Bill Russell’s Daughter Wondered Why Her Mother “ALWAYS Came Home In Tears” After Feminist Meetings with White Women, But Now She Gets It

NBA legend Bill Russell always has been a champion on the hardwood and in the activist ranks. His daughter, Karen Russell, recently reflected on the often-overlooked journey of her mother, Rose Swisher. The first wife of the Boston Celtics center and basketball icon, Swisher was a social activist and authentic product of the 1960 and 1970 movements that forced Civil Rights and change in America.

“I miss my parents,” Karen Russell revealed on Twitter. “My Mom ALWAYS came home in tears after going to her feminist meetings with White Women. Now I get it.”

American Women vs. Black Woman in America

The dichotomy between being a woman in America and being a Black woman in America long has been a reality. The women’s suffrage movement did not initially consider Black women, and the feminist movement, in its origination, felt more like a White women’s right to assert her independence from White men than women in general from a patriarchal societal construct.

As an activist, especially in the shadow of her husband’s visible protests to the silencing of Blackness, Rose Swisher must have felt like a second-class citizen in light of her husband’s enormous shadow, and as a Black woman. He’s a man who has won more NBA Championships than any other NBA player, with 11 rings. He was also the Captain of the Boston Celtics and the first Black Coach in the NBA.

Karen Kenyatta Russell reveals this very personal detail about her mother’s experience as an activist living in her parent’s truth.

Kenyatta Russell, who has a bachelor of arts degree in government and philosophy from Georgetown University, is a Harvard-trained employment lawyer, a human rights advocate and a political activist, per her bio. Her parents met in the Bay area as college students, Bill at the University of San Francisco and Rose at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Rose Swisher was a Black Panther, a feminist and an activist. She also was one of the first African-American “supermodels” of the 1950s and 1960s before that term applied to Black women in a corporate context. She appeared on the cover of Ebony magazine, on fashion runways and as the face of Maybelline Cosmetics.

Black On Both Sides

She married who would become the most famous Black basketball player of his era, and the two of them lived in deference of societal norms of their time, like redlining and much more, in New England.

Kenyatta Russell’s parents marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and her father stood prominently with Muhammad Ali when he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War for religious reasons. Swisher was in lockstep as a vocal opponent to the war.

It’s not an easy calling, but Kenyatta Russell is standing on the shoulders of giants in the form of Bill Russell and Rose Swisher. She is doing the work and shedding light on the struggles icons feel when they know all eyes are on them, but change is happening slowly.

Kenyatta Russell has won awards for her groundbreaking Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work. Rose Swisher died in 2014, and Bill Russell died in 2022. With revelations like this, she is humanizing a cherished legacy of her mother that may not have had all the context applied.

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