A public sculpture honoring the abolitionist Harriet Tubman was recently unveiled at the Gateway at Millbrae Station project, a multi-use housing development adjacent to the Millbrae BART and Caltrain station.
San Francisco-based artist Cheryl Derricotte created the 12-foot, free-standing sculpture, formally titled “Freedom’s Threshold.” The sculpture includes Tubman’s likeness across more than 30 glass tiles, standing in the “doorway” of her home in Auburn, New York.
“I wanted to put forward a design that would reflect Harriet Tubman’s rich legacy and service to America.”Cheryl Derricotte, artist
It also sits on a foundation that includes 14 glass bricks, representing the 14 trips Tubman took on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret trails and safehouses that Southern slaves used to escape into free Northern states and Canada during the 19th century.
“I’m driven by the desire to share complex stories, to put historical context into our contemporary dialogue,” Derricotte said. “I wanted to put forward a design that would reflect Harriet Tubman’s rich legacy and service to America.”
The Gateway at Millbrae Station includes some 400 housing units, with 100 units being kept permanently below market rate. The complex, which opened earlier this year, also includes office and retail space and a hotel.
The sculpture unveiling, held the morning of March 16, included performances by singer Joshua James of gospel and soul music and remarks by Derricotte, Millbrae Vice Mayor, BART Board President Janice Li and the Rev. Marlyn Bussey, the pastor at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, located in San Mateo.
Bussey noted that Tubman was a “stalwart, faithful” member of the AME Zion church.
“This unveiling is historic and monumental in scope, in light of the current political environment we live in, that a Black woman would be honored in this way in the richest county in California,” Bussey said. “When she is honored, the church she loved is also honored.”