Women Against War billboard launch in Schenectady on May 3, 2018 from 10am to 11:30 am. “3 Percent of US Military Spending Could End Starvation on Earth.”

WAW billboard on Central and Western Avenues in Schenectady and Watervliet, May, 2018. One of two billboards displayed in the Capital District during the month of May.

This article was written by Priscilla Fairbank, the organized and energetic coordinator of the billboard launch.  Photos by Priscilla and Mabel Leon.

Early in 2018, an email notice from World Beyond War.org caught our attention.  On their website, World Beyond War describes itself as  “a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.”  They had launched an anti-war billboard campaign and were encouraging organizations to raise the money to have billboards put up in their own communities.  There were over 20 designs, each on their familiar sky blue background.  WAW’s steering committee discussed and endorsed the idea.  Several years ago, we had raised money for a couple of “No War on Iran” billboards that featured lovely photos of Iranian children.  We felt those had made our message available to many who would not have heard it otherwise.

Although our original focus had been an April display to coincide with the IRS tax filing deadline when taxpayers are thinking more about where their tax dollars go, our calendar was busy with other WAW events so we settled on May.

WAW is eligible for a Public Service Announcement rate which allows us to pay for one billboard and get a second one at no extra charge.  After looking at the many designs, we settled on “3% of U.S.military funding could end starvation on earth”.  It seemed simple, direct, bold – something against which no one could disagree.  It also seemed clear enough that drivers could read and comprehend while driving by.
Maud’s fundraising outreach was met with immediate success.

We contacted Lamar Advertising, owner of most of the area billboards, and asked for a list of available locations during May.  At first the lists were somewhat confusing but, with a little study, provided us with a great deal of information: location including distance from cross street, number of weekly impressions, dimensions, direction faced, illuminated or not, current advertiser.  We narrowed the list based on this information.  Then several of us spent a couple of hours driving to view the sites.  Our final choices were one on Route 5 near the Schenectady border, and the second on Route 2 just west of Watervliet.

We set our launch date for May 3rd at the Route 5 site.  Maureen reached out to local press, providing a background press release and followup reminders.  WOOC radio at  the Sanctuary for Independent Media included a 15 minute interview with Priscilla about how the billboard project came about.

On Thursday, May 3rd, about 20 members of WAW, and supporters, gathered to hold signs on both sides of the highway, bringing attention to the billboard that commuters would see for the next month.  Photos were carried in The Daily Gazette and Times Union, letters to the editor about the billboard message appeared in the TU, written by Catherine Cavanaugh and Pete Looker, and Maud wrote a blog about the billboards on WAW’s Waging Peace.

Signs and billboard on South side of Central Avenue, May 3, 2018, photo by Mabel Leon

Every day many people drive by the two billboards.  Based on Lamar’s numbers, our two sites have 155,000 views per week.  We believe our effort raises the awareness and hopefully a conversation about U.S. military spending, its immense size, and the many other things that are not being funded because of it.  We hope this motivates people to contact their elected officials and urge them to vote for different choices.  We are planning to fund another set of two billboards in September, before the midterm elections.

Photos by Mabel Leon: Photos by Priscilla Fairbank:

 

Leaflet from the Grannies for Peace Vigil “Stop Bombing Yemen”, Saturday, May 12, 2018 at the Tulip Fest

Why is the US involved in the deadly Saudi bombing of Yemeni civilians?

The US considers Saudi Arabia an ally. Saudi Arabia considers Iran an enemy. Iran is an ally of the Houthi rebels in Yemen.  So Saudi Arabia is basically fighting a proxy war with Iran in Yemen

US military support of the Saudi attacks and blockades is another in a long list of deadly wars we should not be fighting. Unauthorized, and unconstitutional, this is one war we may be able to convince Congress to stop supporting.  There have been over a million cases of Cholera and diphtheria is raging.

Yemen, an Arab republic in Western Asia that borders on Saudi Arabia, was already one of the world’s poorest countries before the Saudi attacks began three years ago. Although the U.S. provides humanitarian aid to Yemen we’re spending far more to destroy its infrastructure. Causing famine and disease.  According to Save the Children, nearly 400,000 Yemeni children will need to be treated for life threatening acute malnutrition in the next year. Aid organizations are being blocked from this work by the Saudi closure of air, land and sea routes, and by frequent, massive bombing strikes. Right now 130 children die every day in Yemen from extreme hunger and disease–one child every 18 minutes.

Ask your Senators to give this humanitarian crisis their full attention and find ways to end our involvement and move Saudi Arabia toward diplomatic resolution of the murderous war in Yemen.

