HARRIET IS OUR HERO: Telling the Untold Steampunk Tales
Harriet crouched low in the thickets. She counted five – no, six – adults in the house. Four men; two women. They were at the supper table, eating a grayish-brown mass from wooden bowls with their fingers.
A constant, dull thump emanated from the rear of the house.
“Must be the child,” Harriet whispered. She reasoned that the girl was bored and was pretending to skip rope with the heavy chain she was tethered to.
Harriet crept towards the back of the house, but a familiar voice made her pause. She looked skyward. “I ain’t one to question yo’ Word, but is you sure, Lawd?” She nodded. “Thy will be done, then.”
Harriet stood and brushed the dirt from her dress. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. The night air cooled the sweat on her forehead, and the flickering flame in her gut. She opened her eyes and locked her gaze on the house.
In three strong bounds, she was standing at the front door of the house. She pounded her tiny, brown fist on the rotting wood.
The thumping of the heavy chain ceased.
The door was flung open wide.
And the stench of sweat and spoiled milk assaulted her nostrils.
“What you want, gal?”
Harriet quickly peered into the house. Everyone, except for the wiry man standing before her, was still sitting at the table. But they were no longer eating and their eyes were fixed on the doorway.
The man in the doorway spat onto the porch, the bilious sputum just missing Harriet’s boots. “You hear me, nigger? I said…”
The web of flesh between Harriet’s thumb and forefinger struck the man’s throat. She glided past him as he fell to the floor, clutching his crushed windpipe and gasping for air.
The men at the table jumped to their feet and rushed toward her, as the two women ran toward the rear of the house.
Harriet exploded forward, pummeling the nearest man to her with a flurry of elbow strikes.
Blood erupted from the man’s nose and mouth as his face collapsed under the force of Harriet’s swift and powerful blows.
Massive arms wrapped around her waist, jerking her into the air.
Harriet threw her head back forcefully. A crunching sound followed and then a scream.
She felt something warm and wet soak the back of her bonnet.
The grip on her waist loosened slightly. She took advantage of the opportunity, bending forward and grabbing the man-mountain’s leg with both hands. Holding on tightly, she rolled forward.
The momentum of the roll forced the giant to tumble over onto his back.
Harriet landed on her back, with the giant’s leg between hers. She thrust her hips forward forcefully, ramming her pelvis into the man’s knee, as she yanked his ankle back toward her shoulder.
The man-mountain’s leg made a loud, popping noise. Harriet tossed the badly twisted leg aside. The giant screamed as his leg flopped around on the floor, no longer under the goliath’s control.
She sprang to her feet.
Harriet was met by a powerful punch toward her face as she stood. She shifted slightly to her right and the punch torpedoed past her.
She countered by slamming the heel of her right foot into the man’s solar plexus, which sent him careening through the air. He came to rest on the supper table. Slivers of wood and chunks of gray-brown mush sprayed into the air.
The last man turned on his heels and ran toward the door. Harriet kicked an overturned chair. The oak chair flipped through the air and struck the man in the back of the head. The man’s head split open like an over-ripe plum. She turned from the dying man and walked to the rear of the house.
The back door was wide open.
The wind had extinguished the candles, but the moon bathed the room in a silver-blue incandescence. The women were – wisely – long gone, but the girl was still in the room, crouched in a corner. An iron manacle was locked to her right ankle. The manacle was connected to a heavy, iron chain, which was screwed into the floor.
Harriet crouched before the little girl, and placed a gentle hand upon her shoulder. “You alright, baby?”
The little girl perused the room, as if to ensure they were alone, and then nodded.
“You Margaret, I reckon.”
The child nodded again.
Harriet rubbed her hand over the girl’s matted, light brown curls. “We gon’ get you outta here and get you cleaned up. Gotta have you presentable for yo’ daddy.”
The little girl’s eyes widened and the corners of her mouth turned up in the hint of a smile. Yet the act of smiling seemed to strain her, as if she had not smiled in quite some time. “My daddy? He sent you for me?”
Harriet pulled an L-shaped, sliver of metal from behind the ribbon in her bonnet; and slid it into the back of the manacle around Margaret’s ankle. “He sure did.” The manacle clicked and slid open.
Margaret caressed her bruised and swollen ankle. “Ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking…”
“Go ‘head, child.”
“Who are you?” Margaret asked.
Harriet stood, and helped the little girl to her feet. “Me? I’m Harriet. Harriet Tubman.”
- From Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman by Balogun Ojetade
This is the Harriet Tubman of my childhood visions. The Harriet Tubman I chose to make the hero of my first novel, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman. The Harriet Tubman Milton Davis and I chose to make the leader of all the heroes in the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage.
Recently, masses of people – including Yours Truly – were outraged by a video from Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital Youtube page that parodies the iconic hero and freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman, with a sex tape.
The video, titled Harriet Tubman Sex Tape, revisits the story of General Moses’ freedom fighting efforts by portraying her as engaging in aggressive sex acts with a white plantation owner.
“This our only chance to getting freedoms,” Harriet Tubman says when asked if her plans to have sex – doggy-style, no less – with the slave-master will actually work.
After engaging in sex – in which she also penetrates the slave-master doggy-style (yeah, it goes there) – Harriet Tubman smokes a cigarette as she lies with the satiated slave-master and makes demands upon him because she now has leverage with which to blackmail him.
This garbage – which Russell Simmons proclaimed the funniest thing he has ever seen – is alternate history gone completely wrong.
I enjoin other authors and filmmakers to join me, Milton Davis and other Steamfunk authors in getting it right.
This is just one reason why Steamfunk is important. It tells the stories that need to be told in the way people should tell them.
I enjoin fans of books, films, history and / or Harriet Tubman to read Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman and Steamfunk and to check out and support Rite of Passage, which is now in production. These great works portray Harriet Tubman as the amazing person she truly is.
Below are other short films and videos that feature Harriet Tubman as the hero. And yes, Uncle Ruckus Simmons, you can portray Harriet Tubman with humor, but remember…
She ain’t no joke!