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Marcus Ware: Added benefits of Sojourner Truth statue


Sunday, September 03, 2017
Added benefits of Sojourner Truth statue

Thanks to former mayor Clare Higgins for reminding us, in light of the current Confederate statue controversy, how the Sojourner Truth statue came to be installed in Florence.

The value of a statue must be measured in terms of the person, the purpose and its ongoing inspiration to serve the greater good. Sojourner Truth deeply rooted herself in the social justice tradition of our country as a strong abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights throughout America.

As for purpose, Higgins recounted the story of the vision and care that went into the statue project, including the mutual respect and care with which people worked through their diverse points of view. The Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee has always sought to apply the basic WWSTD (What Would Sojourner Truth Do?) question.

We hear her Dutch-accented, self-educated voice saying in essence, “Tell my story. Teach the children, teach the teachers, teach the parents. Honor young people who live in their times with spirit and action that matches the spirit and action I lived with in mine.”

Happily, we can update Higgins’ list of the statue’s ongoing benefits:

Seniors from public schools in Hampden as well as Hampshire counties are now invited annually to submit essays for one of three $1,000 Sojourner Truth Social Justice Awards. Twenty-five young people have been recognized so far.

Students in Springfield as well as Northampton schools have studied our curriculum on her life and work. With grants from the Northampton Education Fund in collaboration with the Northampton Public Schools, over 200 students and their teachers have taken our walking tour, and we are planning a peer-led teacher-training curriculum this year.

A beautiful garden tended by master gardener volunteers has enhanced the beauty of the jewel of Florence’s intersection of Park and Pine streets where visitors are seen looking up to Sojourner Truth throughout the seasons.

Marcus Ware

Springfield

The writer is chairman of the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee.