Harriet Tubman, by Sienna Bertamini - Young Writer's Competition 2017 Final

Sienna Bertamini

Voting is now open in the 2017 Around DB and Life on Lantau Young Writer's Competition, sponsored by Bookazine. This piece about Harriet Tubman by Sienna Bertamini, a Year 9 student from DBIS, has been shortlisted for the final, along with two other entries.

The annual competition once again saw lots of great submissions from secondary students living and/ or attending school across Lantau, who were asked to write an account from the perspective of a famous historical figure.

Congratulations to all the participants, and good luck to our finalists! To vote, head to the Around DB Facebook page and comment on the pinned post at the top of the page, with the name of the author, or the title of your favourite story, or alternatively, click 'like' on the individual Facebook post linking to your favourite story. You can also cast your vote by commenting below the story on the Around DB website.

By Sienna Bertamini - Year 9, DBIS
Mentored by Peter Sherwood

I always have hated the moon. Some say the moon symbolises a new start, a new beginning, the silence of night, allowing the stars to illuminate throughout the sleepy daze of dreams. However, when dusk fades to black is when the mechanical clock of time starts up inside of me, a small ticking noise that stays until the light of day. I stare up to the dark blanket of clouds that has swept across the capricious night sky. The rolling hills of cotton have had the last of their sunlight for the day, as have the slaves I have come to free.

At first it is a small buzz of humming, as quiet as a bee zipping through the fields on a mild summer's day. Dark shadows manoeuvre soundlessly in between the lifeless trees and the once quiet humming becomes the beginnings of a murmur. I usher for them to head in my direction and they begin to cautiously step in between twigs and dried leaves. My boots are caked with dry mud from previous nights of perilous journey through this treacherous terrain. Through my peripheral vision I can see them, crowded behind me with worried faces. I always must keep a calm, composed temper, to make sure they aren’t apprehensive. The frigid spring water soaks into my socks and my sweat drips down into the ever-flowing river. The ripples I create echo my thoughts and keeps them locked within their secretive hush of cascading waves.

The year is 1892 and the conditions for these slaves hasn't changed, both hardship and physical violence is the norm. My eyes fall upon those with lasting scars. Many of the slaves here with me now have been torn away from their families and if they haven't already been separated, they now are experiencing a sense of loneliness. I make an effort to comfort those who are leaving loved ones behind, because what they are currently feeling, was once what I felt when I advanced towards my own liberty. The hope that I was going to be able to live a life free from slavery, was the very fire burning within me.

Every time I hear a creak or crack, I jump and a shiver is sent up my spine. I can’t risk being caught, any sound made will awaken the murderous tempers of these slaves’ owners. I’ve had a few close instances, where their shadows have appeared in the distance of the crops. In these cases, I have to crouch down as well as everyone else. They know what will happen: My gun will appear by my side, gripped by my clenched fist. Anyone who makes a sound is threatened with a bullet from my gun. I cannot afford to be seen and any sound could put us all at risk. Sometimes, you have to take action in ways you don’t want. This is something I came to terms with when I began this journey.

It scrapes my arms and my legs, I don’t exactly appreciate shrub. It’s always there in little clumps of greenery, looking up at me with grins. Its dry leaves draw painful shapes however it provides a shield, protection; a nature-made fence that separates us from them. We have successfully reached the forest, there is only a short distance left until we reach the hatch that will lock us underground for what seems like the rest of eternity.

Each step I take has a distinct rhythm that speeds up as I get more eager to reach freedom. ‘Utopia’ is what many call it; the North, a place where we are cut from our perpetual chains, no longer a dog on a leash, or a bird in a cage. We are able to spread our wings, simply leave it all behind… and fly away.

We all have a good look at our surroundings, the trees, the stars, the moon. This is the place we have grown up in. We gaze longingly before we reach the pitch black. You never know when your last sight of the world, your last word or the last sound you hear will come to pass. Crouching down, I crawl into the ditch, moving my legs into a comfortable position. I curl my fingers around the hatch, and whisper one last word. “Goodbye.”

Photo: Portrait of Sienna Bertamini by Baljit Gidwani - www.evoqueportraits.com

You can read the entries from the other two 2017 finalists via the links below:

Josef Mengele, by Kayla Lee - Young Writer's Competition 2017 Final

Anne Frank, by Janice Ho - Young Writer's Competition 2017 Final


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