The divisive task of taking statues down has been occupying many communities. But in Cambridge, a unifying yearlong movement has centered around putting one up.
The grassroots community organization Harriet’s Journey Home has been focused on raising $250,000 to install a permanent statue honoring Harriet Tubman in front of the Dorchester County Courthouse. That mission received a boost Thursday with a $5,000 donation presented by Paul Baiers on behalf of Crescent City Charities.
Baiers serves on the board of directors and as secretary to the nonprofit Prince George’s County-based organization active in helping raise funds to address citizens’ health, welfare and social concerns. Since moving to the Cambridge area in 2005, Baiers has coordinated a local field office which operates regular bingo games to raise money for a wide array of services.
After awarding the donation to Adrian Holmes, founder and president of Alpha Genesis Community Development Corporation, who has spearheaded the Harriet’s Journey Home efforts, Baiers headed to Cambridge South Dorchester High School to present $6,000 toward helping equip the boys’ lacrosse and girls’ basketball teams.
Other recent donations have been to EMS for bikes, the Pine Street Enrichment Center, the fire department, a police department crime solver program, and the sheriff’s toy drive.
Clerk of Dorchester County Circuit Court Amy Craig is among the staunch supporters of having a permanent Tubman statue at the courthouse. Familiar with Baiers’ efforts to help a local family in need, she asked if Crescent City Charities could contribute to the statue funding effort. “Just have the group fill out a grant funding request,” Baiers told her. He invited them to request additional funding in the next fiscal year.
Holmes graciously received the bequest surrounded by members of the grant-writing committee, who have worked tirelessly seeking monetary support.
Standing on the spot where the statue is due to be raised, Holmes smiled while thanking Baiers for the check, noting that it had raised the total generated since Dec. 1, 2020, to $197,000.
She also expressed gratitude to the many people who have contributed to helping bring the goal so much closer within reach.
“A dedicated team of volunteers, including members of state and local government, the county Chamber of Commerce, the local Heritage Area, community organizations and schools, are all actively involved in the endeavor,” Holmes said.
The seed for the idea was planted after award-winning North Carolina artist Wesley Wofford’s traveling Journey to Freedom sculpture of Tubman visited here from September to October 2020, unveiled on the first Day of Resilience on Sept. 10, which AGCDC originated.
Holmes and others were impressed by not only the number of visitors drawn to the courthouse to view the statue, but the impassioned response of those who came. Long a believer in the power of art to foster connection, Holmes noted that during its month in residence, “hundreds of visitors shared time with Harriet. Often exuberant, always moving, people took pictures, held the statue’s outstretched hand, and brought family members. In celebrating Harriet, we are inspired, our faith renewed and our commitment to community and family uplifted,” she said.
The belief that this was where a devoted tribute to Tubman belonged made sense to many, and the Harriet’s Journey Home fundraiser was officially launched, gaining steam throughout the year. In October, nearly 200 bike riders from across Maryland and seven other states traversed the historic Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, raising $12,000 toward bringing the statue here. Craig, who helped co-chair the event, noted that many people have already signed up for next year’s ride.
Holmes’ message to donors this past Giving Tuesday requested help in reaching $200,000 by the end of 2021. An official unveiling date of Sept. 10, 2022, has been set, and visitors are already making arrangements to be present at the ceremony.
Inspired by the response to Wofford’s visiting statue, the sculptor was asked to create the permanent structure. The $250,000 price tag covers his commission, purchase of the new bronze statue itself and costs surrounding its permanent installation, along with funds required for ongoing maintenance.
Titled The Beacon of Hope, instead of Tubman holding a lamp, as she is traditionally portrayed, the 11-foot statue instead signifies her role as the light of inspiration for others to follow by her heroic actions, according to Wofford. A step-up granite base provides viewers accessibility.
The proposed site layout includes a meandering path leading up the hill to the statue, informing visitors of Tubman’s historic milestones and achievements, as well as a healing garden, marking the stages of her life’s journey.
According to Holmes, “all donations, large and small, are welcome,” to the fund, which is managed by the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, and can be made by PayPal or at mscf.org. For more information, call 410-989-3909 or email info@AlphaGenesisCDC.org. For more information on Crescent City Charities, visit www.cccharities.org.