See senate contact information on reverse side.  Thank you!  www.WomenAgainstWar.org

END US ROLE IN DESTRUCTION OF YEMEN

 In March 2018, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing about our military involvement in the Saudi led coalition that is bombing civilians, hospitals and clinics, schools, infrastructure, and hopes for the future in the impoverished country of Yemen. By late 2017 more than 13,500 lives had been lost.

Now Congress may finally be looking critically at U.S military involvement in the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.  We provide refueling, weapons, and intelligence support to the ruthless war that Saudi Arabia is waging on the people of Yemen.

NOW IS THE TIME for us to tell our US Senators and Congress members:  END US PARTICIPATION IN THE SAUDI ARABIA-LED COALITION that has reduced Yemen to a wasteland of famine, disease, rubble, and despair.

ACT NOW while the revelations of the horror and hopelessness we cause are hanging in the air in the US Senate.

US Senator Charles Schumer Albany (518) 431-4070   Washington, 202-224-6542

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand      Albany (518) 431-0120    Washington, 202-224-4451

Report on the many venues that hosted Humanize Not Militarize during the spring of 2017 [March 10th through June 30th]

Sometimes I imagine it’s a bit of a mystery what makes Women Against War projects happen. But in the case of our 6-months’ work on hosting AFSC’s powerful poster exhibit, Humanize, not Militarize, we can learn below how this project emerged and kept expanding, all the wonderful new community partners we made, and the terrific teamwork of the large number of WAW members involved. If you might like to be part of our next effort, please e-mail info@WomenAgainstWar.org, and we will let you know what’s next!

The report below was written by Anita Stanley who coordinated this project – with cheerful patience and marvelous organizational skills. Thank you from us all, Anita! You made it possible for us to bring to new audiences the powerful message of the exhibit:  the interconnection between the US militarized foreign policy, our racist and increasingly militarized criminal justice system and our increasingly militarized borders – all sadly needing much thought and advocacy these days.

Humanize, not Militarize Exhibition Project:

Report by Anita Stanley

The idea to bring the Humanize, not Militarize project to the Capital District was first conceived by Maud Easter in January of 2016.  She spotted it on the website of the American Friends Service Committee www.humanize.afsc.org and wrote to Mary Zerkel, the AFSC staff member in charge. At that time it was titled All of Us or None, but had just been changed to Humanize, not Militarize.  Mary was delighted to work with Women Against War again, and the seed was planted.

Anita with Raul Vazquez's poster "Borders Don't Stop Dreams." Photo by Mabel Leon

Anita with Raul Vazquez’s poster “Borders Don’t Stop Dreams.” Photo by Mabel Leon

Maud brought the idea to the Beyond Afghanistan/No Drones Committee in February, and the group decided to move forward with it.  Initially the plan was to display it in the summer of 2016, but planning for the election primaries became a priority, so it was pushed out to the fall.  Mabel Leon began a thorough study of the posters, and made suggestions of how we could divide them up for different sites.

Posters at UAlbany Performing Arts. Photo by Maud Easter

Posters at UAlbany Performing Arts. Photo by Maud Easter

Finding Display Sites:  The rest of the committee began exploring different venues for the display, and whether/what kinds of events we might want to accompany the exhibit.  Since planning for the annual meeting was underway by then, the committee changed the target date to late winter or early spring of 2017.  Connie LaPorta was asked to create a brochure to accompany the posters at each venue, which would contain a current schedule of the different display sites, information about AFSC, information about WAW, and a poem from the AFSC website about militarization.   Mabel then drafted a letter to be sent to potential venues, and Mickie Lynn edited it for release.  We divided up the list of possible sites to contact, and began the contacts.  Even though Maureen Aumand wasn’t able to attend our committee meetings, she continued to contribute ideas for venues, and make contacts herself.

Progress!  The Unitarian-Universalist Church in Albany was the first site to agree to host the exhibit, and plans began for an accompanying event, such as a speaker or movie.  Maureen was making solid progress with Capital Repertory Theatre to schedule a showing during the run of An Iliad in March of 2017.  Anita Stanley agreed to be the scheduler for the display, and post online the dates, information about each site, and the WAW members responsible for hanging and tabling.
Anita attended the meeting of the Social Responsibility Council at the UU Church, where they requested that we show Jon Stewart’s film “After Spring”,a movie about Syrian refugees, when the “Humanize” posters were up.  They decided to have a church potluck on the evening when the film was shown, and asked that we plan a small panel to discuss the movie after the showing. Maureen agreed to facilitate the discussion.  They also agreed to allow us to put out the WAW tabling materials on that night, and to host Dahlia Herring for a short presentation about the Capital District’s plans to address the influx of refugees to the region.

