Tubman's story offers lesson on freedom


January 23, 2002|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SHE HAS PLAYED the role of Harriet Tubman for more than eight years, but teaching schoolchildren about Tubman's struggle for freedom has taken on new meaning for Gwendolyn Briley-Strand since Sept. 11.

"I lost my brother in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11," said Briley-Strand, who lives in Fort Washington. "He was on the 106th floor of Tower One. I want the children to learn how precious our freedom is. I want them to know that there's a high price to be paid for freedom."

She presented her one-woman show, Harriet Tubman: The Chosen One, last week at Swansfield Elementary School.

Briley-Strand, who wrote the play and performs all the parts, said she did extensive research for the role. "I felt a real spiritual connection with Harriet Tubman," she said. "I started touring as Sojourner Truth and auditioned for a piece about Harriet Tubman in Philadelphia. I played her for a couple of years, and then I decided to really research her life and write my own piece about her."

Born on Maryland's Eastern Shore about 1820, Tubman led more than 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad.

"Even though she was illiterate, she was brilliant," Briley-Strand said. "She loved this country."

Jim Ford, fourth-grade team leader at Swansfield, said his pupils benefit from watching a performer interpret history.

"It's one thing to read about history, but to actually see it acted out and to see the emotions expressed by the performer are things that don't always come out by reading the text," he said.

"It's just like Harriet Tubman came to life," said Miranda Bradley, 9, a fourth-grader.

"In the play I say, `Freedom is a hard-bought thing that demands a high price. It's not bought with dust or words or empty promises. It's bought with one's self or one's brother or mother or sister,'" said Briley-Strand. "I think that in this country, we have taken for granted the freedoms that we have. We don't talk enough about the greatness of this country."

Patriotic celebration

Clarksville Middle School and its PTA will sponsor a Patriotic Family Fun Night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday.

In response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, members of the seventh-grade Town Council decided to do something to help schoolchildren in New York City.

They established partnerships with two public schools near the World Trade Center site. The partnerships include sending letters of support, and funds from the night will be donated to the New York schools.

The evening will begin with a talent show featuring teachers and children. From 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., families will be invited to participate in games and enjoy American foods. Patriotic items will be for sale.

Information: the school at 410-313-7057.

Mardi Gras

The River Hill Community Association will sponsor "Mardi Gras," an adults-only dinner and dance, Feb. 1.

The event will be held from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Ten Oaks Ballroom on Signal Bell Lane and will include entertainment, food and drinks.

Tickets are $30 and are available at Claret Hall.

Information: 410-531-1749.

Baby-sitting essentials

A course on "Essentials in Babysitting" will be offered from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center.

The class offers tips on how to effectively manage children, emergency techniques and ways to create a safe environment.

Participants will receive lunch and a certificate of attendance. The fee is $44.

The center is in Suite L-9 of the Columbia Medical Center, 11055 Little Patuxent Parkway.

Information or registration: 410-740-7601.

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