In the words of historian Charles Blockson:

“This book {walk} is respectfully dedicated to the memory of those brave souls who represented the morality of antebellum America. They served an admirable purpose of organizing the Underground Railroad – that mysterious, formidable enemy of slavocracy – with an uncompromising commitment to freedom.”  Hippocrene Guide to The Underground Railroad

 

A New Walk Begins! Walk to Freedom – New York to Canada

Wednesday August 24 – With the aid of Marybeth DiMarco, my host in the Auburn area, I returned to the road today to resume my Walk to Freedom journey to Canada. Following a week and a half break to attend a wedding for a dear friend I have known for 43 years, I was happy to begin the next leg of the walk to Rochester. With about 200 miles to go to reach St. Catharine’s Ontario, I was excited to click off 15 miles today walking from Auburn to Seneca Falls, home of the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention. The meeting launched the women’s suffrage movement, which more than seven decades later ensured women the right to vote. As part of my walk I am dedicating this day’s walk to Lucretia Mott, Harriet Tubman’s friend and confidant, the keynote speaker at the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention. 

 

Tuesday August 9 – After reaching Auburn and the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park, I was delighted to be welcomed by the local chapter of GirlTrek and other community members including Judith Wellman, Marybeth DiMarco, Judy Bryant, Pauline Copes Johnson, Youngsil and Mark Briggs from the Syracuse area. It was really wonderful to be recognized for a personal journey I sometimes have difficulty explaining to others what it means to me.

Since arriving in Auburn last week, I have left the road temporarily to attend a previously scheduled engagement. I will return to the trail on August 24. With about 200 miles to go I hope to complete the final leg of the journey from Auburn to St. Catharine’s by the second week of September.

Monday August 8 – This morning around 8:15 a.m., before the sweltering heat began to settle over the hills and valleys of Onodaga County, I walked into the Town of Marcellus, about 13 miles from Auburn, New York. I hope to reach Auburn and the final resting place of Harriet Tubman late tomorrow morning. I plan to spend one to two days in Auburn paying my respect to the late great “Moses” before beginning the next leg of the journey to Rochester.

William Seward, Harriet Tubman Statue

Donate Today – GoFundMe

As I begin the fourth week on the road to Canada, I am $2,000 short from reaching my goal of $5,000. While I have done a great deal to reduce costs on this journey like tenting out, working to discover host families along the way, on three occasions I have had to check into motels or hotels due to heat exhaustion. The total cost of these three room nights have equaled about $500-600.00 quickly reducing the funds needed for food, emergencies, broken equipment, and other essentials.

 To support this amazing journey, please consider making a donation today on behalf of your business, church, or non-profit that will aid me in reaching Canada following the Underground Railroad. Donations can be made by clicking: Walk to Freedom – New York to Canada

 

 

Saturday July 23 – On day ten of my Walk to Freedom I arrived at Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York, and ended the day a couple of miles north in the Town of Tivoli. Since yesterday people have been telling me about this amazing ice cream shop that I must try here in Tivoli called Fortune. 

After leaving Tivoli, I plan to continue northward tomorrow to Germantown and maybe to the Olana State Historic site outside of Hudson, about 12 miles.  

Thursday July 14 – I am embarking on a new walking journey that I am super excited and nervous about at the same time. To help support me on this journey please consider donating today to my Walk to Freedom GoFundMe campaign.

I’m nervous because the unplanned walk will begin about the same time you read this. It came about very recently when a window of opportunity in time suddenly flew open and the gentle breeze that came through the window offered to carry me to Canada. Over the course of the next four weeks I plan to walk to St. Catharines, Ontario, following the spirit of Harriet Tubman and thousands of other Freedom Seekers with hopes of reaching the promised land.

I’ve dreamed of this walk over a year, and possibly longer. Every time I near the finish of a segment walk somewhere along the Underground Railroad someone inevitably asks me “do you plan to walk to Canada?” Even though not all Freedom Seekers fled to Canada, I feel the whole story of my walking journeys will be incomplete and unfinished until I reach Canada.

Following this journey of the African American migration by foot, one feels the inner determination of the freedom seeker to succeed at all costs after walking many hours and days; one feels the pressure points of oppression entering through the soles of their feet towards the end of each walking day; and one dreams of the radiance of tomorrow while keenly aware freedom remains days and possibly weeks away. This is a continuous walk of about 450 miles, and will be my first month long walk I’ve attempted since 2018 when I walked a similar distance from Selma, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee as part of MLK50th commemoration ceremonies. To put the distance in another perspective, think of driving from Boston to Washington, D.C.

