Honoring Juanita Helphrey

(In 2022 Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will have a new name: Guardians. My denomination, the United Church of Christ, has repeatedly asked for the name and branding pictures to change from the “Indians,” since General Synod 1991. The team will be the Guardians after the Guardians of Traffic, eight 43-foot-tall Art Deco statues lining the Hope Memorial Bridge leading up to the stadium at Progressive Field designed by sculptor Henry Hering and architect Frank Walker).

I remember General Synod,
and the stand that was taken there.
I remember courageous young people
who presented street theatre
that both frightened and inspired people.

I was glad the resolution passed,
and sorry the youth had to apologize.

Most of all I remember Juanita Helphrey,
member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation,
who was the heart of this,
and grieve that she did not see this day.

Many, many others have been a part
of this changing of words, images,
for the sake of all children,
in the long unfinished work of reconciliation,
but sometimes we need to say a name.

Today I honor Juanita Helphrey,
who was a bridge-woman,
a maker of teams with strange members,
and a guardian of things that matter
words that span hope.

Juanita wrote this prayer for me.

God is
a cloud forming ,
an eagle soaring,
a voice from the wilderness,
echoing through your ear.
Whispering, encouraging –
keep going, seek My glory,
don’t worry, I’ll keep
your fears.  *

*published in “Gifts of Many Cultures,” (ed. Tirabassi and Eddy), Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, 1995.

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5 Responses to Honoring Juanita Helphrey

  1. Jane Fisler-Hoffman says:

    Thank you for this (and many others). Juanita was a gift to us all

  2. Maren says:

    She was just amazing!

  3. kclerwin says:

    I never had the opportunity to meet her, but her work, her heart for the People, her determination, her, and your, example of how to live out our mandate to “Fight for the Powerless” , and in your honoring and re-echoing of her voice … she lives on. I am excited about the change for the team branding, but also excited for the opportunity to hear this piece of the Herstory of this continuing journey to raise up all peoples. Thank you Maren.

  4. Maren says:

    You are so very welcome — I am filled with joy and tears remembering her.

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