Dahlia Herring telling Maureen about refugees in the Capital District at FUUSA exhibit, photo by Mabel Leon

Dahlia Herring telling Maureen about refugees in the Capital District at FUUSA exhibit, photo by Mabel Leon

They also decided to make a donation toward the cost of the film and the exhibit, depending on how much money was taken in from donations on the night of the film.  WAW and FUUSA would share publicity tasks for the local listserves and newsletters.

   More sites: Maureen continued to explore new possibilities, and received a positive response from the UAlbany Performing Arts Department, to host the display during the run of REBEL/Sister in April.  We were given permission to table at three of their themed “talk backs” after the performances.  Alexandra Lusak from the Oakwood Community Center in Troy accepted our request to hang Humanize there.  They decided to plan an opening reception for it, at one of their Monday night Soul Cafe dinners for the community.

Anita began to plan for put-up and take-down “crews” for each venue, as well as people to table on the nights designated.  Mickie, Maud, and Hazel Landa teamed up to do all the publicity for the showings, as well as for the events associated with each venue.  They included the WAW Facebook page, the website, the new Capital Region Progressive Calendar, newspapers and TV, the Friends Meeting newsletter, and e-mail postings of the various peace and justice-related listserves.  Anita sent progress updates to Mary Zerkel at the American Friends Service Committee, and asked for frequent extensions to accommodate the growing list of sites.Humanize3poster

Maureen contacted Rex Smith at Albany Pro Musica, to explore the possibility of hanging the exhibit at EMPAC on the night of their performance of The Armed Man in May of 2017.  The board of APM was encouraging local organizations to plan peace-related activities in the weeks leading up to the performance of this anti-war composition. The posters of Humanize fit perfectly with that effort, and WAW was glad to join in by tabling on the night of the concert.  WAW was allowed to display three of the posters as well, and accepted the many donations that audience members offered. In addition, the exhibit was featured on a weekly television show called AHA!, broadcast on our local PBS station, WMHT.  In order to illustrate the themes of The Armed Man”, the posters were woven in among the different segments of the program.

War is  Failure, poster by Phillip Zuchman

War is Failure, poster by Phillip Zuchman

With the cost of shipping the exhibit, the fee to rent After Spring, and the charges for printing, ink, and Velcro strips for hanging, we realized that we needed an additional supply of money to cover our costs.  Maud sent out a request for donors, and people responded with generosity.  We also began to plan for refreshments for our reception on the night of the An Iliad performance, and a number of WAW members offered to help.

Humanize at Cap Rep with WAW crew for opening media event, photo by Mabel Leon

Humanize at Cap Rep with WAW crew for opening media event, photo by Mabel Leon

Maureen was busy making contact with the directors of Soldier’s Heart, an organization

In War There Are No Unwounded Soldiers, poster from Humanize Not Militarize

In War There Are No Unwounded Soldiers, poster from Humanize Not Militarize

addressing the mental health needs of returning veterans.  She was planning an after-performance talkback, which included Dan Wilcox, our local anti-war poet, Dr.Ed Tick and Kate Dahlstedt, the founders of Soldier’s Heart, a participant in their program, and the actor and the cellist in An Iliad.  She also arranged for a photographer from the Times-Union to come out and take pictures of the display, in preparation for a short article in the newspaper.

Posters at Capital Rep for the anti-war play,  An Iliad

Posters at Capital Rep for the anti-war play, An Iliad

  Viewers Made Posters:
We asked AFSC to include art materials with the poster shipment, which people could use to make their own posters, inspired by the exhibit.  We also requested plastic sleeves in which to put information about each artist and their specific posters.  At some sites this information was put in a notebook for persons to look through, and in others, the information was hung under the posters.

Viewers making posters. Photo by Mabel Leon

Viewers making posters. Photo by Mabel Leon

  More Sites!  The Upton Women’s Center at Russell Sage College was the next venue to accept our invitation, and Shealeen Meany, the director of the Center, planned a reception for their opening night.  WAW arranged for Dr. Mussarat Chaudry, a local Muslim interfaith leader, to give two short presentations on women and Islam on the night of the reception.  Many of the Sage students made posters, and took WAW flyers and our brochures about the exhibit.

Maureen also contacted Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace about hosting our Humanize display during their annual meeting. They agreed to exhibit the posters, and put on a staged reading of the anti-drone play Predator on that night as well.  There were many instances of overlap between the runs of the posters at the different venues, and WAW allowed each venue to choose the works that they wanted. This splitting of the exhibit worked well, and whatever posters were not being used were stored in a WAW member’s home.