Walk to Freedom – South Jersey

Monday April 25 – Following three and a half weekends of walking from Cape May to Salem, on Saturday afternoon we finally rounded the turn of the Delaware River in Lower Alloway Creek and started heading northward to freedom. With just shy of 80 miles completed, I’ve been silently anticipating reaching the halfway mark for a couple weeks. I’m not sure if Deborah or Alvin realized this was the moment I was most excited about. This walk has been one of the most incredible walks I have experienced to date. It’s as spiritual for me as walking from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The people in South Jersey have been very welcoming and excited about what we are doing. Sometimes I’m surprised by the reaction of people who think walking 165 miles is Herculean. It’s really not, its just a morning walk followed by an afternoon walk. However, what you experience on those walks is freedom, open skies, and a sense of the present surrounded by the past with the future just ahead.  

People down in the southern part of Jersey, especially historians who have unearthed incredible stories about the Black community here, want the larger region to know the important role the free African American community played during the years of the Underground Railroad. They want people to know it was their ancestors dedication to liberation that allowed so many to pass through this area to reach freedom further up the river.  And now they want people to come back to learn how they did it. 

With the assistance of hard working Black families, husband and wives, dedicated ministers, watermen, and Quaker allies, all who believed Black Lives Matter, a darkwater insurrection against slaveocracy operated against the currents of society through the creeks and rivers flowing into the Delaware River.  It was their strong belief in the Lord and Liberation that guided them away from the cruelties of capitalism and the violence of whites.  

Beginning this Saturday,  April 30, at 8:00 a.m. we begin the second half of our journey from Marshalltown to Burlington. I hope you can come out and join us along the way for this incredible Walk to Freedom. Check out our itinerary to see where we are and what works best for your schedule. Our goal is to finish in Burlington on Saturday May 21,

Sunday April 10 – We will start this morning at 8:00 am at the Dollar General in Port Elizabeth. We’ll walk about ten miles to 2600 Cedar St. 

Saturday April 9 – Despite a little rain this morning the walk will begin at 8:00 a.m. as scheduled. 

On Saturday April 2, standing near Sunset Pavilion at Second and Beach Avenue in Cape May, Deborah Price and I plan to begin a 165-mile Walk to Freedom journey retracing the Underground Railroad across South New Jersey from Cape May to Burlington City. The goal of the walk is to resurrect the voices and memory of the people who history has forgotten, while simultaneously recognizing the families that were separated and reunited again by their love for each other and their quest for freedom.

The public is invited to join us at any point in the walk. Updates on the starting and end point of each week’s walk will be posted on the Blog page

Starting in Cape May, Saturday April 2, 2022

The first day of the walk will be a night walk simulating how many Freedom Seekers travelled to avoid from being spotted by kidnappers who would attempt to return to them to slavery. The walk will begin at Second and Beach Ave, in Cape May, about 4:30 p.m., and continue to the Harriet Tubman Museum on Lafayette St. before turning north toward Cold Spring, Whitesboro and continuing up Route 9 ending at the Cape May Court House.

Day two of the walk, Sunday April 3, will begin at 8:00 a.m. at the Cape May Court House and follow Route 47 to the Delmont Post Office, about 15-miles.

February 20, 2022

I was delighted to learn yesterday my lantern making workshop at the Garsed Center, in the Frankford section of Philly is sold out. The lantern parade, scheduled for next Friday February 25, at 6:30 pm, is a Walk to Freedom event open to everyone. I’ll have free lanterns, carrying sticks, and lights, for all parade participants. Bring the family to celebrate the 215th Anniversary of the Campbell AME Church.

September 10, 2021

On Saturday September 11, as the nation mourns the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I will becompleting a 75-mile walk of the Underground Railroad from Baltimore County, Maryland to Christiana, Pennsylvania commemorating the 170th Anniversary of the Christiana Resistance. The walk is dedicated to William Parker, George Hammond, Joshua Hammond, Nelson Ford, and Noah Buley, all Freedom Seekers who successfully fought off a posse of kidnappers who sought to return the men back in to slavery in 1851.  

On this anniversary, I will remember the sacrifices and journey these young American men made to be Free, in antebellum America.

