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

Report and media statement from Grannies for Peace Valentine’s vigil, Saturday, February 13, 2016, with photos by Jeanne Finley and Michael Farrell.

Here’s a description of the vigil that was written by co-planner Maureen Aumand, who worked with Maud Easter on the Grannies for Peace’s 10th annual Valentine’s Day vigil ably assisted by many other Grannies and joined by allies from the community:

Banner with the theme of our vigil, photo by Jeanne Finley

Banner with the theme of our vigil, photo by Jeanne Finley

Basking in the warmth of camaraderie, the bundled up group, sporting lots of red and good humor, were acknowledged enthusiastically by many driving by. The messages being saluted included: GRANNIES EMBRACE REFUGEES; SPREAD LOVE NOT HATE; WELCOME REFUGEES; SAY NO TO ISLAMOPHOBIA; DEFEND THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY.

Valentines vigil, Wolf Road end of line, photo by Jeanne FinleySpread Love Not Hate, photo by Jeanne FinleyPriscilla and Derek with signs, photo by Jeanne FinleyImmigrants plus love equal neighbors and Embrace Refugees, photo by Jeanne Finley

Reflecting on the chill of the day, Saratoga Peace Council member, Linda LeTendre (who had brought artfully designed bumper stickers to share which read: “I Love My Muslim Neighbors”) reminded us that “sometimes love is uncomfortable.” Valentines vigil, bumper sticker, cameraman, photo by Jeanne Finley

Though Dan Wilcox, a Grannies supporter and member of Veterans for Peace whose flag flew dauntingly above the vigil determined that  “With hand-warmers, warm hearts & the warm response from those driving by we kept the cold of hate at bay.”Veterans for Peace flag at Valentines vigil, photo by Jeanne Finley

This sense of joyful purpose in standing together in the cold and in solidarity with both supportive passersby as well as those who need our embrace globally was also reflected in the comments of Grannies Sister Francine Dempsey and Dot Richards respectively:
“Bright sun in the sky, support from drivers going by — Grannies know love will conquer all”
“Cold hands, warm hearts.  The sun shone on hardy Valentine’s day peace activists and happy honkers alike.”

Dot, Derek and Maud, photo by Michael P. Farrell, Times Union

Dot, Derek and Maud, photo by Michael P. Farrell, Times Union

And finally summed up by Granny Maud Easter
“When Grannies and friends speak from the heart about refugees as human beings who need our support and welcome, I think everyone hears the voice of their own grandmother and listens.”

Maureen Aumand speaks with the media.  Photo by Michael P. Farrell, Times Union

Maureen Aumand speaks with the media. Photo by Michael P. Farrell, Times Union

This was the Statement of purpose that Maureen shared with the media who arrived to document the vigil:

“We are standing here today for a few brief moments in the cold because even as we stand some 60 million refugees are seeking safe shelter for themselves and their families, made homeless by such forces as war and climate change.

We are standing here together because we are convinced that the foundational principles of our nation absolutely remain counter to a public discourse and policy which is founded on fear, hatred and human division: race hatred, religious hatred.

We are standing here because we are convinced that our well being as a nation cannot rest on policies of exclusion developed out of any hate filled discourse and fear mongering.

Ours is a resounding ” YES” spoken in opposition to the politically motivated ” no” of those who would call for walls as they foster a negative approach to our fellow Muslim Americans or those refugees who seek and desperately need asylum from the horrors of war, especially when our actions as a nation have often helped precipitate the conflicts which so many innocents are fleeing.

Some politicians would build momentum on fear and on the false notion that “talking tough/ being hard nose” will keep us safe. The truly hard task is determining and putting into policy and practice all of the ways we can say YES in a determination to preserve our basic principles, freedoms and security.

We are standing here in the cold today with warm hearts determined that most Americans want to live in a country which fosters human global community, sister and brotherhood and determined outreach to those who are suffering, often as a result of wars we have as a nation fostered. Nineteen stalwart Grannies for Peace and friends representing so many in the regional community who stand in heartfelt opposition to Islamophobic and anti – refugee rhetoric, braved sub zero temperatures and a threatening wind chill to stand on the corner of Wolf Road and Central Avenue on Saturday, February 13th for the 10th Annual  Grannies for Peace Valentines’ Day Vigil.”

photo by Michael P. Farrell, Times Union

photo by Michael P. Farrell, Times Union

IMG_5812 (2) Pat holding the centerEditor’s note: One person not pictured in this article is the incredibly active and dedicated peace activist Pat Beetle.The oldest member of our peace and justice community.  Even though she currently has some mobility problems she arrived at the vigil but was persuaded not to stand in the cold.  So instead, Pat drove around and around the vigil honking in support and adding greatly to the spirits of those standing vigil.

Valentine's vigil to spread love, not hate, photo by Michael P. Farrell, Times Union

Valentine’s vigil to spread love, not hate, photo by Michael P. Farrell, Times Union