Lessons from Harriet

Lessons from Harriet

Lessons from Harriet

The Interrupter - Your Write to Education - November 11, 2019

What struck me right away in the movie Harriet – don’t worry this is not a spoiler alert – was what we know from recorded history and that is the distance between Dorchester, Maryland, and the Pennsylvania State Line – the distance between slavery and freedom – was a mere 100 miles. What seemed a long distance to Harriet, the expanse between slavery and freedom, today can be obtained in a 1.5 hour car ride.  Others that had the opportunity to go, people that Harriet wanted to take, they chose what they knew, they chose to stay enslaved – same distance, but they wouldn’t go.  What is the lie or limiting belief that causes someone to stay enslaved?

I remember my friend Nashon Walker of Transform Mandate and RISE Sports sharing with me about the red line that separated “the hood” from other communities and neighborhoods – a dividing line, the red line, that said DON’T GO PAST HERE.  He said you knew where it was and if you crossed over it, you could be arrested.  He shared that as a little boy he knew that leaving the sidewalk to cross the street, staying in the line or stepping over the line, could be the difference between slavery and freedom.  Since then, Nashon has stepped over many a red line.  In his lifetime, he will take 100’s of 1000’s of youth across the red line. In some cases, it may be figuratively or it may be across the red dividing line on a basketball court where he supports and highlights students in their pursuit of a collegiate scholarship. He has ­­committed his life to taking other people to freedom.

I think of another friend, Hakeem Subair, Co-Founder of One Million Teachers, for him the distance between slavery and freedom is represented by a technology platform that allows teachers in Sub Saharan Africa to access education and training that before they may not have had access. This education and training giving them entry to a whole new world. The work of his hands, represented by a global interconnected network is currently recognized in over 12 African countries and he and his team are just getting started.  He has committed his life to taking other people to freedom.

Lastly, I think of myself, much lighter skin than Harriet; Nashon, or Hakeem, for that matter, still representing the ability to, with the sound of my voice or the stroke of my pen, to shed a light on and expose the darkness and danger of unaddressed childhood trauma. The inability to share your story and have your pain recognized translates as unworthiness and disregard, all culminating into a life not truly lived, rather a false persona propped up by any means necessary.  I have committed my life to taking other people to freedom.

Harriet’s determination, and faith in God modeled for us begs the question, how can we experience freedom, whatever that looks like for you and I, and then not have the courage to share it with someone else? In Brene’ Brown’s book Daring Greatly she says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.”  Harriet made herself vulnerable to a myriad of things, not the least was the risking of her life, to ensure she and others experienced freedom. Being something and feeling something are different.  Do you think Harriet was not scared?  Of course, she was, but more than scared she was determined.  She said “I got a ‘made-up’ mind”. What about you? What about me? What is the limiting belief we have or need to overcome? What will we do about it? Who will we take with us?

Dr. Ivy Bonk



(NOTE:  Teachers can modify and use for a cross-curricular social-emotional learning and writing activity.)

In your journal or notebook, consider the following statements or questions.

What does it mean?

Courage to me means (fill in the blank).

What does it look like?

What might courage look like….

  • when a friend or classmate is being bullied or made to feel less than?
  • when you are in a class or situation and there is something you don’t understand?
  • when you need to have a difficult or uncomfortable conversation with someone?
  • when everybody else wants to do something that you don’t want to do?
  • when you are faced with a new challenge?

How does exercising courage make me feel? (Share specific example.)



Dr. Ivy Bonk is President (Educational Psychologist/Consultant) of Every Child Whole, LLC.  She is author of The Day Trauma Came to Class, architect of The Lost Child Theory.