Here’s a map of my journey that I travelled to retrace William Parker’s footsteps to Christiana, Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 7, 2021

On Saturday April 10, we will begin our Walk to Freedom across Brooklyn from the Owls Head Dog Run Park, 68th and Shore Road. We will begin about 8:15 a.m. For more details on our walk, see Walking Schedule to New York. We decided to start at Owls Head Park because it is roughly adjacent to St. George,  Staten Island, our end point from last weekend. Due to the logistical issues in trying to cross the Hudson River to Brooklyn, we decided to drive instead.

If you have questions about meeting up with us during our walk across Brooklyn and Manhattan, please email: kjohnston16@yahoo.com  

March 31, 2021

This Saturday, April 3, my brother, Keir, and I will make our way across the Arthur Kill River (still no confirmation on a boat ride) to Tottenville, New York. Once there we will follow a path to the North side of the island following a route one group of fugitive slaves are known to have taken. We will start in Tottenville near the river then walk to the Sandy Ground Historical Society on Woodrow Road and finish at the Light House Museum where historian Debbie-Ann Paige will greet us. Click here to go to my Blog Page to learn more. 

March 20, 2021 – After walking more then 235-miles from the banks of the Choptank River in Caroline County, Maryland I am excited to announce we expect to reach the historic Perth Amboy Underground Railroad crossing around 1:30 p.m. on Sunday March 21, 2020. We will begin our walk at 8:30 a.m. at the Anshe Ameth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick to Albany St. crossing over the Raritan Ave. bridge following Route 27 (Essex Ave.) through Edison to Perth Amboy via Smith St. Click here to go to my Blog Page to learn more. 

January 4, 2020 – Follow Ken as he retraces the footsteps of Harriet Tubman on a 140-plus-mile sectional hike along the Underground Railroad Byway from Poplar Neck to Philadelphia. Click here to go to my Blog page to learn more.

September 2019

Sin Cita/Without Appointment was a two and half week, 215-mile walking journey across Puerto Rico, September 7 – 20, 2019. It was a symbolic effort to mark the second anniversary of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, by members of four arts and culture organizations.

Our intention was to explore what’s possible when people look inward to revive traditions and cultural practices that support the spiritual and material development of communities. While we achieved some of our goals, unfortunately we didn’t fully meet our objective due to a disagreement that erupted between the hikers and the film crew that abandoned us. Undeterred by the film crews lack of commitment to the project, the hikers pressed on and successfully completed the mountainous journey alone and as scheduled.

Sometimes not everything goes as planned. 

While the walk was not captured in a series of video vignettes as planned and no documentary film was created, the hikers completed amazing interviews with artists, community leaders and others along the route who expressed the change, growth, joy, and adversities that residents on the island continue to experience today.

Before the walk, Ken began collecting messages in a book from people on the street he met in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and across Puerto Rico.  It was to be presented to the next democratically elected governor of the island but still remains unfinished. It is his hope to complete the journal during his next walk around the island after the pandemic ends and it is safe to return. 

All of this was inspired out of the climate there, and we believe little efforts like this can sometimes have big impacts.

Starting in Isabela, in the northwest corner of the island near where Hurricane Maria rejoined the sea, the group walked a diagonal trajectory across the Cordillera Mountains to the southeast coast where the storm first made landfall in Yabucoa on September 20, 2017.

“As a collective we have been working in the Puerta de Tierra neighborhood of San Juan for the past two years, acknowledging the communities unique working class history through a series of workshops, multimedia reports and public murals. This walk is a continuation of our commitment to engage with communities in Puerto Rico and support their efforts in rebuilding,” said Keir Johnston, co-founder of Amber Art and Design. 

In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated vast tracts of land across the archipelago of Puerto Rico, leaving in their wake an unprecedented natural disaster, exacerbated by a man-made disaster – by way of the U.S. government’s willful negligence in providing a timely or adequate response to the crisis.

The organizations and individuals participating in the Sin Cita/Without Appointment collaboration are: ArteSana (www.villacarmenatelier.org), a San Juan-based community museum and art space dedicated preserving the cultural legacies of Puerta de Tierra; Amber Art & Design (www.amberartanddesign.com), a Philadelphia-based public art collective that facilitates social/economic/political transformation through the arts; and Ken Johnston, (www.ourwalktofreedom.com) an intrepid hiker responding to the call of social change, history and ancestral spirits.

Sin Cita/Without Appointment was born out of our shared interest as a group of concerned international artists focused on ways of advocating community partnership, collaboration and the development of individual cultural expressions towards the advancement of social justice and in defense of basic human rights in Puerto Rico and beyond.

For more information about the walk, groups or organizations may email us at designamber215@gmail.com, or they may contact Ken Johnston directly at kjohnston16@yahoo.com.