshawn Richards, a high school student who works with Jubilee Arts, explained that one of the organization’s initiatives is to encourage youth to lead business initiatives. He was glad that the organization’s merchandise celebrated Tubman.
“We wanted to make something positive for the community,” he said.
Community members like Lisa Lewenz have often passed by the Dell and wished that the Lee-Jackson monument would be removed. The rededication ceremony, Lewenz said, was an emotional experience.
“Nearly 30 years ago, I always saw this statue and was very upset about it. I never imagined it would be gone,” she said. “I’m incredibly teary.”
Evan Drukker-Schardl, a sophomore, was in Baltimore when the Confederate monuments were first removed and attended the ceremony to witness the park’s transformation.
“To come here as the next step in repurposing this space as something that is more representative of the community is really important to me,” he said.
Drukker-Schardl added that he is happy that Harriet Tubman is being honored for her achievements, especially since many activists like himself see Tubman as a role model.
“I’m involved with a number of different organizations and movements in the city, and a lot of them take inspiration from Harriet Tubman and follow her example as someone who put herself on the line for justice in the world,” he said.