Shackles

As she read the two volume autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, she was reminded of how fortunate she was.  She was a black, educated woman who was able to go to the university of her choice and become what she had always dreamed of.   She and her parents left the West Indies for a better life in America.

 

Her world was so different from Olaudah’s.  He had been kidnapped from his home in the West Indies and taken to Virginia where he was bought by a sea captain, Michael Henry  Pascal, with whom he traveled widely.  Olaudah received some education before he bought his freedom in 1766.  He became an abolitionist, speaking out against the cruelty of British slave owners in Jamaica.

 

Slavery is something she was never going to experience, but she knew what it was like to be treated differently because of the colour of her skin.  She learned that being educated, living in a stylish condo and driving an expensive car didn’t matter to those who didn’t see past her colour.  She still had to deal with being watched or ignored or followed when in certain stores or co-workers looking away as she passed them.

 

Yes, she had her own issues to deal with but they paled in comparison to Olaudah who suffered cruelty and indignity at the hands of those who wanted to keep him and the other slaves in emotional and intellectual shackles.  She was grateful to Olaudah for writing about the horrors of slavery.  It made her more determined to work harder and achieve more.  It was what drove her to pursue her Masters.  Like Olaudah, there were times when she questioned her faith but she has since learned that it is during those tough, challenging times that God has proven that she has the mettle to overcome them.

 

Yes, she had come a long way with God’s help but there was still a long way to go. Little by little she was going to break free from the racist mentalities that would like to keep blacks shackled to the painful past of slavery.

 

“After all, what makes any event important, unless by its observation we become better and wiser, and learn ‘to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God?'” – Olaudah Equiano

 

Cartoon image of woman reading book

 

Sources:  WikipediaBritannica; Daily Kos

 

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Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who became a leading abolitionist.  She led hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Notes to Women salute this brave woman who suffered hardship and physical violence. When she crossed into the free state of Pennsylvania, she was overwhelmed with relief and awe.  Of this experience, she said, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person.  There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

This taste of freedom was something that she wanted others to experience.   So, instead of staying there in the North where it was safe, she made it her mission to rescue her family and others who were still living in slavery.  She earned the nickname “Moses” for leading others to freedom.

Harriet made history as the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, guiding the Combahee River Raid which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.   She was named one of the most famous civilians in American History before the Civil War, third only to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. Today, she continues to be an inspiration to generations of Americans who are still struggling for civil rights.

I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.

I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.

I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.

I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.

I said to de Lord, ‘I’m goin’ to hold steady on to you, an’ I know you’ll see me through.’

Twasn’t me, ’twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ an’ He always did.

 

Sources:  Biography; Brainy Quote

Sojourner Truth

Empowered by her religious faith, the former slave worked tirelessly for many years to transform national attitudes and institutions. According to Nell Painter, Princeton professor and Truth biographer, “No other woman who had gone through the ordeal of slavery managed to survive with sufficient strength, poise and self-confidence to become a public presence over the long term.”
(Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, page 4)

In celebration of Black History Month, Notes to Women salutes Sojourner Truth, a devout Christian, abolitionist and Women’s Rights activist.  She was reputed to be the most famous African American woman in America in the 19th century.

For over forty years she traveled around the country, passionately and forcefully speaking for the abolition of slavery, women’s rights and suffrage, the rights of freedmen, temperance, prison reform and the termination of capital punishment.  She changed her name from Isabella to Sojourner Truth, a seeker after truth, becoming a traveling itinerant preacher so that she could tell the truth and crusade against injustice.  She was not intimidated by convention or authority.  She was known for her sense of humour which she used to squash self-righteousness.  She once derided some of the women social activists who wore frivolous clothing, saying to them, “What kind of reformers be you, with goose-wings on your heads, as if you were going to fly, and dressed in such ridiculous fashion, talking about reform and women’s rights?” (Narrative, Book of Life, p.243).

She made her most famous address, Ain’t I a Woman at a Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio where she asserted that women deserved equal rights with men because they were as equally as capable as men.  She testified, “I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and moved, and can any man do more than that?”  She concluded her speech saying, “And how came Jesus into the world?  Through God who created Him and the woman who bore Him.  Man, where was your part?” (Anti-Slavery Bugle, June, 1851).

Watch this video of this remarkable woman.

We celebrate the “world’s oldest lecturer” who, as a woman of faith could not keep silent when those created in God’s image were denied their human rights and equality.  Her memory lives on in the many local memorials and tributes established in her honor in Battle Creek.  In 1997, a year long celebration marked the 200th anniversary of Sojourner’s birth.  One day was not enough to celebrate this special lady.  She has left behind a legacy survival, strength, courage and the passion to transform attitudes and and institutions.  She inspires us to speak out against injustice, inequality and oppression and to stand up for truth and to act instead of talk.

