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Against the backdrop of true Spring weather coming to Central New York, pilgrims made their way to Auburn, NY for the 50th Annual Harriet Tubman Pilgrimage.  Fifty years is a hallmark and God ordained that we should be led on this occasion by a native son of the region, Bishop Dennis V. Proctor, Presiding Prelate and Chairman of the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc.

Tubman pilgrims arrived by car, coach bus, plane, and motorcycle beginning early on Friday, May 17th.  The Harriet Tubman Home board and friends convened in the afternoon at the new historically restored Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Thompson Memorial, which opened its doors in 1891, is the church where Harriet Tubman worshipped and was active in lay activities.  She assisted in the construction of Thompson Memorial making a $500 pledge to its building fund in the late 1880’s.  

On May 17th PE Daren Jaime led those assembled in the dedication of the newly restored sanctuary which is a component of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park operated by the National Park Service.  It was amazing to witness the faithful restoration, the colors, and the stencils throughout the sanctuary. We were blessed that an electrical storm came through the area four years ago. The water damage to the already failing building revealed the original wall color and stencil pattern, a great contribution to the restoration process.

Day one of the pilgrimage weekend concluded with a reception for all attendees as we honored former Rep. John Katko, one of 11 Republicans to vote for impeachment of the former president following the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the nation’s capital.  Rep. Katko was honored for leading the Congressional effort with the late Rep. Elijah Cummings to place Harriet Tubman on our currency.  Rep. Katko was the lead sponsor for the Harriet Tubman Bi-Centennial Commemorative Coin Act. We now have three commemorative coins available to the public for purchase. The coins are a Clad Half Dollar, Silver One Dollar, and a Gold Five Dollar.

The pilgrimage reception honored Bishop George Washington Carver Walker, Sr.  A set of three commemorative coins were presented by, HTH Treasurer, Dr. Stephen W. Pogue to Bishop Walker.  It is Bishop Walker who organized the Tubman work corporately, thus allowing the A.M.E.Z Church to formalize relations with the National Park Service and other federal departments.

The main day of the pilgrimage began with a graveside memorial service for Harriet Tubman. Bishop Proctor led the early morning service sharing the significance of the occasion and his remembrances of coming to the graveside and to the homestead to honor Tubman. Bishop Proctor called on the Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller, herself, like Harriet a veteran of military service, to give remarks on the cusp of Memorial Day. Dr. Miller delivered a meditation that stayed with all in attendance. She called on all of us to remember the freedoms that Harriet dedicated her life to and that equality and social justice are still a part of our fight. Dr. Miller laid down the gauntlet for voting like your life depended on it, national elections, and up and down the ballot. We now have the obligation as freedom-loving people to protect our democracy and make America a more perfect Union.

We sojourned, at the conclusion of the graveside service, to Auburn High School where Bishop Proctor addressed the audience thanking everyone for their participation with special thanks to Missionary Supervisor Proctor who has been a true way maker in facilitating all things Tubman. Bishop Proctor then introduced Bishop Walker to give the 50th pilgrimage address.

Bishop Walker gave a sermon of hope and courage. God sent His messenger.  It was prophetic for Bishop Walker to address at this point and time in our history. Bishop Walker came out of his shoes as he told the assemblage that they needed to feel the cause of freedom. It’s in the earth beneath them, especially at the Tubman Park. Bishop Walker talked about our responsibility to continue in freedom’s vineyard, to be invigorated by the work of Tubman.

The challenge to all freedom-loving people is to participate in efforts to ensure the next 50 years marks tangible progress in the continuum of becoming a more equitable and just society in the Tubman tradition.    

The program concluded harmoniously, with everyone feeling uplifted. The resonance of having Bishop Walker and Bishop Proctor on the milestone anniversary of cannot be overstated.  As the pilgrims journeyed home everyone received, in the tradition of Harriet’s generosity, a grab-and-go lunch.

Harriet Tubman, 50th Annual Harriet Tubman Pilgrimage, Bishop George Washington Carver Walker, Sr., Dr. Stephen W. Pogue, Auburn High School, Rep. John Katko, Rep. Elijah Cummings


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