Project extended again!   WAW members split up the list for thank-you notes to the different sites, and began to make plans for packing up the posters to send back.  Soon afterward we were contacted by Aili Lopez of C.R.E.A.T.E., a new organization with art studios in Saratoga and Schenectady, with a mission of addressing mental health needs through the visual arts. They felt that Humanize would be a good fit for their participants. We agreed, and CREATE began to plan three workshops entitled Activism and the Art of Poster-Making.  WAW members from Saratoga were asked to help with the exhibit, and attended the workshops as well.

Posters displayed at CREATE, photo by Kim Kennedy

Posters displayed at CREATE, photo by Kim Kennedy

Wrapping up: The Beyond Afghanistan/No Drones Committee of WAW pitched in for a pack-up party for mailing the exhibit back to AFSC.  After this, the committee gave a mid-summer “thank-you” party for all the volunteers involved with the six-month project.  Members agreed that Humanize had reached a wide variety of audiences, especially in the arts, that had not been aware of WAW and the issues we address before this.  Our collaborations with local groups were successful, and served to strengthen our bonds with other organizations in the peace and justice community.  We are appreciative of the donations given by individuals and organizations involved with the display.  Members feel that our goals as an organization were well-represented by the issues raised by the Humanize posters, and that the people who came to see the display are likely to be much better informed now than they had been before.

Announcement details for our Women Against War’s annual gathering on February 8, 2017. For our archives with a report to follow.

Women Against War’s Annual Gathering
Wednesday, February 8, 2017  5:30 PM
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 510 Albany Shaker Road, Loudonville

Bring Savory or Sweet Finger Food to Share & Suggested Donation $10-25

Easy Parking   Wheelchair Accessible  Silent Auction
To help us plan, please RSVP to Maud Easter easter@nycap.rr.com

Come honor our wonderful Woman of Peace Awardee: Trudy Quaiftrudy quaif Freezing for Peace

Wall hanging, designed by Trudy Quaif in 2014

Wall hanging, designed by Trudy Quaif in 2014 


Through good weather and bad, through every challenging time, Trudy is always there for all our Capital District peace and justice work!
Trudy is a mainstay of Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, managing BNP’s website, promoting all our events in BNP’s Weekly Peace Email and organizing BNP’s movies and forums series.
Trudy also created and hosts the  Peace Now video interview series featuring peace and justice activists, shared over multiple public access TV stations.

Come learn from advocate, author & activist Phyllis Bennis:
Her latest book is: ISIS, Syria & the US in the Middle East
phyllis-bennisPhyllis is author of Understanding ISIS & the New Global War on Terror: A Primer. She is Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., a key resource for peace activists.

Phyllis speaks widely across the US and around the world as part of the global peace movement. She has served as an informal adviser to several top UN officials on the Middle East and UN democratization issues. In 2001 she helped found and remains active with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. She has recently joined the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Phyllis has written and edited 11 books, including Before & After: US Foreign Policy and the War on Terror; Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict; and Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN Defy U.S. Power.

 

Women Against War Joined Medea Benjamin at the Sanctuary for Independent Media, On November 19th.

Women Against War Reminds Us to Exercise Our Rights

[This is an article written by Marcia Hopple, who organized and supported the “exercising our rights” demonstration through planning with participants, buying some of the workout outfits, supporting the whole event and reception at the Sanctuary for Independent media and much more.

Marcia introducing Medea at the Sanctuary. Photo by Mark Klein

Marcia introducing Medea at the Sanctuary. Photo by Mark Klein

She was ably co-assisted by Mabel Leon, who designed the headbands, signs, and other props and chose the chants.  Kudos to the other participants who chose their messages, completed their workout fashions and created theatre.]

Mabel at Sanctuary, photo by Mark Klein

Mabel at Sanctuary, photo by Mark Klein

Women Against War members stood out in the crowd at a recent event with Medea Benjamin of CodePink, to welcome her and to show solidarity with her.

Medea speaking at the Sanctuary.  Photo by Mark Klein

Medea speaking at the Sanctuary. Photo by Mark Klein

WAW is a local affiliate of the Washington DC women’s peace organization that she co-founded.

Eight members of WAW dressed in fitness clothes and wore pink sweatbands to make the point that we all need to exercise our right to vote, to boycott, to assemble, and to choose diplomacy over war, among many other rights.

The exercisers chanting to introduce Medea at the Sanctuary Photo by Mark Klein

The exercisers chanting to introduce Medea at the Sanctuary Photo by Mark Klein

Medea spoke about her latest book, and about the results of the presidential election, at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy.  WAW has cosponsored a number of speakers and events at the Sanctuary over the decade-plus since it and WAW were started.

