deboissiere

Helene Swanson shares her experience walking across the USA for the Equal Rights Amendment

Next steps… the ERA March and Rally to the US Capitol

Dearest Friends,

Bishop Joe Morris Doss celebrates the Eucharist at the Blessing of the ERA Walkers at St. Stephen and The Incarnation, Washington DC

On Women’s Equality Day, August 26, 2015, Bishop Joe Morris Doss celebrates the Eucharist at the Blessing of the ERA Walkers at St. Stephen and The Incarnation, Washington DC.  Photo Credit: Everett Barnes

I was deeply moved by the commitment of those whom made the August 26, 2015 – Women’s Equality Day – Blessing, March, and Rally a smashing success, for photo’s Click Here. I was touched by all the lovely tokens of affection, gifts, and awards bestowed on me.  I simply did not expect that.  When I heard US Senator Cardin’s and US Representative Speier’s statements I was moved to tears.  It went to the core of why I have walked so many miles.  So my prepared speech went right out the window and the story of my father whom I have rarely spoken of and how he was treated as a coloured man in this country and called a “nigger” a word I own not with pride but with a sad and heavy heart. And what I felt called to speak to is a country so divided by classism, racism, and sexism, a country whose people would so greatly benefit by passage of the Equal Rights Amendment into the US Constitution.

Equal Rights Amendment Rally at the US Capitol

Equal Rights Amendment Rally at the Upper Senate Park Area 2 at the US Capitol. From left to right William Van Horn (Staffer Senator Cardin’s Office) Charles Clymer, Joz Wang, Sarah Kurtz, Taylor Neuville, Helene de Boissiere-Swanson, Dr. E. Faye Williams, Molly Fishmen (Staffer Representative Speier) Ellen Davis, Alli McCracken, and Cathy.

Stories I heard all my life swirling about in my head; instructions to never saying anything about my father being black; how I became my mother’s memory after a red brick fell nine stories landing smack in the center of her head; and then as a child of 12 going out to work selling newspapers door to door in Las Vegas to put food on the table, all those stories and more swelled up from deep within as I listened to one impassioned speaker after another.  And I whom spent a lifetime having been instructed to never cry in public and “keep a stiff upper lip” cried. I cried thinking of Katrina and the trust she put in me, and her stories, stories that she too had kept to herself. And I thought of my beloved husband William too. And I called upon a black woman who served several years in a federal penitentiary to read the Presiding Bishop’s Statement.

Many of you have asked what’s next? First off I will not be taking a break I am only going to come on stronger now.  The pilgrimage is a benchmark in the ministry of Katrina’s Dream to promote th passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  And just like many doubted that I would make it all the way across the US and many have doubted that the Equal Rights Amendment hasn’t a chance in their lifetime – I know just like I knew that I would make it to DC, I know we are not that long off from the ratification of three more states. Ladies and Gents we are going to come on stronger than ever. The Time in NOW!

Swanson heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee to urge them to move it out of committee

Helene Swanson heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirkson Bldg at the US Capitol to urge them to move it out of committee.

So another part of what I have planned next is contacting each and every single US legislator and asking that they co-sponsor S.J. Res. 15 and H.J. Res 51 over the weeks ahead targeting the chair of the Judiciary and several other senators of key importance.  And those that have co-sponsored ask that put on their website  under Women’s Issues  that they have co-sponsored the “ERA Three State Resolution” to demonstrate their support for women’s rights.

This coming September 13th @ 9pm EST Tammy and Cathy are holding their monthly ERA Action National Call and I am hoping that many of you will call in so that we can go over the strategy for the upcoming weekly calls out to our legislators. The call in number is (605) 562-3140 and meeting code number is 787085#

And many of you have asked if I will be writing a book… the answer is yes. The book will be one of my spiritual journey and the difficult decisions I faced in the waked of my late husbands passing and how a simple statements less than two days after my husband’s death at the local church we attended “Don’t worry you find another man, you are young yet”, to surviving a 60 mph sand storm by hiding in a drain ditch brought me closer to the beauty of our earth, and how connecting with a large number of women and human rights activists across the country with each lovingly embracing me in my darkest moments, uplifting me, guiding me, every step of the way.  And praying, indeed praying to God every day to help me walk through aches, pain, and fever; and thirst and hunger when my money ran out months ago, having left with only $200 to my name as I would not – could not – go back to living the life as an oppressed woman in these United States.

 

Next the herstoric March to the US Capitol has morphed into an annual event. Yes that is correct – the pilgrimage which ended in an amazing march with a dedicated core group of human rights activists and rally to the US Capitol has turned into an annual event to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  So please continue to invite your friends to our Facebook event page…https://www.facebook.com/events/1564990420427752/

Finally and most importantly, I want to thank all of you for making this amazing journey with me.  The love and care shown was emboldening and while most would think I might be tired and want a break I am more energized than ever.  So let’s do this… let’s pass the ERA!

Love and Light in Christ,

Helene de Boissiere-Swanson

Prayers, the police, and the pilgrimage

I have been on a journey for many moons.  Each passing moment brings me closer to God.  But like the waxing and waning of the moon my faith comes and goes.  Yesterday as I walked the beautiful backroads of Virginia enroute to Richmond where I will be staying with new found friends I found myself struggling with praying.  I have always had problems with the Our Father since childhood, why am I praying to a male God I would think, when it is my mother who takes cares of me.  And then their was the part “on earth as it is heaven” was I confirming that our present day to day affairs our manifesting themselves in the same form in the heavens?  So having gone to Roman Catholic private school out comes the Hail Mary’s.  Now I like Hail Mary‘s and Hail Holy Queen and I can say the rosary lickity split for I have always loved pray and rote prayers or chants like my mantra “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”, having been a practicing Buddist really helps take one to the spiritual plane.

