SnR UGRR Tour 2011 ~ July 9 History Day 4
A Treat Like No Other
We stayed in Oberlin, OH for another day. We couldn’t help it. The hospitality was exemplary, the accommodations impeccably unique and the food was a smorgasbord of delights. What more could you ask for a full day of history?
We were greeted in the morning by Dr. Margaret Christian, a local historian of Oberlin (even though she’s not from here she knows it ALL) and a graduate of Oberlin College. She’s a spry 79 years old and remembers a LOT.
The day started off with the usual big breakfast. When I say big, I mean BIG. I ordered the two egg cheese omelet which came looking as it should, two eggs big (but they had to be some BIG eggs) with a short stack of blueberry pancakes. You know diner plates, right? About 12 inches in diameter? Well the short stack comprised of TWO of these 12″ pancakes! In addition, I took the pan fries from Dr. Cousins. Needless to say I was chastised by a couple of the male Youth Cyclists for leaving food on my plate. One even offered to have finished it if he’d known. I don’t know how they do it.
Today is the tour of Oberlin, OH as delivered by the incomparable Margaret Christian. Dr. Christian is one of the local historians of Oberlin. She, along with Dr. Cousins and Julia gave us a one of a kind (SnR Style) tour of the city. From the Oberlin Underground Railroad monument to the Wlson Bruce Evans house to the cemetery to learn how to read a town from them.
The best part of the tour is on audio. I couldn’t archive enough video for this event. The battery wouldn’t last long enough. We were overwhelmed with the wonderful history of the struggle for survival and freedom in this little town that said NO.
Of the many conversations that was had with Dr. Christian one that stood out was the fact that she actually spoke to my hero, El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz/Malcolm X. Dr. Christian met him during one of her art exhibits in New York. She was a radical then displaying art that people at the time weren’t quite ready for. His advice to her was that she has to give the people what they want. I interpret that to mean for me that you give them what they want while encouraging them to take what they need. The jewels of the tour for me is meeting people like Dr. Christian in Oberlin and Ms. Mae in Selma who, unknown to me, have done extremely arduous footwork in terms of the struggle for identity and rights for people of the darker hue; and to know that they did it for me because they sure weren’t expecting change the next day. They are my heroes, as well.
At the close of the day Dr. Cousins presented us with gift bags put together by the City of Oberlin, OH in recognition of our special Underground Railroad tour. They have done this for no other cyclists, tourists, travelers of the UGRR, no one. In TRUE SnR Style they were treated as the special people the Youth Cyclists are; with honor, delight and wonderment that this group of youth from Chapel Hill North Carolina, who aren’t “troubled” teens, who are average, next door neighbor kids of various economic levels, who do average to above average in school and have embarked upon this unprecedented tour of 1800 miles along the Underground Railroad that no teens known to us have EVER done before. They have done this and deserve to be uplifted for this historic effort. Just as the people who have escaped the brutality of slavery had to do so many years ago. This honor and gift was bestowed upon them in the home of John Mercer Langston, an abolitionist, a conspirator to end enslavement of African People. Done in the very room that the gathering and plan was made. May the ancestors be proud of this moment.
|The meeting parlor of John Mercer Langston
The historic John Mercer Langston House, a designated National Historic Landmark (Dr. Cousin’s home in Oberlin) is also on the National Registry. The John Mercer Langston Institute hosted our overnight accommodations at the Langston House, meals, including one at a restaurant associated with the protection of immigrant rights, town tours with a high school student guide and local community historian from the John Mercer Langston Institute, Margaret Christian.
We also attended the Oberlin Summer Theater Festival 2011 Season opening night’s production of A Raisin in the Sun, and met lead actress, Debra Rose. Before riding out of Oberlin, we stopped at the site of the Oberlin Gasholder Building/Underground Railroad Project.
Thank you, Dr. Cousins, Nikita Johnson (AIR), Margaret Christian, Mrs. Reeder and Julia for a fabulous and fantastic visit to your lovely hometown.
Spoke ‘n Revolutions Youth Cycling UGRR Tour 2011 ~ Visit the nation’s National Parks.
Let’s Move Outside!