deboissiere

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

Tag: ERA Pilgrimage

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

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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

 

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.