Gertrude Kehleay, housing administrator at The Wesleyan, thanks actor Lorraine Stone, who appeared as Harriet Tubman. (Stephanie Rahn)

[Press release from United Methodist Communities]

United Methodist Communities (UMC) at The Wesleyan celebrates Black History month annually — 2020 was no exception. Lorraine Stone reenacted the life of a remarkable cook, nurse, slave, political activist, suffragette, armed scout, liberator, abolitionist, spy, founder of a retirement home, and devout Methodist. That extraordinarily courageous, five-foot-tall, historical legend is Harriet Tubman.

Special table settings and programs await guests.

Kicking off the celebration, Gertrude Kehleay, housing administrator of UMC at The Wesleyan welcomed attendees, and introduced special guests and UMC associates. Ms. Kehleay, a native of Liberia, also acknowledged the late Frances Daniels, a former resident who birthed their Black History Month celebration. Resident Ruth Henderson delivered a blessing. Her daughter, Karen Henderson, led the group in several songs including Lift Every Voice and Sing, accompanied by William Henry, pianist.

Ms. Stone, who has a career in African-American stage plays and re-enacting historical female heroes, brought the persona of Harriet Tubman alive to a diverse group of older adults assembled in The Wesleyan’s Community Room. The senior community, located in downtown Red Bank, celebrates Black History month annually to re-inforce American democratic ideals, teach forgotten history and pay tribute to notable African-Americans.

A resident of Eatontown, Ms. Stone brought Tubman, born in Maryland around 1820, to life. Donning clothing typical of a 19th century slave, she recalled not only the major events of Tubman’s life, but her feelings, social attitudes, and the legal and political forces.

Despite great odds, including abuse, forced labor, and a traumatic head injury, Tubman risked her life in pursuit of equality and social justice. After escaping to her own freedom in 1849, she focused on liberating others. Ms. Stone reminded the audience that Tubman joined the Union Army during the Civil War and is recognized as the first woman to lead an armed expedition.

Ms. Stone, who also performs poems by deceased black poets, has gained regional recognition. Described as the quintessential character actress, she frequently appears solo at schools, churches, historical societies and libraries.