If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.

Truth is powerful and it prevails.

Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff.

“Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other?” (Sabbath School Convention, Battle Creek, June 1863)

Sources: YouTube;  Sojourner Truth; Brainy Quotes

 

 

 

 

Missing Children

Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue me from their destructions, My precious life from the lions – Psalm 35:17.

There’s nothing worse than when a child goes missing.  All sorts of horrible thoughts go through our minds and we fear the worst.  When I read about Nadish, my heart went out to his mother. His attitude to his schoolwork reminded me of my son’s.  My son is seven and he doesn’t take his education seriously.  He prefers to play and draw although he is very smart.  His father is hard on him because he knows that he has potential and can excel in school if he just gets serious. Nadish’s mother wanted what was best for him and that is why she scolded him.  He was given a opportunity that other children didn’t have–an education in the Bridge of Hope Centre in India.  There are children, like my son who are in good Christian schools being taught by dedicated teachers and they take it for granted.

Like most children, Nadish didn’t liked being scolded.  He ran away from home and found himself in a large city railway station in India.  I can’t imagine how scary it must have been for this nine year old boy.  He must have looked like a waif, surrounded by strange faces in strange surroundings so far removed from the home he shared with his mother.  Perhaps, the enormity of what he had done came rushing over him.  Perhaps he wished he hadn’t run away.  Perhaps he missed his mother and would have preferred being scolded by her than being in that strange and scary place.  Perhaps these emotions are what made him go with the elderly man who befriended him.  Perhaps the man made him feel safe.  Nadish went with him to his home village.

And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light – 2 Corinthians 11:14

Nadish found himself plunged into a world he never imagined he would be.  Forced into slavery, he spent the next two years living as a prisoner and cleaning up animal waste.  I wonder what went through his mind when he was locked in a room near the animals he cleaned up after and got very little food to eat.  Was he wishing that he was home like the prodigal son who wished he was home when he was living in squalor after wasting his money?  Was Nadish wishing that he was with his mother, doing his schoolwork and eating a good meal?  He had left a haven for a hovel.

Meanwhile, Nadish’s mother was beside herself with grief and worry.  She had lost her husband to cancer and now one of her sons was lost too.  The staff at the Bridge of Hope Centre prayed fervently for Nadish.

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the LORD
is against those who do evil – 1 Peter 3:12

God answered their prayers.  Two years after his capture, Nadish and a new boy escaped because their landlord forgot to lock the door to the room where they were held captive.  Nadish had turned twelve years old thirteen days before.  He and the boy ran to the nearest police station and gave evidence against their captor.  Hopefully they were able to arrest him so that he couldn’t enslave another child.

Nadish is now back home with his mother and participating in Bridge of Hope again.  The horror he want through is still with him.   It is a mental struggle for him so he needs your prayers.  Pray that he will be able to concentrate on his schoolwork and catch up on what he missed.

Nadish is one of the more fortunate ones.  He is no longer missing.  He is safe with his family.  There are other children out there.  Some are abducted by strangers and forced into slave labor while others are trafficked and exploited in the sex trade.  Then there are those who are sold to families to work as domestic  help.  This reminds me of Cosette in Les Miserables.  She was forced to work as a domestic and she was under the age of 10.  She was beaten and hardly fed.  The cat was treated better than her.  Meanwhile her mother, Fantine was under the impression that the couple who had her daughter were treating her well.  Fantine died never knowing the truth or seeing her daughter again.

The statistics on missing children are staggering.

  • In India it is reported that 45,000 children are missing each year
  • Close to 13 million children younger than 15 years are in India’s workforce.  This is more than any other country in the world.  Some estimate that the real number is closer to 100 million.
  • In Thailand nearly 1 out of every 10 children between the ages of 10 and 14 are working instead of going to school
  • In Bangladesh, it is estimated that 27 percent of children ages 10-14 are working in hazardous work conditions
  • In Sri Lanka, the fishing industry is one of the most physically punishing forms of child labor, keeping children in slave-like conditions and out of the public eye
  • UNICEF estimates that 4,500 children from Bangladesh are trafficked to Pakistan each year while   thousands more are sent to India and the Middle East.

Thankfully, Gospel for Asia is doing something to stop these atrocities.  They are working among South Asia’s most endangered children.

You can make a difference.  You can give what you can to rescue children on the streets so that like Nadish they can learn about Jesus and be reunited with their families.  Help to rescue a child from the streets of South Asia.  If you are interested in sponsoring a child, check out this link.

Another way you can help is through prayer.  Gospel of Asia offers these prayer suggestions:

  • Pray for children to be rescued, reunited and accepted back into their families.
  • Pray for the physical needs of the children. Most do not get enough to eat, and the physical labor they are forced to do can cripple their bodies. Pray for the Lord to provide for them and protect them from harm.
  • Pray for the girls—and boys—forced to work in the sex trade. Ask the Lord to bring the brothel owners’ and customers’ misdeeds into the light and for the love of Jesus to permeate those dark places.
  • Pray for a radical attitude shift in South Asian society so citizens of these countries will demand an end to the exploitation of children.

Prayer is the most powerful tool we have, let us use it and then watch God do amazing things.

And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him – Psalm 37:40.

Fanny Kemble

If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good – Thomas J. Watson

I never heard of Fanny Kemble until I recently read a devotion, The Unlikely in Our Daily Bread which mentions her work as an Abolitionist.  She was a British actress in the 19th century who married Pierce Butler, an American fan.  Fanny didn’t know that he was soon to inherit two plantations.  Had she known, most probably she would not have married him.  Little did she know that she would soon be fighting her own civil war.

Fanny Kemble was born in England in 1809 into a prominent family of actors.  Although she was very accomplished in her acting, it was not her true love.  Writing was her passion and throughout her she would write plays, journals, poetry, letters and memoirs.  Her most famous authorship would be that of Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation which many consider to be the closest, most detailed account of the harsh conditions of plantation slavery.

Fanny was a strong, spirited woman with no formal training in acting but she managed to captivate audiences.  She had what were considered to be masculine traits: she was independent, physically strong and highly intelligent.  She was talented, spoke French fluently and was accomplished in music.  She embraced life and enjoyed exercise, specifically riding.  To her the best way to was to break “my neck off the back of my horse at a full gallop on a fine day”.  This reminds me of my former boss whose wish was to die being mauled to death by a polar bear.  Whatever happened to wanting to die peacefully in one’s sleep?

Fanny met her future husband Pierce when she and her father went on a two-year theatre tour in America.  It wasn’t her desire to experience life in America but she did it to please her father.  She was well received by the Americans and captured the ardent attention of Pierce Butler, a man born into wealthy and prominent family from Philadelphia.  His grandfather was Revolutionary War veteran Major Pierce Butler.  Major Butler was a U.S. Senator from South Carolina and the author of the Constitution’s fugitive slave clause.  He owned two plantations in Georgia, one was on St. Simon’s Island where sea-island cotton was grown and the other was on Butler Island where rice was grown.  One day, his grandson would inherit this mass fortune, making history as one of the largest slaveholders in the nation.

Pierce, infatuated with Fanny, followed her while she toured and she fell in love with this charming and attentive man.  She married him as a way of escaping life in the theatre which was beset with her family’s unstable financial future.  She was marrying into wealth but didn’t find out what the source of that wealth was until after they got married.

It was a marriage that was doomed from the beginning.  She believed that he would always be devoted to her and he believed that he could control her.  And their differences on slavery did not help matters.  He thought he could get her to see the benefits of the institution while she thought she could get him to free his slaves.  When she tried to publish an antislavery treatise she had written, Pierce forbade her to do so.  After he and his brother John inherited the Georgia plantations, Fanny wanted to see the plantation and begged but Pierce to take her with him but he refused.  Then in December of 1838 he took her and their two daughters and their Irish nurse to Butler Island.  Nothing could have prepared Fanny for  what she witnessed at this place.  Inspite of the beautiful surroundings, she could not escape the ugly presence of slavery.  She said, “I should like the wild savage loneliness of the far away existence extremely if it were not for the one small item of the slavery.”

Fanny and Pierce clashed over their views of slavery and their marriage began to deteriorate.  In 1845 Fanny left Pierce and children and returned to England where she resumed her stage career.  Pierce sued for divorce, claiming that she had “willfully, maliciously, and without due cause, deserted him on September 11, 1845”.  Three years later, on April 7, 1848, he filed for divorce.  Fanny returned to America to defend herself against his charges and after a long and painful court battle, the divorce was granted a year later with Pierce having full custody of the girls.  Fanny was allowed to spend two months very summer with them and receive $1500 yearly in alimony.

While Fanny was able to support herself in the U.S. and Europe with her Shakespearean readings, Pierce fell into financial ruin, gambling away his fortune.  He ended up in huge debt which led to the selling of the mansion in Philadelphia and the liquidation of other properties.  Unfortunately, this was not enough so the trustees turned their focus on the property in Georgia where the slaves were.  This led to the largest single sale of human beings in United States history and the event known as “the weeping time” as slaves were separated from their families.

