Garden City, KS - With the recent news of Harriet Tubman's likeness being added to the $20 Federal Reserve note, one can't help but think of the courage, bravery, and outright disobedient actions of the amazing historical figure, and the countless people she catapulted to freedom. While pondering what it must've taken to stand up against the tyranny of slavery, I began to draw a parallel to one woman who is alive today. Obviously, comparing a modern-American Caucasian woman with an African American legend and historical hero is quite controversial, possibly even taboo; but just hear me out.
Much like the underground railroad of over a century ago, another underground railroad exists today. Instead of "slaves," we call the new passengers of the new railroad "medical refugees." Perhaps the terms aren't so different. Perhaps "medical refugee" is just a euphemism for the term "slave." Both involve a struggle for life and freedom due to the oppressive nature of the state.
Embedded in the history of slavery was the creation of law enforcement, or "slave patrol." Paid enforcers that rounded up the disobedient people who refused to be bound by the whips and chains of their legal "masters." The slave patrols of yesteryear are known today as law enforcement.
After making this connection, it's easy to see that things aren't so different today with the mass incarceration of African Americans. We can't bring up this human rights atrocity without noting the over-criminalization of peaceful people who choose to be free of the state-sponsored control over their own bodies.
Meet Harriet Tubman 2.0, also known as Shona Banda. Shona is facing nearly three decades in prison for creating her own underground railroad. We will dub it the "underground cannabis railroad."
How could we possibly make this stretch as to compare a black, anti-slave revolutionary, to a white Shona Banda? It's actually not that difficult to ascertain the connection. Shona shines as a light to those who wish to take control of their own health -- especially to those who have tried conventional medicine, only to be turned away by their doctors with only a hall pass granting access to the after-life. Much like Harriet Tubman's journey was sparked by the instinct to be free; Shona Banda's instincts kicked in when she was handed a death sentence by the medical professionals who could no longer do anything to treat her terminal illness, and thus the railroad started construction, one spike at a time.
The Shona Banda journey is similar to many stories of people who have discovered the miraculous effects of cannabis. Her Crohn's disease was destroying her body, making it impossible for her to envision a future where she could see her two boys grow into men and start families of their own. However, like Tubman, she refused to give up.
At first, she smoked cannabis, immediately receiving more relief than the conventional medicine she had grown accustomed to. When she tells the story, she vividly recalls the moment she first tried it. Her body collapsed to the floor and she wept. Not out of pain or sadness, but out of joy and relief. She had finally found something that worked. Everything that she was told about the plant her entire life, was wrong.
This sparked something in her debilitated body, an energy she hadn't felt in years, and perhaps, never before. She propelled herself into the information super highway of the world wide web, learning and soaking up knowledge, breaking down the barriers of ignorance that once, unbeknownst to her, stood in her way.
Like being stranded in the desert, searching for an oasis, Shona stumbled upon something that would quench her body's thirst like never before. Shona found out how to make cannabis oil.
Most people would understand the legal ramifications of using a controlled substance and keep their mouths shut. Not Ms. Banda. Much like her predecessor Rick Simpson, Shona began sharing the knowledge with others and building strong relationships with her fellow slaves that were searching for light in the darkness that is prohibition; making the cannabis oil, not only for herself but for anyone seeking it. She even cured their family dog of Parvo with the oil.
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However, the slave patrol was right around the corner.
The blowback from receiving and sharing this forbidden knowledge, some might say, was inevitable. One day, Shona came home only to see her home being raided by police, without a warrant. The modern-day slave patrol kidnapped her youngest son, ripping the child from his mother and oldest brother.
Much like Tubman knew the risks of what she was doing, so did Shona. But, much like Tubman, Shona wouldn't be deterred by the threats of armed men enforcing unjust laws.
The media onslaught began, and their libel and lies infiltrated the minds of Shona's neighbors and community members. But she wasn't done yet.
She continued to engineer her train on the underground tracks, knowing in her heart of hearts that what she was doing, although illegal, was just and righteous in the eyes of her creator. Although stifled by the hand of oppression, she would not stop, continuing to heal others with the miracle of cannabis.
The difference between Shona Banda and Harriet Tubman is skin deep. Color is the only real quantifiable difference between the two women. However, Shona is alive and we can help her take a stand against the modern slavery of prohibition. The State has taken her child, her money, and her reputation, but this woman refuses to allow the illegitimacy of the state of Kansas to crush her spirit. She stands tall, with pride, as you can see in her video journals at her website, www.ShonaBanda.org, or in her book titled "Live Free or Die," which is a literal interpretation of her struggle against the state to heal herself from terminal illness.
She wrote her book to make sure her underground railroad is immortal, outliving the chains of prohibition bondage, and spreading her truth and knowledge, helping to heal others, even if her body is jailed in the confines of a Kansas state prison.
If you are having a problem connecting the dots between these two tyranny-fighting women, understand this:
Harriet Tubman, oppressed and enslaved by government, disobeyed while helping others disobey unjust laws. Shona Banda is doing the same thing while facing nearly 30 years in prison, a death sentence for someone with acute Crohn's. She is blazing a trail, in the underground, because of her empathy for the human race, and her warrior instinct to stand up to unjust laws rooted heavily in the same racism derived from slavery. If you have any doubts that the drug war is a spin-off of the idea of slavery, research Harry Anslinger and the racist foundation that built the largest prison population in the history of humanity.
Slavery didn't end, it was just rebranded as the war on drugs. The only perceivable dissimilarity between Tubman and Banda other than color, is that Banda is alive, and she needs our help. Ask yourself who's side you are on. Are you on the side of slavery or freedom? Will you stand with the new Harriet Tubman or will you acquiesce to the proverbial whips and chains of the failed drug war. We, at The Free Thought Project, choose freedom.
Here's how you can help the modern day Harriet Tubman.
For more details about Shona's struggle against her masters, check out our Shona Banda archives.