Commemorating A Legacy Of Leadership

Community Members Honored At Harriet Tubman Day Celebration

Posted: March 11, 2013

LEFT TO RIGHT: Stan Maclin, president of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center, chats with Dr. Terry Overby, a Harrisonburg physician, and Emily Riehl, Shenandoah Valley organizer at Virginia Organizing, after they were presented with Harriet Tubman Commemorative Leadership Awards on Sunday at the Lucy F. Simms Center for Continuing Education in Harrisonburg. (Photos by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Stan Maclin, president of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center, speaks during the Harriet Tubman Day Celebration at the Lucy F. Simms Center auditorium on Sunday.
HARRISONBURG — When Harriet Tubman ran from her masters in 1849, she never looked back until she was free in the North. Then, she turned around to guide others towards their rendezvous with destiny.

Tubman’s legacy — especially that of her leadership — was commemorated Sunday with the Harriet Tubman Day celebration at the Lucy F. Simms Center for Continuing Education. The celebration, held on the 100th anniversary of her death, included the presentation of two Harriet Tubman Commemorative Leadership Awards.

March 10 was named Harriet Tubman Day in 1990 by then President George Bush.

Tubman is best known for leading several missions into the South to free dozens of slaves through a network known as the Underground Railroad. Following the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, Tubman became an outspoken supporter of women’s rights, particularly the right to vote, which women gained seven years after her death.

 Stan Maclin, founder and president of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center, described Tubman as a leader with vision and a particular knack for networking. The awards, he said, are meant to honor those qualities.

“This remarkable lady understood the art of networking. ... She knew she couldn’t do it alone,” Maclin said, and “she was a leader because she knew where she was going.”

Emily Riehl, Shenandoah Valley organizer at Virginia Organizing, was presented with the award for empowerment and advocacy.

“My job as a community organizer is to mobilize folks and empower people to take action,” Riehl said. “I’m just doing my job.”

Riehl has worked with Virginia Organizing for three years. The organization aims to encourage those who are not civically active to participate in the political process.

“You can make a difference, you can make a change,” Maclin said. “That’s the spirit she’s of.”

The second award was presented to Dr. Terry Overby of Harrisonburg Medical Associates. Overby specializes in nephrology.

Overby was recognized for his dedication and leadership.

“He is one of the best leaders by example I’ve ever known,” said Jackie Yoder, nursing manager at Rockingham Memorial Hospital’s dialysis unit, who presented the award to Overby.

Overby holds evening office hours, Yoder said, because he can’t serve enough people during the day.

Yoder, who works closely with Overby, said he is one of the best in his profession.

“He could have gone anywhere in the U.S.,” she said. “It’s nice to see our community honor him.”

“People that are doing outstanding work and working in the trenches … we can overlook them,” Maclin, one of Overby’s former patients, said.

Overby reflected on Tubman’s legacy and connected the honor with the day it represented.

“I work for freedom from disease,” he said.

He added that freedom comes from belief felt in the heart and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Even when [Tubman] was a slave I believe she was free in her heart,” he said.

Councilman Charles Chenault spoke briefly, saying the City Council would work to designate the day citywide for future March 10ths.

Chenault added that Tubman’s legacy carries on in Harrisonburg through the strong, resilient women who lead many of the local charitable and civic organizations.

A short skit — performed by Richmond’s Empowered Women — briefed Tubman’s story to set the tone for the event.
The group’s mission is to help people, women in particular, to discover and empower themselves, said Carolyn Bodrick, the play’s narrator, themes represented by Tubman’s story.

Maclin noted Tubman’s efforts to empower the enslaved and subjugated, through a vast network, which included Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

Maclin encouraged others to embrace Tubman’s networking spirit in an effort to influence society for the better.

“Professionally, we’re integrated but socially, we’re segregated,” he said.

Contact Alex Rohr at 574-6293 or

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