Tubman descendant brings challenge to audience

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 08:19 PM

In celebration of Black History Month, the Emrose Gallery on Garnett Street hosted Bishop David E. Alston, a direct descendant of the late Harriet Tubman, on Friday evening.

Alston, an educator, author, motivational speaker and preacher, is the founder of Progressive Harvest Fellowship Church in Norlina.

He discovered his roots to Tubman while writing a book on the struggles he faced growing up as an adopted child.

“My grandmother is first cousins with Harriet Tubman, and I am first cousins twice removed from Harriet Tubman,”
Alston said. “When I found that out I was fascinated, and I began to put it in a book, because I began to see some of the same traits about Harriet functioning in my life — compassion for people, wanting to push people and drive people.”

Amidst a room adorned with inspiring images and stories representing black history, Alston encouraged attendees to uphold the societal movements achieved by notorious black figures such as Tubman.

Tubman, an abolitionist, humanitarian and spy during the Civil War, rescued slaves using a network of antislavery activist and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

She was known for carrying a gun, and not solely for the purpose of facing possible opposition.

“She carried a gun because she was leading to freedom men that were my size and larger who would get tired along the way and say, ‘I’m not going another step, I quit’,” Alston said. “Harriet would say, ‘Oh yes you are!’

“The reason I say that is because every one of us needs to find that one thing that we have that we can pull out to motivate people to be better.”

Alston’s challenge to the audience was to find a way to put their stamp on society.

As he pointed to pictures of figures such as Jesse Owens, a black track and field athlete who won the hearts of Americans of all colors when he received four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who shared his dream for racial equality with a crowd of more than 250,000 people in Washington, D.C., on Aug.  28, 1963, and the four black college students that sat down at a whites only lunch counter in Greensboro on Feb. 1, 1960, he asked the crowd to get busy carrying on their legend.

“We can’t allow the road that they have paved to end now,” Alston  said. “It’s going to end if we don’t begin to become active, to do something, to pull out our weapon and say, ‘You’re not going to stop now.’”

Contact the writer at amauser@hendersondispatch.com.