Traveling towards Emporia, Virginia along Route 301

Traveling towards Emporia, Virginia along Route 301

But yesterday was not doing it for me.  My thoughts were on my late husband William, everywhere I go I see him, for I spend a lot of time imaging that he is walking with me.  I have pretend conversations about what is going on.  I ask him for his input on what to do next or when I have un- Christian thoughts about folks who are particularly irksome ask for his strength, his patience, his upbeat way of taking everything in stride, and most of all his gratitude for this life.  But yesterday was difficult, I was hot, I was sticky and those pesty scabbies were having their way with me so I hadn’t slept much the night before.

Miraculously a gracious officer came by as I was fumbling with my iphone to make sure that I was on the correct path checked up on me.  He offered me to bottles of Gatorade and was on his way.  I gave him my postcard.  Later that night he called me ask if I need some food and if I was safe.

I posted the picture of the good officer and many responded with likes.  And many responded with stories of wrongdoings. But I can’t tell that I have always had good moments with the law.  I harassed by the local Sausalito police after my husband died.  We run an homeless meal program/outdoor church at it has not been well received by all in the community.  I really had to push buttons to get it going calling in my friends from the ACLU and attorneys I had worked with over the years.  This was their opportunity and they took full advantage.  One day I’ll write about that but I don’t like focusing on the negative.  I like putting my energy towards connecting with the positive so…. Thank you Sheriff Ronnie McCoy Pearce, Jr. for “making my day!”

Officer Ronnie Pearce gives Helene Swanson Gatorade.

Officer Ronnie Pearce gives Helene Swanson Gatorade.

Now again I find myself exhausted.  My heels are achy, the bones on the tops of me feet hurt like heck, itchy as can be, and stinky to boot. The truck stop I camped out in front of as there is nothing out here told me to move on.   It was raining.  Thankfully the rain stopped.  It will be pouring down later and I should be walking but I wanted to share life is full of ups and downs, each more wonderful than next.  I pray for strength as I prep myself for the events in DC were we many will come to demand the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

The music playing in the background where I am enjoying a cup of joe inspires my writing.  I am so very thankful for the sun dogs that peak through the clouds.  I am so very thankful for the rain that saves me from showering, I am so very thankful for the time I had with William.

I am so very thankful for the ministry of Katrina’s Dream and the opportunity to demonstrate that everyone counts and every person can be an instrument of change.  One person at a time. One person joined by many in spirit, all joining together for humanity.

#AllLivesMatter

I posted this the other day and was deeply moved by the responses.  One friend said they thought it was the best thing I every wrote, asked that I share it with a wider audience. Click here to see the  original post

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend and colleague in which she asked out my use of referring to myself as coloured. I have always referred to myself as coloured. My mother was English/Irish and my father was Trinidadian. While my mother was white my father was multi-racial as many are from the West Indies. I have experienced both racism and reverse racism most of my life. Whites shun me after learning about my father as if I have betrayed them for appearing “passe du blanc” (pass for white) and Blacks often tell me that I as “white bread” I am priviledged.

But if you think that I don”t know the pain from both worlds my grandfather did not allow my mother to bring my oldest sister home because she came out with my fathers colouring and my father was thrown in the brig when he joined the American army for hitting a superior officer for being called a “nigger”. And when I was six my mother and father agreed to divorce because in racist America we had to choose which world we survived in better and that as Whites we stood a chance of getting ahead – but were forced to leave behind my father. So never got to know him growing up and not a day has gone by that I don’t think about him. And wonder whatever be came of him.

So please folks when you look at ME stop seeing my colour and see a person NOT a woman, see a PERSON who is fighting to end racism, sexism and classism. Stop judging me on the little you know about me. Stop telling me how to speak. I speak proper English and Ebonics. I grew up in Harlem, NYC in the 1960’s. I grew up in abject poverty. I saw my first victim of a shooting at 4. My friends suffered from rat bites living in the ghetto. I am not walking to become a celebrity fame does nothing for me. I don’t like being out front because I have always survived in the shadows.

And although i was told by my Spiritual Director that my sexual preferences or identity should never be anyones business – well you probably will be surprised there too. Just cause I was happily married don’t mean I am what you might think. I moved to San Francisco 30 years ago, and all I can say is “do the math”.

Some say I “married well” I say I married for love. which speaks to classism. And those who have gone on to college and university know all about how being in the right sorority or being a legacy helps. But I know lots of brilliant folks who never went to college and put two and two together better than other folks with all kinds of letters behind their names. But I have found suffering in both groups and the grass is always greener cause folks aren’t happy with themselves especially when we live in a world that promotes hatred and greed.

We all know ones background affects ones ability to get the “right” job, and how ones race puts you into a certain bracket, and that no matter how hard you work or how many degrees you get as woman you are just not going to get paid what you are worth.

So I cry when I see what is going on because I can hide behind my white skin colour, my education gives me an edge, and I got a great surname.

So I am walking across America because I want to see ALL that change.

So if you want to know about me just know that I am what I am.

That is… a person who loves God, loves my country, and loves my family an am dedicated to moving this country forward so no one has to live in the shadows that I have.

Addendum

A little on my family in Trinidad…

“This family presents an essentially different picture from the somewhat stereotype view of the 19th century French Creoles of Trinidad, in that they were Protestant – not Catholic. They were also Republicans, not Royalists in their outlook, and for five generations did not marry into the main matrix of the French Creole extended families. Another difference was that for generations, they acknowledged and supported their coloured illegitimate offspring.”

Aggregated from http://caribbeanhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/…/de…

 

Hold The Date! Women’s Equality Day – ERA March to the US Capitol – August 26, 2015

July 12, 2015

Dearest Family and Friends,

The last month has been a whirlwind. I am on my second excursion since leaving San Francisco last year on March 8, 2014, on my pilgrimage to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. On this excursion I will have made three stops.

The first leg of this excursion was to attend the 2015 national annual conference for the National Organization for Women in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I met a number of empowered women who are making a difference. I ask that you take a moment to check out the videos of a few of the women that I met. They are truly inspiring!

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 2015 Annual Conference for the National Organization for Women. Photo Credit: Eleanor Smeal

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 2015 Annual Conference for the National Organization for Women. Photo Credit: Eleanor Smeal

Then I headed off to the 79th General Convention where I learnt that many having been following my pilgrimage and the growing ministry of Katrina’s Dream. I had the pleasure of chatting with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the Episcopal Women’s Caucus Breakfast where the article I wrote about my pilgrimage was the centerpiece of their special edition of Rauch for General Convention. I was blessed to be present volunteering as a page when the House of Deputies when Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry was confirmed. Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina is the first African American to be elected Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. Then a day later I was again blessed with the opportunity to discuss my pilgrimage with Bishop Curry and ask for his support.

Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo Credit: Katrina’s Dream supporter.

Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo Credit: Katrina’s Dream supporter.

I am currently in Phoenix to compete in the Pundit Competition at the Netroots Nation Summit. On that note, everyone please pray for me as I hope to inspire others to join us in getting the word out on the Women’s Equality Day – ERA March to the Capitol event.

Immediately following this conference, I will return to the Carolina to continue walking to the US Capitol to promote the passage of the ERA.

Graphic of Women’s Right Organization’s across the United States who are actively working on the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and support Helene Swanson’s Pilgrimage across the USA for the ERA.

Graphic of Women’s Right Organization’s across the United States who are actively working on the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and support Helene Swanson’s Pilgrimage across the USA for the Equal Rights Amendment.

This ERA March & Rally will culminate my one-year+ pilgrimage covering the 15 states that have yet to ratify the ERA. I left from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on March 8th 2014 – in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of passing the ERA, and to unite many individual factions to make the ERA a reality.   I began my trek in honor of my late mother-in-law, the Rev. Katrina Martha Van Alstyne Welles Swanson, an impassioned ERA promoter who was one of the Philadelphia Eleven – the first group of women “irregularly” ordained as Episcopal priests. It was her dream to see women in America receive equal protections under the law, a dream so many Americans of all faiths and backgrounds share.

The Equal Rights Amendment will empower women and provide protection for the LBGTQ community!

The March on August 26, 2015 – Women’s Equality Day will start at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. following a 8 a.m. blessing of the walkers. Many will accompany me for the final four miles of this 7,000-mile spiritual pilgrimage to the U.S. Capitol to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. The four-mile route passing the White House and on to the National Mall where top feminists and human rights activists will hold a press conference, and then speakers will rally for the ERA.

Those walking in solidarity represent a number of organizations from across the country including: Equal Rights Alliance, ERA Action, ERA Coalition, ERA Minnesota, Katrina’s Dream, National NOW, Unite Women, We Are Woman US, Women-Matter and many more. They have nourished me as I made my way across the U.S. Along this journey I stopped to meet with dozens of congressional district offices, and leaders from these organizations above joined me via conference call to senators and representatives, asking that they co-sponsor the “The 3-State Strategy” joint resolutions in Congress (SJRes.15/HJRes51)

In addition to the blessing, march, press conference & rally that day, there are several satellite events planned in other locations in the United States and around the world through our new Sisters in Solidarity program.

I ask you to please help to build a national and global presence in support of the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment by:

  • Joining the Facebook Online Event to demonstrate your support, Inviting your friends, and sharing the event everywhere; and
  • Forwarding this email to all your friends and asking them to join in spirit; and
  • Holding a Sister in Solidarity satellite

Most importantly it is your prayers and support that make possible the ministry of Katrina’s Dream. Thank you so much. Good luck, Good Health, and God Bless Always!

Love and Light in Christ,

Helene de Boissiere-Swanson

Passing the ERA Torch along the Way!

UniteWomen.org meme featuring Helene Swanson of www.katrinasdream.org

UniteWomen.org meme featuring Helene Swanson of www.katrinasdream.org

This past Friday May 29, 2015 was rather exciting. Diane Adoma interviewed me for her Adoma and Company radio show program. She covered the ERA pilgrimage we spoke about the need for the Equal Rights Amendment. Diane called folks to take action and call their legislator to urge Georgia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Diane Adoma, radio show host of Adoma and Company with Helene Swanson outside US Senator Isakson's district office in Atlanta, GA

Diane Adoma, radio show host of Adoma and Company with Helene Swanson outside US Senator Isakson’s district office in Atlanta, GA

My journey through Georgia has been most exciting and breathtakingly beautiful. The women here have been so gracious, aiding me every step of the way. The first wonderful person to step up to help was Dianne Wing of UniteWomen – Georgia, from there many came on board. Dianne is amazing although homebound nothing slows her down. Her all hands on board approach, was refreshing and lifted me spirits. She paved the way for the success we all had in Atlanta.

