Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions I receive about Walk to Freedom.
Where did the name Walk to Freedom come from?
My use of the name “Walk to Freedom” is borrowed from the June 23, 1963 Civil Rights March of the same name organized by the Detroit Council for Human Rights. One of the featured speakers was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time, the Detroit Walk To Freedom March was the largest and greatest demonstration for freedom ever held in the United States with over a 125,000 people in attendance.
The date of the march was picked to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Detroit Race Riots of 1943 that claimed the lives of nine whites and twenty-five African Americans. Seventeen of the 25 Blacks who died in the riots were a result of police brutality.
In choosing the title Walk to Freedom it represents the length and breadth of a people seeking equality from violence and oppression. It is also the intimate relationship with the land that we walk upon. And it represents our flight from the hell on earth created by our oppressors.
My website is titled Our Walk to Freedom (ourwalktofreedom.com) because the domain name Walk to Freedom is currently owned by someone seeking almost $25,000 for the rights to the name. Another variation of the same domain name, My Walk to Freedom, is selling for a little less around $2,900.
In addition the Nelson Mandela bio-pic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom further complicated the decision in choosing a website name because of the similarities. I finally settled on Our Walk to Freedom because I felt the name closely reflected the landscapes I planned to visit where violence, oppression, and migration are part of the story of the people.
How many miles a day do you walk?
On my walks, I typically average about 12-15 miles per day. But when the next town over I am trying to reach falls beyond that range I have walked up to 26-miles in a single day. These are averages across a relatively flat landscape walking on asphalt covered roadways, streets, and sidewalks. In more mountainous regions one’s miles may be less depending on your strength as a hiker.
Why do you call yourself a “Walking Artist?”
I consider myself a walking artist because I am interested in walking as a mode of art practice. As a member of the Walking Artists Network, it defines walking artists fields of interest as diverse as, “but not limited to, architecture, archaeology, anthropology, cultural geography, history, spatial design, urban design and planning.”
One member Tracy Novello, defines Walking as “part of an overall art process, as it is multi-sensory and physical – it encompasses me entirely; it is breathing, seeing, feeling, smelling, connecting, living as a process. Walking engages all my senses in a creative dance, sometimes leading to other forms of expression, but always part of a whole.”
Where have you walked?
I’ve walked across the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Delaware, Southeastern Pennsylvania, Central New Jersey, Southern New York following the Underground Railroad; Massachusetts (my very first long walk), and South Central Alabama, Northern Mississippi, and Western Tennessee to the Mississippi River retracing the steps of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement in the American South. Internationally, I hiked across the Island of Puerto Rico on the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria, and walked across Northern Ireland commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Belfast to Derry Civil Rights March.
Why do you walk long distances?
In short, because I want to put Movement back into the Civil Rights Movement. I began walking because hard earned Civil Rights enactments from the 1950s, 60s and 70s were being legally reversed and watered down on state and federal levels. I felt by walking I could speak to individuals and communities directly while raising awareness about the need to protect and preserve our civil liberties.
Also, I began walking to reinvigorate my life through movement. As a regular 9-5 white collar worker I felt my body was becoming atrophied by sitting all day working at a computer station. Walking helped breath new energy into my body while simultaneously strengthening my muscles.
When is your Walk Across Puerto Rico and what are some of the goals?
In a symbolic effort to mark two years since the arrival of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, members of four arts and culture organizations are initiating a 114-mile solidarity walk across Puerto Rico, from September 7 – 20, 2019.
Our intention is to explore what’s possible when people look inward to revive traditions and cultural practices that support the spiritual and material development of communities.
Starting in Isabella, in the northwest corner of the island near the point where Hurricane Maria rejoined the sea, we walked in a diagonal trajectory across the Cordillera Central Mountains to the southeast coast where the storm first made landfall in Yabucoa on September 20, 2017.
What do you plan to do with the data you are collecting from your walks?
My goal is to begin speaking to community groups, libraries, and just about anyone that may be interested in hearing my story. A lot of people have suggested to me that I should write a book. I’m not committing my self to such a large undertaking yet. But it is something that is on my mind.
Why do you have to fund raise for every walk?
Since I started Walk to Freedom I have used crowd sourcing as a mechanism to support my walks. It takes a great amount of time, energy, and money to leave home for weeks, months, or years, to fulfill the goal of completing a pilgrimage. In many of the cities and towns that I pass through very few current residents are aware of the role their area played, for example, in assisting runaway slaves reach freedom via the Underground Railroad until they see me walk pass their house stopping me to ask questions. It is not getting someone else to pay for my vacations, as one writer suggested. Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglas spent their free lives asking for money to support their effort to spread the word about the evils of slavery.
The support I have received has been tremendous and I am indebted to the many friends and strangers who have supported my efforts.
Through their generosity I have been able to obtain the backpacking equipment, shoes, lodging, and hiking gear necessary for such long journeys. Their support has also helped with purchasing meals, transportation, travel insurance, and a medical examination when I injured my foot trying to out run a storm in Alabama.
Were you scared walking across the Deep South alon, and did you encounter any incidents of racial prejudice?
I was somewhat scared before I started out on my journey because a lot of my Northern friends were scared for me. They kept reminding me of incidents of racial violence and injustices that occurred not only in the past but in the present as well.
What I discovered on my walk was mostly Southern hospitality and people who felt deeply concerned about the erosion of Civil Rights and not wanting to things to go back to the ways of the old South.
What really scared me at times were the sounds of animals at night sniffing near my tent for food.