Ch@t: Bringing the ‘Spirit of Harriet Tubman’ to life

Posted 12/27/19

Winston-Salem native Diane Faison-Mckinzie will perform “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman,” a one-woman play about the life of the most famous “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, at 2 p.m. …

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Ch@t: Bringing the ‘Spirit of Harriet Tubman’ to life

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Winston-Salem native Diane Faison-Mckinzie will perform “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman,” a one-woman play about the life of the most famous “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, at 2 p.m. on Jan. 5 at Pittsboro Presbyterian Church. The performance is sponsored by the Chatham Community NAACP. A retired teacher, Faison-Mckinzie has been performing as Tubman since 1988. A graduate of N.C. Central University in Durham, she has also studied at Longwood University and the University of Virginia.

How did the idea for “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman” start?

I got the idea when I was still teaching in the 80s. Every year teachers were asked to come up with activities or projects for Black History Month. I didn’t want the students to do the same old boring written reports about a famous black person in history. I decided to research famous black people in history in the library. As I was searching the shelved books, a book fell to the floor. It was the life of Harriet Tubman. As I read those printed words about Harriet, I knew that this was the person I would portray, by speaking as Harriet to my students. The next day as the students came to my classroom they saw and heard Harriet Tubman. To this day those students, now in their forties, still remember me as Harriet and the story of who she was. They are now bring their children to see me perform.

You connect with Harriet Tubman in a lot of ways…can you talk about that?

I connect with Harriet because she was a “soldier” fighting for freedom for her people. My connection is that I was also a “solider” for my people in the 60s. As a very young Black girl in Winston-Salem fighting for my people’s civil rights being involved in non-violent protests.

How has the recently-released film “Harriet” impacted you, your work, and requests for your performances?

I had the privilege of seeing the Harriet Tubman film, and enjoyed it. The film indulged in theatrical enhancements that indeed made the film interesting.

The film starts with Harriet as a grown married woman, and my performances start with Harriet as a child. Other historical facts in the film were nuggets of interest that will be including in some of my future performances. Requests for my performances as a result of people seeing the film, as of yet, has not seemed to be a catalyst to inquire about my performances.

What can people who see you perform expect to experience, and learn, from what you do?

As result of seeing my performance, it is my hope that the audience will experience a feeling that the are actually seeing the “talking, walking and breathing” Harriet Tubman. I strive to make my audiences feel pain, love, and even humor. The audience will learn the strength, determination, and the faith in God that Harriet possessed.


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