AUBURN — A stone said to have originated from a place associated with the blight of slavery was transported across the globe and placed at the Auburn grave site of a figure who fought for freedom.
Don Victor Mooney, president of the H.R. 1242 Resilience Project group, held a commemorative ceremony Friday at the grave site of iconic abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who lived in Auburn, with a stone Mooney said was from the House of Slaves at Goree Island, Senegal, which was a holding center for slaves from Africa.
Mooney, who lives in Queens, accompanied by his son James, placed a shawl from Senegal over the grave site and placed a blanket on the ground at the site at Fort Hill Cemetery. He raised the stone above his head, took a couple steps forward and placed the stone on the blanket, with the stone pointed to Tubman's tombstone. In between speaking, he poured water from a bottle on the stone.
"Ms. Tubman, we brought Africa to you. Africa says thank you. Africa points to you to say 'thank you for saving our sons and daughters,'" he said.
At one point, he got down on the ground to kiss the stone. At the end of the ceremony, Mooney invited tourists who had separately come to visit Tubman's site to also pour water on the stone.
After the ceremony, Mooney praised Tubman and talked about the idea of a collective spiritual healing process.
"Her spirit of resilience is something that resonates around the world, and to bring Africa back to Ms. Tubman, it's an honor to have this stone dedicated to her resilience, to never give up, and to begin the healing process," he said.
The resilience project is named after the bill H.R. 1242, "which establishes the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act to develop and carry out activities throughout the United States to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619." according to the group's website. The bill was signed by President Donald Trump in Jan. 2018. Mooney said he hopes the state equivalent of the bill will receive New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature in the future.
The stone was featured at a ceremony at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City in August, Mooney said, adding that they plan to give the stone to the state in the future.
Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.