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White Plains Unveils Harriet Tubman Statue at Renaissance Plaza

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By Bailey Hosfelt 
Ernestine “Tina” Martin Wyatt, the great-great-great-grandniece of Harriet Tubman, spoke at the ceremony Saturday at Renaissance Plaza.

The City of White Plains and the White Plains Business Improvement District (WPBID) hosted a welcome ceremony Saturday afternoon to unveil the “Harriet Tubman – The Journey to Freedom” statue, which will be on display at Renaissance Plaza through June 30. 

The event, which was well-attended by members of the public, included African drumming and performances by the Ministers Fellowship of White Plains Gospel Choir and the White Plains Youth Bureau’s after-school dance crew. 

Elected officials, area pastors and Ernestine “Tina” Martin Wyatt and Abdul Tubman, both descendants of Harriet Tubman, spoke at the ceremony.  

“The statue of Harriet Tubman is representative of her fearlessness, but it’s also representative of the network that became a movement,” Councilwoman Nadine Hunt-Robinson said. “When a network becomes a movement, it increases exponentially the power and the impact of change. When a network becomes a movement, the seemingly impossible becomes possible.” 

White Plains Mayor Tom Roach highlighted that the unveiling marks a tremendous day for both the city and Westchester County. 

“We’re so proud to have the statue here,” Roach said. “As a work of art, it shows Harriet Tubman not as an image but as a person who fought with everything she had to save people, bringing them out of enslavement and to freedom.”

Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-17) highlighted that the United States is currently at a moment of reckoning with its origin story, the legacy of violence and what it wants to be moving forward. 

“Harriet Tubman – The Journey to Freedom” on display in Renaissance Plaza until June 30.

“I’m so proud to serve this community that strives to display that history in all of its complicated beauty and sorrow,” Jones said. “What a joy it is to bring such a powerful symbol of that history right here in New York’s 17th Congressional District.”

Jones added that the statue’s corresponding event series will serve as a reminder of Tubman’s legacy. 

“Let us take inspiration from stories like hers, stories of people who will stop at nothing to achieve freedom for all,” Jones said. 

Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-16) shared that when asked who is one of the most amazing Americans in U.S. history or his top civil rights leader, Tubman comes to mind immediately. 

“Harriet Tubman risked her life multiple times to free my ancestors,” Bowman said. “She freed the slaves who were stolen from their land, robbed of their religion, their culture, their language, their music, their very soul.”

While underscoring that Tubman is a hero who fought for and represents so much, Bowman also stressed  as a country there was much further to go — particularly for Black and Brown communities.

“We are still fighting for so much, and we continue to struggle in that fight because we do not have enough allies and co-conspirators,” Bowman said. “So I ask you, White Plains, Westchester County, New York State, who are our co-conspirators? If we are going to reach the ideals of our democracy and Constitution, we need every single man, woman and child to be a co-conspirator.”

Tubman’s great-nephew Abdul Tubman noted that the statue is aptly named because the struggle for freedom still exists, especially at a time when there is an active movement to ban American history — particularly the history of slavery and oppression — from being taught in schools. 

“This beautiful work of art is a reminder that she’s here within all of us seeing our progress, as well as how far we still have to go toward freedom and acceptance,” Tubman said. “We as a demographic and as a nation are fractured but not broken. We’re here today at this unveiling in a celebration of a remarkable woman cemented into the fabric of American history.”

Wyatt, the great-great-great-grandniece of Tubman, stressed that Tubman was a woman who broke the shackles of enslavement and went on to help so many others. 

“Harriet was a woman who did not have what we have today, the creature comforts, education and opportunities,” Wyatt said. “Yet she was able to long ago shatter the glass ceiling that we talk about now.”

Wyatt encouraged attendees to reflect on Tubman’s life and legacy when gazing upon the statue. 

“She was unstoppable and determined, fierce but tender. An ordinary woman doing extraordinary feats,” Wyatt said. “She was a doer. No complaints, only thoughts of meeting the next challenge and how to overcome it.”

White Plains Youth Bureau Executive Director Frank Williams honored 15 women for their commitment to the community at the event with Women Who Serve awards. 

The WPBID launched a dedicated webpage, which features a calendar of programming and events that will accompany the statue through June. 

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