Celebrating Sojourner Truth: Abolitionist’s family heads to Washington, D.C., for unveiling of statue
by Lori Holcomb, Battle Creek Enquirer
The voice that swayed presidents’ views never sang Makayla Gray McLiechey to sleep, nor did she ever lay her head on the shoulders that carried the weight of an oppressed gender and race.
Yet the 10-year-old from Grand Rapids beamed with excitement as she stood in the shadow of her foremother’s statue and spoke about what it means to be a descendant of Sojourner Truth.
“When anyone comes to me and says, ‘Aren’t you Sojourner Truth’s eighth-generation grandchild?’ That just tickles me,” McLiechey said. “… I feel so happy inside that I am a part of history and the making of Sojourner Truth history.”
McLiechey was one of eight Truth descendants from Battle Creek and Grand Rapids who gathered at Monument Park Saturday afternoon. Tonight, the group is leaving for Washington D.C., where they will take part in an unveiling ceremony of a bust of Truth at Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol building on Tuesday.
“This is something we probably never dreamed would happen. We couldn’t be any prouder,” said Burl McLiechey, a sixth-generation Truth descendant.
The $3.2 million bust will make history as the first memorial bust of a black woman to be placed in the Capitol. The project was spearheaded by the National Congress of Black Women, Inc., and took nearly 10 years to complete.
Locally, Dorothy Height helped raise $4,000 to contribute to the bust through the Dollars for Truth Campaign, which began two years ago.
Height also arranged for the local descendants of Truth to attend the ceremony. In a tribute to history, they are bringing a Bible signed by themselves and more than 300 Battle Creek residents to present to President Barack Obama. Thomas McLiechey said the gesture is reminiscent of when Truth presented Abraham Lincoln a bible during his presidency.
Earlier in the day, about 75 people attended the 38th annual Sojourner Truth Awards and Founder’s Day Luncheon at Burnham Brook Community Center.
The event was hosted by the Battle Creek Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc.