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

Month: August, 2015

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.



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.


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…/de…