It was a cold and rainy night in early February. I stood in the dark, on the property of Mr. Jacob Burkle, whose home was a depot on the Underground Railroad. I shivered from the cold but also from a fear that had suddenly come over me from out of nowhere. Was I as safe as I thought I was, or was my safety most definitely in jeopardy? I was beginning to rethink my decision, but something deep inside told me it was now or never…
The character and event portrayed in the above excerpt is not fictitious. It is completely true. I know because it is my story.
Now that I have your attention, I’ll backtrack and give you a little context. It really was a cold and rainy night in early February, but the year was 2014, and the Underground Railroad had long been out of service. However, I did find myself standing on the property of Jacob Burkle, at 826 N. Second Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Today, it’s better known as the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum. This was not my first visit to Slave Haven, it was my third. During this particular visit, I needed to use the restroom and was informed that it was a separate building behind the main house. When I put my hand on the knob of the backdoor, I was in 2014. But when I stepped out onto the back porch into a night that was much darker than I had anticipated, I slipped through some kind of time portal and found myself in the 1800s.
The building was only about twenty feet from the back porch, but I had a strong (and somewhat irrational) feeling that stepping off of that porch might be the last thing that I did in life. I was no longer in 2014 but found myself experiencing emotions that so many runaway slaves had felt as they were trying to escape North to freedom. My bladder was screaming that my options were to empty it the regular way or let it explode, but my fear kept my feet glued to the ground. After what was one of the longest minutes or so in my life, I finally shook myself back to the present day and ran through the rain to the bathroom. But I’ll never forget that experience.
I was visiting the Slave Haven with a group that was participating in something called the Sankofa Journey. The Sankofa Journey is “an intentional, cross-racial prayer journey that seeks to assist disciples of Christ on their move toward a righteous response to the social ills related to racism.” As a demonstration of my commitment to this work, I will be using my gifts to educate and inform others of the issues. This post is the beginning of those efforts. I hope that you will not only journey with me through my blog but that you will one day step on the bus and experience the journey for yourself.
For more information about the Sankofa Journey, click here.