Medea and other CODEPINK activists are known for their ability to make media spectacles in settings from presidential press conferences to Israeli settlements, challenging hypocrisy and silence.  Medea’s books and lectures question the legality and morality of US policies such as arms sales, torture, and drone warfare with its collateral civilian casualties.  Her latest book is Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.–Saudi Connection.

Medea speaking at the Sanctuary, photo by Mark Klein

Medea speaking at the Sanctuary, photo by Mark Klein

Medea has won many peace awards and has traveled the globe working nonstop for peace.  She is co-founder of the human rights group Global Exchange, and a former economist and nutritionist with the United Nations and World Health Organization.

Medea with Embrace Refugees sign.  Photo by Mark Klein

Medea with Embrace Refugees sign. Photo by Mark Klein

When she was introduced by the Sanctuary, the WAW greeting party was on stage to chant “We are Women Against War, We are CodePink, and We are Exercising our Rights.”   Each woman called out a right that is dear to us and then the group finished with “We Welcome Medea”.

Medea and many others, during the question and answer session after her talk, were deeply concerned about the election of Donald Trump as US President after his bigoted campaign rhetoric and ridiculous lack of qualification to lead and represent the country.  The event helped to rally us to action to keep him accountable and continue our constant efforts to convince Congress to seek peace in the world.

As CodePink said immediately after the election, “We Rise in Love.”  Women Against War’s banners hanging at the event also called for love and healing, through embracing refugees, ending racism, and choosing diplomacy.

Medea and the exercise crew at the Sanctuary, Photo by Mark Klein

Medea and the exercise crew at the Sanctuary, Photo by Mark Klein

Priscilla at the Sanctuary, photo by Mark Klein

Priscilla at the Sanctuary, photo by Mark Klein

Anita at the Sanctuary with Grannies banner, photo by Mark Klein

Anita at the Sanctuary with Grannies banner, photo by Mark Klein

Hazel at the Sanctuary, photo by Mark Klein

Hazel at the Sanctuary, photo by Mark Klein

Elizabeth at the Sanctuary, November 19, 2016, photo by Mark Klein

Elizabeth at the Sanctuary, November 19, 2016, photo by Mark Klein

Maud at Sanctuary. Photo by Mark Klein

Maud at Sanctuary. Photo by Mark Klein

Elaine at the Medea event.Photo by Mark Klein

Elaine at the Medea event.Photo by Mark Klein

Maureen and Sue at the Sanctuary, November 19, 2016, photo by Mark Klein

Maureen and Sue at the Sanctuary, November 19, 2016, photo by Mark Klein

A couple of pictures of the “working out crew” by Chris Auer:

Rights to exercise, displayed on backs of the working out for democracy crew

Rights to exercise, displayed on backs of the working out for democracy” crew

Medea works out with the exercise crew. Photo by Chris Auer

Medea works out with the exercise crew. Photo by Chris Auer

Exercising our rights to:

    Marcia:        To vote
    Elaine:         To welcome refugees
    Hazel:          To end sexual assault
    Priscilla:       To protest endless war
    Maud:          To promote diplomacy not war
    Mabel:          To stop drone killings
    Elizabeth:    To boycott
    Pat:              To ban nuclear weapons

Grannies for Peace and Allies International Day of Peace Vigil in Colonie, September 21, 2016 from 5 PM to 6 PM

On Wednesday, September 21, 2016, The United Nations’ International Day of Peace, 27 Grannies and their allies in the peace, justice and interfaith community gathered together on Central Avenue and Wolf Road during the evening drive time to display our message that violence begets violence and that we need negotiated settlements to the 7 wars that the US is currently involved in.

Because of the current politically motivated hate speech towards Muslims we were delighted to be joined by two Muslim women from the Capital District community, Dr.Mussarat Chaudhry and her friend Humera Khan, who brought along a sign of her own reading “Women Call for Peace”.

We also had a relatively large contingent from the Sisters of Saint Joseph, some of whom arrived in a van with  Sister Doreen Glynn.  At the start of the vigil Dennis Karius of the NY State Interfaith Alliance and his friend Tracy joined us briefly.Tracy helped us secure the peace flag and the End Racism Now banner to a utility pole and a tree for hands free viewing.

On Wednesday, September 21, 2016 from 5 PM to 6 PM, Grannies for Peace  gathered (with other members of Women Against War and our allies in the peace and justice community) at Wolf Road & Central Avenue, Colonie to highlight the urgency of waging peace in a world descending into a never ending cycle of violence.

Violence begets violence” was the theme of our vigil, spelled out with various signs and banners highlighting details of such violence and its peaceful alternatives.