After the war Pierce and his daughter Frances returned to Butler Island where he arranged for former slaves to work for him as sharecroppers.  He later contracted malaria and died.  Fanny moved to Philadelphia where she continued to perform dramatic readings.  She travelled and published her journals.  On January 15, 1893, Fanny died peacefully in London.

Notes to Women want to acknowledge this woman who spoke out against an institution and practice which violated the rights of people based on their race.  Moved with compassion and a sense of decency, Fanny set out to reform the plantations.  She set up a hostel and nursery for those in need and paid the slaves who personally tended to her.  She improved the hygiene of the slave children by rewarding cleanliness with small prizes.   Her critics saw her efforts at reform as foolish and sided with her husband but we applaud Fanny for the stance she took against slavery and her resolve to do what she could to help the slaves and for raising awareness through her firsthand observations.  If you are interested in reading about her experiences, you can read them in her diary here.

In Fanny’s eyes, acquiring wealth from the forced labor and enslavement of others is unconscionable. She was convinced that slavery was wrong and inhumane and refused to be silenced on the matter.  She stuck to her convictions and today, her journal continues to be a primary source of education on the reality of slavery.

[On disagreeing with her husband about his slave-holding:] I cannot give my conscience into the keeping of another human being or submit the actions dictated by my conscience to their will.

I have sometimes been haunted with the idea that it was an imperative duty, knowing what I know, and having seen what I have seen, to do all that lies in my power to show the dangers and the evils of this frightful institution.

In the north we could not hope to keep the worst and poorest servant for a single day in the wretched discomfort in which our negro servants are forced habitually to live.

I said I thought female labour of the sort exacted from these slaves, and corporal chastisement such as they endure, must be abhorrent to any manly or humane man.

The Southern newspapers, with their advertisements of negro sales and personal descriptions of fugitive slaves, supply details of misery that it would be difficult for imagination to exceed. Scorn, derision, insult, menace – the handcuff, the last – the tearing away of children from parents, of husbands from wives – the weary trudging in droves along the common highways, the labor of body, the despair of mind, the sickness of heart – these are the realities which belong to the system, and form the rule, rather that the exception, in the slave’s experience.

A good many causes tend to make good masters and mistresses quite as rare as good servants…. The large and rapid fortunes by which vulgar and ignorant people become possessed of splendid houses, splendidly furnished, do not, of course, give them the feelings and manners of gentle folks, or in any way really raise them above the servants they employ, who are quite aware of this fact, and that the possession of wealth is literally the only superiority their employers have over them.

Though the Negroes are fed, clothed, and housed, and though the Irish peasant is starved, naked, and roofless, the bare name of freemen-the lordship over his own person, the power to choose and will-are blessings beyond food, raiment, or shelter; possessing which, the want of every comfort of life is yet more tolerable than their fullest enjoyment without them.

When marriage is what it ought to be, it is indeed the very happiest condition of existence.

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Sources:  PBS, Pabook Libraries, New Georgia Encyclopedia; Brainy Quotes; AZ Quotes; Stand Up Quotes

God’s Word is Sure

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;  But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry (Habbabuk 2:3).

We can trust God’s word.  No matter how long it may take, in His good time, it will come to pass.  God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son.  It took it years and years.  It took so long that Sarah decided to speed things up.  She made her own plans for a child by involving her maid Hagar.  Of course, things did not work out.  Hagar ended up leaving and Sarah was back to square one.  God again told Abraham that he would have a son but this time, He made it clear that the child would be with Sarah.  And at the appointed time, God’s word came to pass and Sarah was gave birth to a son.  God’s vision for Sarah tarried but it came at the right time.  Sarah had a child in her old age, proving that nothing is impossible with God.

Joseph had to wait more than two years for his dreams to come to pass.  During that time, he was sold to into slavery; was falsely accused of attempted rape and sent to prison.  He spent two years in jail before his life changed for the better. 

Simeon waited a long time to see God’s Savior and it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  One day, he received word from the Holy Spirit that the Child was in the temple.  Simeon held Him in his arms and said, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word;  For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Jesus promised that He would return one day.  He said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2, 3).  We know that we can trust Him.  If He says He will come back, we can be absolutely sure that He will.  We don’t know when He will come.  Only the Father knows but we know that just as He sent His Son here at the appointed time to save us, He will send Him at the appointed time to take us home.  In His Word, He promised, “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry (Hebrews 10:37).