"I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it." - Harriet Tubman said that 163 years ago. For a lot of us it might as well have been said yesterday.
You ask most folks how they describe liberty today? They respond with learned vague platitudes - a home, a good job, a healthy family. I grew up watching the generations before me come home at night completely ruined chasing that liberty down. Chasing that definition of freedom.
What good does do us if there is nothing left of us to enjoy any moment of it. Running ourselves ragged? People tie themselves down t'all these preconceptions. A home - you could be free there, if home didn't mean church cuz momma tells you to, if home hadn't mean neighborhoods with bullet holes in the sidin', if home meant my opinion had any value because I'm a girl. A good job? I can clean hotel rooms or fight in a kitchen for minimum wage. Go out and beg for the professional scraps left at someone else's table just so we can say we have a good job? and don't even start me on a healthy family - we all know that doesn't even exist anymore? Nope - the scars on all of us show us that truth.
I went from high school graduation - right down to the school of beauty. I learned how to craft someone from caterpillar, through chrysalis, and onto a full on butterfly in just an hour's time.
When I was a girl, I took all of Harriet's words, all those painful lessons she left for us to learn? I took it all for granted until I got the first month's books done at the salon. That's when I realized that I hadn't had any experience of the liberty - and I was ignorant of it as generations before me. My next choices would define me. Not what I was expected to do by anyone else, but what my heart told me was right.
Tubman said proudly once, "I can say what most conductors can't say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger." Now before we get all too up at it, its not like a chair in a salon is part of some grand underground railroad.
However, when you see a sad woman's eyes light up with surprise when I turn her towards the mirror, you know this is their first step on the way to something else. None of my business where they pivot to, as long as when they are with me they achieve that moment where they 'see' beauty. You have never seen transformation like a black woman who looks in the mirror and for the first time in however long, sees how beautiful she is. She sees how she won't ever let herself be seen otherwise again. The power of having that as a truth always inside you?
Weaponized, realized beauty.
So, you ask me how I define liberty? I see it as an untetheredness. None of those other expectations weighin' me down like an anchor. I don't have a whole lot, but what I have I am putting to work. That's me putting MY freedom to work.
I may have grown up one of the neglected weeds, but baby - Baby, watch me now. I'm just starting to bloom. And you'd do best by just makin' way.