We stood together to call for an end to the ever expanding wars that our country is involved in.  We  instead recommended ceasefires and negotiations to end the suffering of the millions of people caught in these conflicts. Because it is partially racism and Islamophobia that allows us to attack largely Muslim countries, kill civilians with drones, and create refugees, we had our banner “End Racism Now” prominently displayed in the background of the vigil, along with a beautiful peace flag contributed by Harry Thornhill.

Some of the signs that we shared included: End Endless War – Diplomacy Not War – War is Not the Answer – Want Peace? No Drone Killings No Arms Sales – & Spread Love Not Hate.

The large banners that we displayed included: Grannies for Peace – War Breaks Grannies’ Hearts – Grannies Embrace Refugees Spread Love Not Hate – End Racism Now – Want Peace? No Drone Killings No Arms Sales – & Wars Make Refugees.

Our vigil successfully shared these messages – and more – with peak drive time commuters on a weekday afternoon, as a living billboard to bring the issue of endless war into focus in the midst of the election season.  Here are some photos taken by Granny photographer of reknown: Mabel Leon:

10  signs on Central Avenue, photo by Mabel Leon 11 Grannies for Peace banner with Anita, Mussarat, Dot, photo by Mabel 12 Grannies for Peace banner with Dot, Mussarat, and Anita, photo by Mabel Leon 13 Wolf Road end of Central Avenue, Huma and Mussarat in foreground, photo by Mabel Leon 14 Doreen arrives with SJC contingent, photo by Mabel Leon 16  Hazel and sisters of SJC, with Harry's peace flag in background, photo by Mabel Leon 17 Grannies for Peace banner and more, photo by Mabel Leon 18 Doreen and Fran towards the end of the vigil, Sue Clark leaving, photo by Mabel Leon 5 CSJ community member, Embrace Refugees, photo by Mabel Leon 6 Bertha with yard sign and drones kill civilians in the background, photo by Mabel 7 Civilian Deaths Break our Hearts, photo by Mabel 1 Pat with Embrace Refugees sign, September 21, 2016, photo by Mabel Leon 3 Elaine with two signs, International Day of Peace 2016, photo by Mabel Leon 4 Mickie with End Endless War and holding half of Wars Make Refugees banner, 9-21-16,  Photo by Mabel Leon 9 Mussarat, Huma and Marcia holding our yard sign banner 19 Joan and Harry with Grannies Embrace Refugees banner, 9-21-16, photo by Mabel Leon Sue Clark, Spread Love Not Hate, 9-21-16, photo by Mabel Leon

Women Against War shared signs, organizing skills and presence at the diverse, spirited Franklin Graham counter-demonstration on August 25, 2016 at Capitol Park West

Counter vigil to Franklin Graham, Thursday, August 25, 2016, photo by Matt Hamilton/TU

Counter vigil to Franklin Graham, Thursday, August 25, 2016, photo by Matt Hamilton/TU

After receiving news that the Reverend Franklin Graham would be coming to Albany for a stop on his “Decision America 2016” fifty state tour for what was billed as a “prayer rally” to be held in Capitol Park West; members of the progressive faith community, the LGBT community and the peace and justice community organized a silent, peaceful counter demonstration to call attention to Graham’s long history of Islamophobia, anti LGBT rhetoric and vision of a Christian-centric, divisive United States.

Women Against War took the lead in organizing a meeting place and in sharing our banners and signs – and especially our presence at the demonstration.

Dot holding one end of the Grannies' banner. Photo by Elaine Klein

Dot holding one end of the Grannies’ banner. Photo by Elaine Klein

In the words of Dot Richards, a Quaker Granny for Peace:

I guess ‘protest’ is a word you could use, (but) we kind of like to think that we are trying to bring a universal message: God is love. … God is mystical — and that’s the word we see in all creeds. So we try to bring down the rhetoric and to show that we are all one.

Washington Avenue end of counter vigil for Franklin Graham, photo by Elaine Klein

Alexandra Lusak on right of photo, holding two signs, Spread Love Not Hate and Defend the Muslim Community. Photo by Elaine Klein

And Reverend Alexandra Lusak, a member of the Women Against War Iran Project, said in an interview with Asa Stackel of WNYT:

When Rev. Graham says there is only one way to god, I think that really builds barriers between people

For many more photos and extensive links to background information please see this article on our Waging Peace blog:

Beautiful, colorful messages of love at Graham prayer rally.  Photo by Lori Van Buren/TU

Beautiful, colorful messages of love at Graham prayer rally. Photo by Lori Van Buren/TU

Diplomacy with Iran sets the example for a change in US foreign policy, Iran Project Vigil at Albany Food Fest, August 10, 2016 from 12:30 to 1:45 PM

Women Against War: Diplomacy Saves Lives and Money, We Can’t Afford Any More War

  Women Against War demonstrated and leafleted with full numbers from 12:30-1:30 PM, Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at the annual Empire State Plaza Food Festival. But some of us actually stayed a bit longer to continue to leaflet and take photos.