Beautify alights on a Balck Eyed Suzy flower along side backroad leading into Atlanta, GA

Beautify alights on a Black Eyed Suzy flower along side backroad leading into Atlanta, GA

Dianne put me in touch with Eliza Devine a whirlwind of a young lady. Eliza is the sole support system for her family since her dad died a few months of ago. This amazing young lady took time from finding her mother a place to live to support my pilgrimage   When Fox 5 Atlanta came to interview me she was there! She also accompanied me at meetings with US Senators Isakson and Perdue. And then she made the arrangements for a good friend of hers’ to host me for three days.

Local Atlanta activist Eliza Devine walks with Helene Swanson  of Katrina's Dream through Atlanta, GA

Local Atlanta activist Eliza Devine walks with Helene Swanson of Katrina’s Dream through Atlanta, GA

The first few days I in Atlanta I stayed at a shelter. As women shelters go it was bearable. The toilet paper was rationed, and often they ran out of food, and coffee was not served with regularity or any other beverage. We were told to be grateful for what we did get, which was reminiscent of what I heard at McKemie Place, the only single women’s shelter along the Gulf Coast, back in Mobile, Alabama. Right down to the mandatory chapel service sermons that God is a male, Adam is made in his image and woman was created to serve man. And that if you had God in your life you wouldn’t be in your present predicament. This I had a huge problem with as the God of my understanding is based on Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”, a passage that has a profound effect on empowering women in the Episcopal Church (USA).

But rather than tear down others understanding of God, one of the prongs of this pilgrimage is to we promote a closer understanding as you explore your relationship with God so I will refrain from going much further other than to say we must look at the role scripture has had in the concept of “domestic discipline” and work towards promoting the full inclusion of women in the church and in society in a leadership capacity.

Next I want to take the time to thank the folks at Representative John Lewis’s offices both in Atlanta and Washington DC for working hard to make things happen.   Lewis stepped up to the plate and co-sponsored H.J. Res 51, a joint resolution, which calls for the removal of the arbitrary deadline imposed by Congress back in the 1970’s.

I have requested meetings for next week with South Carolina is US Senator Graham and US Senator Scott to cosponsor S.J. Res 15, and US Representative Clyburn to cosponsor H.J. Res 51. These joint resolution employing the “Three State Strategy”, they were introduced by Senator Cardin [D-MD] and Senator Kirk [R-IL] and the House resolution was introduced by Representative Speier [D-CA].

After South Carolina I will be taking three more side trips. These upcoming trips are the National Organization for Women conference taking place in New Orleans, the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, and Netroots Nation conference for training and networking with like-minded social justice activist in Phoenix. A big thank you to those who voted me to win the scholarship to Netroots Nation!

Then, the part that is hard for me the most is asking for financial assistance, I am running desperately low on funds and am way behind on my storage unit bill, mobile phone bill, and food monies. I am allocating the little I have to pay for literature for the 79th General Convention and the Netroots Nation conference. I am positive that things will work out. So please help out with a tax deductible donation. You can help using Pay Pal Just click on the send tab and use this email address: helene@katrinasdream.org.

Do share this email with your friends. If everyone takes a moment to share this with just three people the impact will great. And do tell your friends about the ERA March to the Capitol from St. Stephen’s and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington DC when I wind up this pilgrimage on August 26, 2015. It is also going to be an online Twitter Storm.

Deer trail leading to St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church in Athens, GA

Deer trail leading to St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church in Athens, GA

I wanted to leave you with photo of the trail I took heading over to the Evensong Sunday service at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church in Athens, Georgia.

Again thank you all so very much for continued prayers and support.

Love and Light in Christ,

Helene Swanson

 

Tallahassee Update… Senator’s Cardin and Kirk introduce Equal Rights Amendment Resolution

Dear Family and Friends,

It has been a bit since my last update, I am enroute to Atlanta, Georgia having left Tallahassee, Florida several days ago. While in Tallahassee, Linda Miklowitz of United4Equality – Florida was most helpful.  She got me a hotel room for two nights.

Linda Miklowitz, Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Helene de Boissiere Swanson discuss the "Cities for CEDAW" campaign which is sweeping the country.

Linda Miklowitz, Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Helene de Boissiere Swanson discuss the “Cities for CEDAW” campaign which is sweeping the country.

It had been quite sometime since I slept on a mattress and treating me to such delicious food.  We meet with US Senators Rubio and Nelson‘s staff to ask them to co-sponsor US Senators Cardin’s and Kirk‘s resolution S.J. Res. 15: A joint resolution removing the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which was introduced in the 114th Congressional Session this past Friday, May 7th, 2015. Attending the meetings telephonically was Bettina Hager of ERA Coalition, Betty Folliard of ERAMN, Cathy Pagnellli Kaelin of ERA Action, Eileen Davis of Women Matter, Marena Groll of Ratify ERA NC, Janette Dean of Nevada Ratify the ERA, Sandy Osteriech of 2PassERA.  

Helene de Boissiere Swanson, US Representative Gwen Graham, and Linda Miklowitz met to discuss Women's Rights and the necessity to pass the Equal Rights Amendment

Helene de Boissiere Swanson, US Representative Gwen Graham, and Linda Miklowitz met to discuss Women’s Rights and the necessity to pass the Equal Rights Amendment

Following Linda’s brilliant lead we also met with US Representative Gwen Graham and Mayor Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee.  Both Rep. Graham and Mayor Gillum squeezed us into their busy schedule with less than 25 hours notice.  The meeting with Mayor Gillum was at 7:30 am.  I must add that am impressed with young man.  He scheduled our meeting to precede his appointment Ms. Chevara Orrin of We Are Straight Allies so that he could introduce us to this phenomenal young lady.  At the meeting with Mayor Gillum we spoke about importance of the ERA and requested that he reach out to his colleagues across the state and call on them to support Florida in ratifying the ERA.  We also asked that he move Tallahassee to join the “Cities for CEDAW” campaign.

Linda Miklowitz, Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Helene de Boissiere Swanson discuss the "Cities for CEDAW" campaign which is sweeping the country.

Linda Miklowitz, Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Helene de Boissiere Swanson discuss the “Cities for CEDAW” campaign which is sweeping the country.

Linda also arranged for a Press Conference which we received excellent coverage.  Please see http://news.wfsu.org/post/activist-crosses-country-foot-promote-equal-rights-amendment

Helene de Boissiere Swanson speaks to the press about her pilgrimage across the USA for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Helene de Boissiere Swanson speaks to the press about her pilgrimage across the USA for the Equal Rights Amendment.

And don’t forget to HOLD THE DATE for our ERA MARCH TO THE CAPITOL this coming Women’s Equality Day, August 26, 2015, from St. Stephens and the Incarnation.  We will have so many wonderful speakers and the following day we are going to charge the hill and demand Equality for All.

And do share with them the good news that those with “boots on the ground’ leading the charge for the passage of the ERA are working together and we will not be divided.

Thank you so much for your continued support and prayers.  With your help we are changing the world.

Love and LIght in Christ,

Helene Swanson, Co-Founder of Katrina’s Dream

 

 

Women Are Human Not Statistics

Since heading out of Springfield, Illinois last November 2014, it has been difficult to keeping up with all the demands being made on me emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually. Walking in the snow and getting feverish dampened my spirits, as did a horrible case of poison ivy and chiggers. Currently, the torrential down pours is playing havoc with keeping dry. As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers, so nothing I own is completely dry it is all in varying stages of moist, damp, or sopping wet.

Helene Swanson camps out roadside during torrential rains in Mobile, Alabama.  Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Helene Swanson camps out roadside during torrential rains in Mobile, Alabama. Photo Credit: Helene Swanson 

To see Youtube video and commentary from the roadside in Mobile, Alabama Click Here.

I don’t like complaining and I really don’t have a right too. So I keep my complaints to a minimum. I choose to make this pilgrimage for Women’s Rights. I dedicated myself to making this journey years ago. I wanted to get national media for the Equal Rights Amendment, I want women to be empowered, and I want to see a woman president.

When I first conceived of the idea of pilgrimages 2010, I thought, “Heck if folks riding across the country for prostrate cancer get all kinds of coverage, this should be a breeze”. I received nominal coverage on my first pilgrimage form Seneca Falls, NY to Washington DC back in 2012. See . This time I left San Francisco in March 2014 and I was pretty darned sure that I get a little more press. I gave up my home, and business after my husband died to make this walk. The walk has not been easy. The lack of national media on this pilgrimage demonstrates just how difficult it is for women. Especially those woman who were not born into privilege, if they are to fall on hard times their options are far and few between. I have personally experienced widowhood in the ‘Good Ole USA’ and it is not pretty when you don’t have two cents to rub together and the economy still sucks picking up the pieces while not giving up the dream, Katrina’s Dream for full equality.

Over and over again, as I have traveled across the country I find that there are no places for single women. Most cities across the US do not have shelters for single women. You must be a victim of domestic violence or drug addicted/alcoholic or mentally ill if you are to qualify for a bed in a shelter, providing there is a bed. Typically there isn’t. I have personally observed the ratio to be two to three shelters for single men to every one shelter for women of domestic violence or homeless families.

March 8, 2015 Lynnaia Main, Officer, Global Relations of the Episcopal Church and Helene Swanson at the United Nation's International Women's Day walk to Times Square, NYC   Photo Credit: Katrina's Dream Supper

Lynnaia Main, Officer, Global Relations of the Episcopal Church and Helene Swanson at the United Nation’s Commssion on the Status of Women’s International Women’s Day walk to Times Square, Photo Credit: Katrina’s Dream Supporter

While my costs are negligible, storage, cell phone, etc., eating is essential The cost of printing literature for my visit to the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women had a price and my food budget has gone from $7 a day to zilch. And not having the proper gear makes it exceptional difficult, one tends to wear through outdoor gear more quickly when you are using it 24/7 every day 365 days a year. So over the course of the last few months, I have begun to rely heavily on programs geared to the homeless just to get a bite to eat and replace clothes with equally worn out clothes. As every cent I have is going towards replacing and updating literature accordingly and getting me to up coming conferences as I make my way to Washington DC.

In Mobile, Alabama I stayed at McKemie Place, the only women’s shelter on the Gulf Coast. The statistics are no longer numbers. They have faces. The conditions they stay there under are deplorable. The hot water went out one night and the electricity the next. Many women were turned away for one reason or another as there was insufficient room. You must be signed up each day to stay the night and be there by 4:00 pm and upon checking in you turn over your belonging to be locked up including your cell phone which you do not get back till the next morning. So you have no contact with family, friends, or the outside world. You also sit at a table from about 4:30pm till 7:30pm at which point you are allowed to set up your bed or go to one of the dormitory rooms and take showers. With only four showers serving 60+ women it is pure mayhem. Throughout the time there the doctrine that is spewed is that God is a male and that he made Adam in his image and that you as a woman are there to serve all men as your Master in rammed down your throat. Any comment to the contrary and you are targeted, to not be admitted the following day, especially if you express Pro-Choice sentiments.

But let me put that to the side for a moment. Here are some of the stories I gathered.

One white woman in her late 50’s, with a clostypy bag has been at the shelter nearly 18 months came to be there as ex-husband and packed her up in a van and drove her from Georgia to Mobile seven years ago and dumped her here. She had been married to him over 20 years. She helped him build up their business but he did not want her around anymore. He told her if she fought him in the divorce he would not pay for her daughter’s college education. So she didn’t. She shared that she wished he would take her back because living with him as difficult as it was, was better than where she was at now.

Another woman 36 of Asian descent is struggling with trying to see her six-month-old daughter and serious health issues. When the baby was two months old she and her husband got into an argument and she went out for a walk to cool off. When she returned he had packed up the nursery and has been hiding the child from her ever since. She had attempted to enlist the local police in finding her child but to no avail. He has since told the courts that she was a pill popper – she takes medication for seizures – and has thus been awarded temporary custody because she is now homeless. Her husband lives with his uncle who has been convicted three times of sex crimes; the police told her they could not help as he has temporary custody. Unfortunately, unless she can come up with $1000 dollars, has no one to represent her in court. The last night I stayed there she had a seizure – bit into her tongue and was taken away by the ambulance.

And yet another woman of African American descent, who was in her early 30’s had come down from Birmingham, Alabama, to be closer to her ailing father who resides in a nursing home. He is her sole support, her mother died when she was a teen. She had lost custody of her children and she is homeless. The father of her children will not allow her to see them. She and another woman wound up in a physical altercation because many of the other women there felt that if she was truly a good mother then Child Protective Services would have them, not the father. And obviously she was godless because God had given the children over to her abusive husband who must have been correct in meting out the discipline. She had left him because he was abusive and leaving the children behind was her only option.

When I stood up for women’s rights and LBGT rights I too was called Godless for challenging that God was a man. Stating that God was neither male nor female and that God loved Gays too. Shortly after this a woman came up to me shared with me that she had a partner in another state and was supportive of my efforts of support the LBGT community. She also begged me not to share anymore about her story in fear that somehow it might get back and she would be denied services.

Soooooo….. here I am in Pensacola, Florida making my way over to Tallahassee. At the local Episcopal Church I visited this past Sunday to charge up my spiritual battery I was ignored, having a backpack I believe that most thought I am homeless and it brought home just how difficult it is for women across the country. I left feeling tired, overwhelmed and emotional and spiritually bankrupt. I just wanted to get this over and get back to normalcy. But normalcy means oppression so I press on. And it is more important to me now than ever that we all band together to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.

Blue Heron off the Pensacola Pier in Florida.  Photo Credit Helene Swanson

Blue Heron off the Pensacola Pier in Florida. Photo Credit Helene Swanson

Today is another day and I am renewed having mediated heavily on my thoughts of God. At the pier off downtown Pensacola I spend a few moment with God’s Air Force, the pelicans, herons, and seagulls, and I whisper into the wind.

Thank you for another day. Please give me the strength to go on. And please enlighten our leaders and emblod to make a stand for woman and my brothers and sisters in the LBGT Community.  For now is the time for the Equal Rights Amendment.  And God, please let the next leader of this country be a woman, maybe then God, just maybe than, we shall see a new age ushered in, an age of peace and prospersity for all. Thank you for listening.

A Reflection in the Advent Season on World Forum 2007

Side road off of Route 4 near Edwardsville, IL  Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Side road off of Route 4 near Edwardsville, IL Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Inspired by Rev. Thomas Momberg’s sermon and refreshed by those I welcomed me at Holy Cross Episcopal Church, West Memphis, AR I now make my way to Little Rock where I will drop by the Clinton Presidential Center.  I have been reflecting on the Advent Season and what has moved me forward in my ministry in promoting the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Many have helped in so many way – one person who comes to mind is Dana Curtis.

Back in late 2006 I took a job working for Dana assisting her in her thriving mediation practice. Dana is an amazing woman and brilliant lawyer. At the time I was not familiar with several concepts. Dana introduced me to mindfulness and stillness where I observed her make the time to take the time for her daily mediation practice and how vital her mediation practice was to her work mediating cases for large organizations. Meditation is another word for prayer time. I came to he right before her move from the flats to the houseboat community in Sausalito. I assisted in a number of small projects of no consequence. But not only did she have a profound influence on my spiritual growth her organization Rockrose Institute did as well. Rockrose Institute was founded by Dana Curtis, Maya Ramsey, Rebecca Westerfield, and Justine Durrell and they successfully brought the concept of dialogue to the world table. (Thank you beautiful women of wisdom.)

As her assistant I attended the conference Justice, Religion, and Conflict Resolution – 2007 World Forum. Rockrock Institute retained Mark Garzon to facilitate the conference. Mark is a consultant who trains our US Congress and United Nations delegates from around the world in the art of dialogue so that all are empowered to more fully participate in conversations.

At World Forum 2007 I was privileged to Eli Wiesel, noble peace prize recipient and Jewish survivor of the Nazi death camps, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright under the Clinton White House Administration, and former Dean of Grace Cathedral The Very Rev. Alan Jones. They spoke to us before each workshop in order to put things in their proper context. The conference was well attended with over 600 world leaders. We had numerous daily breakout groups at the end of each workshop and were given tools to help facilitate change for the common good. Most broke off to address issues of the day. I became a member of the Wisdom Team with Maya’s husband Craig. And walked away with an approach to life that has empowered me to work through many difficulties and I hope to share the gifts given with others.

Then again at the 2008 Lambeth Conference I learnt how the Anglican Communion is using Ubunto and Continuing Indaba to develop and intensify relationships by drawing on cultural models of consensus building for mutual creative action.

So why do I embrace dialogue (see theological and social device http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialogue), well primarily because debate is an outdated modality. Debate, simply put is a win or lose format. I’m right you are wrong, my way or the highway, us vs. them, equates to someone walking away hurt and unresolved, so the fight goes on. The small voice is overpowered and if one is lacking in resources or a power they are not heard. So if the monied, resource ladden or larger group dominates those who are disadvantaged are not heard. When one is not equal none are equal – we all lose.

Where as in dialogue the concept of Ubunto is employed. Dialogue is where feelings, beliefs, and facts have equal consideration. Ubunto, an African word for community and comes from the tribal practice where all come under the tree to express themselves all voices are heard equally to address concerns that affect all.

I have encountered many angry folks who are fear based driven and in their attempt to control others scream to intimidate and quiet them or mute the voice of another by minimizing them as lessors. These controlling methods are working under a broken modality. Instead I will continue to embrace all and work with all.

Off of Route 40 in Arkansas Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Off of Route 40 in Arkansas Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

It is my hope and pray that by following utilizing dialogue that the voice of wisdom be heard.

In recent months, I have come to see just how important it is to utilize the dialogue format in moving the United States of America to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and include the ERA in the US Constitution. Both those who are con, against the ERA and those who are pro ERA have valid points whether they be fear based or factual, and all need to be heard for positive resolution to end ongoing discrimination. Sexism, Racism, and Anti-Semitism – Anti-God are interconnected.

It is my hope and prayer that by utilizing dialogue that we at Katrina’s Dream can bring both sides to the table to be heard so that we can dispel the myths thereby demonstrate the need to end discrimination and violence against women.

So in the months to come and I continue this pilgrimage across the USA, I hope to demonstrate to others how to use the dialogue driven methods to bring women, men and the LBGT community to be welcomed at the table and unite under a common cause, Equality for All. In short, the Equal Rights Amendment is “All for All”.

And so in this advent season where we eagerly await the coming of the child who fulfills prophesy and empties hell I share with you my dearest friends my Ubunto Birth Song for the Equal Rights Amendment dedicated to my beloved William Gaines Swanson who so love Christ.

Come one, come all, come children of God

Come one, come all, all for all

Time now to heal, time to restore, time for love

All now equal, under the heavens, under the law

Come one, come now, come all

Nativity Scene in the town square in Carlinville, IL  Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Nativity Scene in the town square in Carlinville, IL Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Be sure to click on the links they help you to become familiar with the ministry of Katrina’s Dream and those we work to promote the full inclusion of women in the Church and in Society and other Social Justices Issues

Love and Light in Christ,

Helene de Boissiere Swanson

Miracles Happen After Hard Work by Mother Alla (Philadelphia Eleven)

Mother Alla at Bear Haven in Rosa Mystica.

Mother Alla at Bear Haven in Rosa Mystica.

As I was en route to Springfield, IL, to call upon the Illinois General Assembly to Vote YES so that Illinois could be the first state in the 21st Century to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, dearest Mother Alla, the Rev. Alla Bozarth sent me this beautiful poem she wrote to be share will all of you.

Knowing that Rep. Lou Lang will be pushing it forward this coming 2015 Legislative Session.  We shall not give up, we shall not give in.  United We Stand… All coming to the table… One Nation Indivisible.

Check out her blog from time to time http://allabozarthwordsandimages.blogspot.com/

Miracles Happen After Hard Work

Miracles happen—

the French took charge and cast out the Nazis

from the City of Lights, when the Occupying Germans feared

the approach of the Allies and tried to force a 9pm curfew

on the citizens of Paris.

 

Occupation, if it is benign, is one thing, but a curfew is an outrage.

The police took over a building opposite the Cathedral of Notre Dame

and then the women and children came out and started hurling their rocks

and the men shot tanks with small guns, and de Gaulle begged Eisenhower

to bring in the Allies, which he had formerly refused to do.

 

Impressed with the suddenly aggressive valor of the French,

the General agreed to follow a band of French troops into Paris,

and when they arrived, a Victory Parade was already underway

as the Liberation of Paris had officially happened the day before.

 

A distant humming reached the ears of the Americans,

a strange sound rising to a low murmur as they came nearer,

then erupting into an overwhelming roar of jubilation.

The people of Paris rushed on foot to greet them, women kissed them,

some offered wine to the soldiers, they climbed up onto the tanks,

hailing the Liberation of the City of Lights in the summer of 1944.

 

On the same day, August 26, twenty-four years before,

the Women’s Suffrage Amendment was written into the Constitution

of the United States, a victory for humanity created by the relentless

courage, effort and suffering of American women for generations.

