I greet you as the great great granddaughter of escape slaves, Ellen and William Craft, who devised clever disguises and ran a thousand miles to freedom, from Georgia to Boston in 1848. When slave catchers were sent to capture them, they fled once again, this time to London, England, where slavery had been abolished. They learned to read and write and wrote the story of their daring escape in a book entitled, Running A Thousand Miles For Freedom, which was published in 1860. When the Civil War ended, they returned to Georgia and founded a school for freed slaves.
I am also a descendant of Virginia Isaac Trotter and James Trotter, my great-grandparents, who both came from enslaved families, including the family of Sally Hemings, who was enslaved at President Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Plantation. James Trotter was a second Lieutenant in the all Black Massachusetts 55th regiment that fought in the civil war, and his son, my grandmother's brother, William Monroe Trotter, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard, was a radical newspaper publisher and editor, and a direct action protestor, and an original founder of the NAACP with W.E.B. Dubois.
I am a descendant of freedom fighters who inspired me to follow in their footsteps by joining SNCC as a teenager and working in the Deep South in the 1960s, teaching literacy and registering rural Black voters.
As a youth, I worked with Dr. King and others, and attended the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I was jailed three times for my actions, and they may not be my last. It seems, just like yesterday, that I was in a sit-in, or marching in a protest line, or being jailed for standing up for justice — but I do not stand on yesterday's actions as I continue to be active in our struggle for equality, equity, and freedom.
I support Black Lives Matter. I work against sex trafficking and domestic violence, and support our city of Long Beach framework for reconciliation and other efforts for justice throughout our city. As a poet and writer, I am uplifted by the spoken words of our young people like Amanda Gordon, and others who inspire us to never give up.
In closing, I would like to share a short poem I wrote at the Museum of the Savannah College of Art and Design several years ago at a ceremony honoring my great great grandparents escape from slavery in Macon, Georgia in 1848. It's entitled, A Calling Forth.
Today, we stand, our family,
in a perpetual circle of grace,
listening to our ancestors calling to us
through blood, and sacrifice, and communal space.
To rise, to continue, to celebrate,
to persist on this continuum of collective effort,
an individual sacrifice,
to follow their stepping stones to liberation.
Amen and hallelujah.
Copyright © Peggy Trotter Dammond Preacely
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