Close of the Iran Project Vigil at Empire State Plaza Food Fest, missing Leila, Priscilla and Sue Clark, photo by Priscilla Fairbank

Close of the Iran Project Vigil at Empire State Plaza Food Fest. Not in photo: Dinah, Leila, Priscilla and Sue Clark.  Photo by Priscilla Fairbank

Our props consisted of our banner, signs, a Women Against War Sandwich Board  (worn for the full hour on a windy afternoon by Alexandra), and some of Diane Reiner’s  beautiful enlarged photos of Iranian people. There were a baker’s dozen of us; standing with expressive signs, including a homemade, two sided sign that ally and anti nuclear weapons activist, Tom Ellis held. . One side read, “We can build a vastly better world;” the other, “We are tired of endless war, foreign and domestic.”

Iran Project Vigil at the end of the demonstration, missing Sue, Mabel and Leila.  Photo by Mabel Leon

Iran Project Vigil at the end of the demonstration. Not in photo: Sue, Mabel, Leila and Dinah. Photo by Mabel Leon

One of the highlights of this particular annual vigil has always been the number of leaflets that we can distribute to people flocking to the I Love NY Food Fest as they come to buy prepared foods and produce. To walk and meet and lunch and munch.

With rain threatening there were fewer passersby than usual but more leafleters took turns giving out the beautiful leaflets with a color photo of the international negotiators of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran.

Negotiators of the Iran nuclear deal from China, France, Germany, The European Union, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, April 2, 2015

Negotiators of the Iran nuclear deal from China, France, Germany, The European Union, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, April 2, 2015

In the media release, demonstration organizer Marcia Hopple explained, “Women Against War is asking citizens to insist that candidates for presidential and congressional elections this November will say NO to endless war and say YES to diplomacy as the first and most powerful tool in international relations.”

Another long term concern of Women Against War has been arms sales, which WAW considers a huge contributor to the problems in the Middle East. As well as an obstacle to negotiated settlements of regional conflicts.  As long term Women Against War activist Pat Beetle has succinctly said: “Let’s not let arms contractors determine our foreign policy.”

Iranleaflet2016, two sided.Women Against War’s leaflet also asked readers to really look at the US military budget, which continues to be larger than all other aspects of the US discretionary budget combined.  It suggested asking candidates to pledge to reduce military spending.

This year’s leaflet came about through a creative and interactive first draft crafted by Iran Project member Kate Cavanaugh. It was then edited by some of the other key vigil planners.  Marcia took responsibility for printing the striking,  two sided leaflets with their attention getting color photo.

The result was a leaflet that we plan to continue distributing during the entire political campaign season – with its action suggestions and basic facts.  One person (a booth holder) came up to us and thanked us for including actual ways that people could act on the requests for policy changes. In general the responses to our leaflets were more positive than ever before. People who took leaflets read them carefully, leading to several long conversations and commitments to doing more research to develop better understanding.

Although there wasn’t official media coverage, one of the Times Union photographers (Jasmine Robinson) included a picture of Leila and Mickie with their signs in a “were you seen” feature about the Food Festival.

"Spread Love Not Hate!" Leila and Mickie at the NY State Food Festival, August 10, 2016.  Photo by Jasmine Robinson of the TU

“Spread Love Not Hate!”
Leila and Mickie at the NY State Food Festival, August 10, 2016. Photo by Jasmine Robinson of the TU

Thanks to Marcia, Priscilla, Alexandra, Kate, Fran, Sue C., Pat, Tom, Leila, Sue D.,, Dinah, Hazel,  Mabel, Mickie, and all of those behind the scenes who supported this action in various ways. Including a local church that allowed us to park nearby,

Walking back to our cars after the Iran Project Vigil, photo by Priscilla Fairbank

Walking back to our cars after the Iran Project Vigil, photo by Priscilla Fairbank

In the face of political threats, multiple, cruel, continuing wars, and uncertainties about future US military actions we can only continue to act in the interests of peace, human rights, nuclear weapons reduction, compassion for those on the ground, and analysis of who stands to gain – in power and profit – from continued war.

Flower Power! Grannies’ Tulip Fest Vigil, Saturday, May 7th 1 PM to 2 PM, followed by leafleting,

Wars Make Refugees. Stop the Wars. Wage Peace

On Saturday May 7, 2016 from 1 PM to 2 PM Grannies for Peace and our allies gathered in Washington Park near the Moses Statue, under available trees on a grassy bank.