 

By virtue of those heroic Suffragists, on June 4, 1919,

the Nineteenth Amendment had been passed by both

the House and Senate of Congress,

but it needed to be ratified by state legislatures.

 

Over a year later, on August 18th the deciding state

was Tennessee, the 36th state to cast its vote in favor,

and the deciding vote was cast by Harry Burn,

at twenty-four the youngest state legislator.

 

Mother Alla celebrates Mass.

Mother Alla celebrates Mass.

 

That morning he’d opened his mail and read a letter

from his mother, in which she said she’d been watching

to see him declare his inclination toward Suffrage for Women,

but so far she saw nothing. She ended her message,

“Don’t forget to be a good boy . . .  and vote for suffrage.”

 

Supporters of suffrage wore yellow roses and filled the balcony

while opponents wore red roses on the main floor.

Harry Burn walked in wearing red, but when he voted,

he said “Aye.”

 

All the women in the balcony threw down

their flowers, and on that day,

there was a beautiful storm of yellow roses

raining all over the representatives

of the state of Tennessee.

 

Alla Renée Bozarth

 

From Purgatory Papers, copyright 2014.

All rights reserved.

Immediately after the Philadelphia Ordinations, this picture was taken with the red doors of the Church of the Advocate opened wide to welcome and host the historic event. The Rector, the Rev. Paul Washington, understood that the risks were great, both to himself and to the church, which at the time was dependent on diocesan funding to meet its expenses. Counter-clockwise from upper right are my husband and priest presenter, the Rev. Phil Bozarth-Campbell, Dorothy Huyck, naturalist, feminist and historian, and her daughter Heather Huyck, who was writing her University of Minnesota American Studies doctoral dissertation on the History of Women's Ordination in the Episcopal Church. I, deacon of the Diocese of Oregon since September 8, 1971 and, as of that day on the Feast of Saints Mary and Martha, July 29, 1974 in hot Philadelphia, priest as well, though I had transferred to the Diocese of Minnesota for the years I served there. I do not know the identity of the woman on my left who was so gloriously harmonious with the colors of the occasion. She was observing the process, and I pulled her into the picture. I am sorry not to know her name. If anyone recognizes her, please let me know about her! - Mother Alla

Immediately after the Philadelphia Ordinations, this picture was taken with the red doors of the Church of the Advocate opened wide to welcome and host the historic event. The Rector, the Rev. Paul Washington, understood that the risks were great, both to himself and to the church, which at the time was dependent on diocesan funding to meet its expenses. Counter-clockwise from upper right are my husband and priest presenter, the Rev. Phil Bozarth-Campbell, Dorothy Huyck, naturalist, feminist and historian, and her daughter Heather Huyck, who was writing her University of Minnesota American Studies doctoral dissertation on the History of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church. I, deacon of the Diocese of Oregon since September 8, 1971 and, as of that day on the Feast of Saints Mary and Martha, July 29, 1974 in hot Philadelphia, priest as well, though I had transferred to the Diocese of Minnesota for the years I served there. I do not know the identity of the woman on my left who was so gloriously harmonious with the colors of the occasion. She was observing the process, and I pulled her into the picture. I am sorry not to know her name. If anyone recognizes her, please let me know about her! – Mother Alla

 

 

 

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence Campaign

I felt called to share this most important ongoing program to promote Activism  Please visit all the links. Love and Light in Christ, Helene Swanson

 

16 Days Campaign

CENTER FOR WOMEN’S GLOBAL LEADERSHIP

16Dbanner

UPDATES

Press Release

16 Days Campaign Demands an End to Gender-Based Violence and Militarism!(English)

Para difusión inmediata: La Campaña de los 16 Días demanda poner fin a la violencia, basada en el género y el militarismo!(Spanish)

Pour publication immédiate: La Campagne des 16 jours exige l’élimination de la violence basée sur le genre et du militarisme! (French)

#16Days #GBVTeachin

Curious about the intersectional nature of gender-based violence? Throughout the 16 Days of Activism, activists will be convening a #16Days Twitter based #GBVTeachin on various topics. Share the line up with those in your network, and remember to follow these conveners, send them questions, and use the hashtags #16Days and #GBVTeachin so we know you’re out there!

#16Days

Please share widely: 2014 Theme Announcement for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign!

* Annonce du thème de 2014 de la Campagne des 16 jours d’activisme contre la violence de genre! * ¡Anuncio del  Tema para la Campaña 2014 de los 16 días de Activismo contra la Violencia de Genero!

Recognizing the critical role militarism plays in perpetuating gender-based violence, we are pleased to share that the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign will continue with the theme of “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!” The priority areas for 2014 are: 1) Violence Perpetrated by State Actors; 2) Proliferation of Small Arms in Cases of Intimate Partner Violence; and 3) Sexual Violence During and After Conflict. The text of the theme, as well as PDF and Word downloads in English, Spanish, and French, are available on our website: http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/2014-campaign/2014-theme-announcement. Use #16Days on Twitter to get the word out!
Download and Share the theme announcement in [English – PDF,Word doc], [French PDF, Word doc], and [Spanish PDF, Word doc] !

Contact Us

Center for Women’s Global Leadership

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
160 Ryders Lane New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8555 USA
Tel: +1 732-932-8782 Fax: +1 732-932-1180
16days@cwgl.rutgers.edu