To the editor: I am the great-great-granddaughter of Biddy Mason, the famous African American freedwoman depicted in a mural at UC San Francisco that now faces destruction.
When I look at this mural depicting my revered ancestor as the central figure, my senses are overcome with emotion. Her story and passionate mission to heal the sick are shown in the mural as she “lays hands” on a malaria-infected patient.
In the Black church, the “laying of hands” upon a person is done only by a qualified leader. It’s a sacred act of blessing and healing and considered a gift. Her medical knowledge and healing hands are met with hope and trust, which is shown on the faces of the men surrounding her in the mural.
It deeply saddens me to hear that the earliest known artistic depiction of my great-great-grandmother may soon be destroyed. Given the recent demands for a fuller accounting and understanding of Black history, it’s more important than ever that we fight to preserve this mural and all it represents. It is Black history.
originally appeared in the LA Times