Bertha and Dot with Grannies for Peace banner, photo by Mabel Leon

Bertha and Dot with Grannies for Peace banner, photo by Mabel Leon

We tried to wear all white, or at least some white, which is one of the international colors of mourning and also reflects a combination of all the wavelengths that combine to meet our eyes as the color of universal unity.

Center of the Tulip Fest vigil, photo by Harry Thornhill

Center of the Tulip Fest vigil, photo by Harry Thornhill

Our vigil was mostly silent, except for interactions with those who came up to us and with a couple of leafleters out in the nearby crowd and on the end of the vigil line.

East end of the vigil after more people have joined, photo by Harry Thornhill

East end of the vigil after more people have joined, photo by Harry Thornhill

Jackie, Janet, Kate and Marcia, photo by Mabel Leon

Jackie, Janet, Kate and Marcia, photo by Mabel Leon

Anita and Maureen, later in the vigil, photo by Mabel Leon

Anita and Maureen, later in the vigil, photo by Mabel Leon

Final banner added to earlier vigil, photo by Harry Thornhill

Final banner added to earlier vigil, photo by Harry Thornhill

At the close of the vigil we formed a circle and sang a few verses of Pat Humphries’ song, “Never Turning Back.” Then Mabel invited people to leaflet in pairs and gave out small, colorful carnations and leaflets to each pair.

Mother and daughters with flowers and smiles, photo by Mabel Leon

Mother and daughters with flowers and smiles, photo by Mabel Leon

This was the text of our leaflet:

Stop the Wars-Wage Peace-Celebrate the Mothers of the World.

In the spirit of Mothers’ day, Grannies for Peace would like to honor mothers all over the world by spreading love not hate. In unity, we call for an end to violence, at home and throughout the world.

We call for diplomacy and negotiations to replace drone and bomb attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

We call for a US and international arms embargo to end the killing of civilians and the destruction of cities and towns in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

We embrace the refugees created by these wars and demand that our government support them and welcome them as they flee from war.

Here are more details from our media release:

On the Saturday before Mother’s Day, Grannies for Peace will gather for an hour long silent vigil during the Tulip Fest in Albany.  We will be holding a banner with the message: “Wars make refugees.”

This year we will dedicate our vigil to connecting the dots between our endless and ever expanding “war on terror” and the creation of millions of refugees, fleeing war and violence.

As part of our message, we will display two more banners: “Want Peace? No Drone Killings. No arms sales” and “Grannies Embrace Refugees: Spread Love Not Hate,” in addition to our Grannies For Peace banner.

 In response to the pervasive political rhetoric, anti Muslim hate speech, and fear mongering, aimed at excluding the refugees from the United States we will also have signs that say: Embrace Refugees,  Spread Love Not Hate, and End Endless War.

Our basic message is:”Tell Congress to stop unauthorized wars and to institute an embargo on arms sales to warring nations.”   To urge others to join in this struggle we will be handing out leaflets after the vigil.

For a full display of photos of the vigil, the natural beauty of the setting and some of the families that we leafleted please see our article on the Waging Peace Blog:

“Flower Power! Photos of Grannies for Peace at the Albany Tulip Fest”.

“When” A song of peace in response to the Paris attacks, written and performed by Dodie Stevens

A Song of Peace by Dodie Stevens

“I wrote this song the day after the terrorist attacks in Paris, and unfortunately, there have been more since then…when will it end?

Who knows, maybe the right person will hear my song of peace, and it can reach the masses to, hopefully, stop all this madness!  Writing is my way of expressing my feelings, and my heart was heavy when I wrote it.”  —Dodie Stevens

Dodie Stevens (Geraldine Ann Pasquale) is an American singer. She is best known for her 1959 song “Pink Shoe Laces,” which she recorded at 13 years old.

Listen to the song, “When?”, with video: 

Sheet music is also available for this song, if your church group or other group would like to use it.  Contact Iowa Peace Network if you are interested.

Terror in Paris
On the evening of November 13, 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis. Beginning at 9:20 CET (Central European Time), three suicide bombers struck near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants and a music venue in central Paris.
The attackers killed 130 people, including 89 at the Bataclan theatre, where they took hostages before engaging in a stand-off with police.
On Tuesday night,[March 8, 2016] the Eagles of Death Metal finished the concert they began in Paris on Nov. 13, when terrorists interrupted their performance at the Bataclan theater in a brutal attack that killed 90 concert-goers. In total, 130 people died across the city, and many more were injured.
368 people were injured, 80–99 seriously. Seven of the attackers also died, while the authorities continued to search for accomplices.
If you want to read more about Dodie Stevens and her earlier career you can see the rest of the article here.