|(L to r) Rochelle Bunn and Helen Bunn Porter-Thompson|
About Photo: Rochelle Bunn is my Grandmother’s niece; the daughter of her brother Robert Wesley Bunn, Jr. This photo was taken at my Grandmother’s back house. She had property in the front. This is the famous Ivy plant that ran from the back yard all the way to the front yard to the street.
I spent every Summer in South Central, Los Angeles at my grandmother’s until I was 18 years old. I have many memories of my grandmother Helen. She was a church going woman and was a member of Ward AME Church in Los Angeles, where she took an active role until her illness.
Last year, I drove up to Los Angeles to take pictures of Helen Bunn’s headstone and leave flowers. The pictures did not come out as the headstone was of a mixed colored granite material and the print did not show up in the picture. I possibly will go back and try to capture it again, even though I have thought about replacing the headstone (which is a possibility).
My father Walter James Porter was my grandmother’s only child. She took pride in him and in everything he did. She migrated from the South and eventually to Los Angeles for greater opportunities for my father. My grandmother had been married at least 5x. I used to try to pry the information from her about her marriage to my dad’s father, but she didn’t say much except that she ran away from Louisiana to Arkansas to get away so that my dad would have a good education. The migration of my grandmother was in various areas and she paved the way for many of the Bunn & Porter Clan to various cities and states. (another post to come)
According to my grandmother’s death certificate:
Her name was Helen Thompson and she died November 6, 1989 at 2:10am. “I remember when the phone rang at our house, at 2:20am in the morning…and I knew she died before my dad came in the room to tell me. I had dreamed about my grandmother before the call…I believe she came to me to tell me that she loved me and that she was going to be with Jesus as the song “Go Tell It On The Mountain” began to play in my head…one of the songs my grandmother sang as she sewed or just sang anytime during the day.
Many primary documents are not accurate. Helen’s Death certificate did not have complete information recorded. Her father Robert W. Bunn was born in North Carolina and not South Carolina. The name of her mother was unknown by the informant, but had they asked me, I could have told them.
When I look at the cause of death, it is a reminder to me that one needs to exercise and eat healthy. Yes, my grandmother lived to 86, but I would love to live to this age and beyond. I also believe that black women from the south were stronger (at least what I saw of Helen) than women that never had to work the fields.
Helen chewed tobacco and she would talk about her days in the cotton and tobacco fields as a child and young adult. ( One day I asked, what is that you are eating, and she said try it, I put a piece of what she was chewing in my mouth expecting something sweet. My face contorted and I spit that tobacco out! Ewww! I was like “What Is That!?!” It was a real piece of tobacco that had not been refined.
My grandmother Helen told me stories that I never had a day to experience and I love her for sharing. (of course she kept some of her secrets to herself).
One fine day I will see my Grandmother again, and maybe on the mountain.
GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN!