Billboards with Peace Message from Albert Einstein launched in Schenectady on September 7, 2018

September 2018 Capital District Billboards with Albert Einstein quote.
Taken at Erie Blvd. during the September 7th billboard launch by Priscilla Fairbank

After a great deal of logistical and administrative work by Priscilla Fairbank and others (including Kate Cavanaugh and Marcia Hopple) a second set of billboards with an antiwar message went up in Schenectady and Albany. To read more about the reasons for the billboards, the national context of their display, and the locations of both billboards that will be up for the whole month of September and perhaps a bit beyond that check out Priscilla’s blog article posted at the end of August on our blog, Waging Peace

What was especially nice about this billboard launch (on Erie Blvd a little past Monroe Street in Schenectady) was the planned participation of many members of Schenectady neighbors For Peace who moved their usual Friday Noon vigil to the location of the billboard and arrived with signs and lots of energy.

As photographer, Lori Van Buren headlined her photo in the TU Regional Section on September 9th “Peace Groups Team Up for Billboards”  And speaking of media coverage, thanks go to media maven Maureen Aumand  who reached out to attract two TV stations as well as the Times Union.

Here are two unpublished photos of the billboard and the late vigil gathering taken by Lori Van Buren of the Times Union.

Members of Women Against War and their supporters join the Schenectady Neighbors for Peace and members of Upper Hudson Peace Action to launch one of two billboards, this on Erie Boulevard Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 in Schenectady, N.Y. The other billboard will be on Central Ave. in Albany west of Westgate Plaza and Yardboro Avenue, facing east. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

Members of Women Against War and their supporters join the Schenectady Neighbors for Peace. and members of Upper Hudson Peace Action to launch one of two billboards, this on Erie Boulevard Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 in Schenectady, N.Y. The other billboard will be on Central Ave. in Albany west of Westgate Plaza and Yardboro Avenue, facing east. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

When we gathered together around 11:30 am that morning there was a growing number of Women Against War joining the vigil to support the message and attract the attention of drivers on the busy boulevard. Jackie Donegan of Schenectady Neighbors for Peace had a large sign reading Honk for Peace, which elicited much honking and raised our spirits.

One more excellent piece of writing came out of the billboard launch in the form of a letter to the editor from WAW member and Steering Committee member, Kate Cavanaugh.  She further explored Albert Einstein’s ideas about war, and created a bridge to the Grannies for Peace September 21st vigil to End Endless War.

Now we’ll let the pictures taken by Mabel Leon and Priscilla Fairbank speak for themselves:

Priscilla being interviewed at the billboard, photo by Mabel Leon

Greg and Michael, September 7, 2018, photo by Mabel Leon

Schenectady billboard, September 7, 2018. photo by Mabel Leon

Part of Schenectady Neighbors for Peace contingent on the median, photo by Mabel Leon

On the median at Erie Boulevard, September 7, 2018, photo by Mabel Leon

Marcia, Fran, Doreen and Pat at billboard launch, September 7, 2018, photo by Mabel Leon

Schenectady billboard launch, photo by Priscilla Fairbank

Group gathered near our billboard at the end of our vigil on September 7, 2018, photo by Mabel Leon

Martin, Greg, Mabel and Maureen at the September 7th billboard launch in Schenectady NY. Photo by Priscilla Fairbank.

Final gathering on sidewalk near the billboard, Sept. 7, 2018, photo by Priscilla Fairbank

Alexandra and Mickie with signs, and Kim Kennedy’s handmade banner, at the beginning of the September 7th billboard launch on Erie Blvd. Schenectady. Photo by Priscilla Fairbank

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:

 

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.

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

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

“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.

Women Against War and Grannies for Peace joined Jewish Voice for Peace during their second annual Black Lives Matter Chanukah vigil on December 8th 2015 in Townsend Park.

Grannies end racism now banner at JVP Chanukah vigil, photo by Wendy Dwyer

Grannies end racism now banner at JVP Chanukah vigil, photo by Wendy Dwyer

Thanks to this inspiring photo taken by Wendy Dwyer we have the basis for an article about how Jewish Voice for Peace, Albany Chapter held their second annual anti-racism Chanukah vigil and how Women Against War joined them with their two banners from the Tulip Festival and other signs and messages.  This vigil was described by Jewish Voice for Peace in this way:

Albany Jewish Voice for Peace is hosting our 2nd Annual Black Lives Matter Hanukkah vigil on Tuesday, December 8th, 5 – 6:30 pm, at Townsend Park, Albany (The triangle park at Henry Johnson Blvd., between Washington Avenue and Western Avenue).

We did not expect the need to raise the call that Black Lives Matter would have disappeared in the past year, but recent events have made clear that the necessity for action and solidarity has increased. As an organization based in the multi-racial and multi-ethnic Jewish community, and dedicated to human rights for all, we believe we have a special obligation and role to play in speaking out in support of the Black community and in opposition to all of the continuing stark manifestations of racism and white supremacy.

Come join us in this vigil for peace and justice as we recall the historical struggles of Jews and stand in solidarity with all of our sisters and brothers.

Through grassroots organizing, education, advocacy, and media, Jewish Voice for Peace works to achieve a lasting peace that recognizes the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.

Jewish Voice for Peace is the only national Jewish organization that provides a voice for Jews and allies who believe that peace in the Middle East will be achieved through justice and full equality for both Palestinians and Israelis. With offices in New York and California, 100,000 online activists, chapters across the country and an Advisory Board comprised of numerous prominent Jewish thinkers and artists, JVP supports nonviolent efforts here and in Israel-Palestine to end Israel’s Occupation, expand human and civil rights, and implement a US policy based on international law and democracy.

Here are some other photos taken by JVP members, The first two were taken by Ariela Perez-Wallach  and the bottom one was taken by Dennis Wi​llard. Black lives Matter image from Chanukah vigil, December 8, 2015 JVP vigil in Townsend Park, third night of Chanukah, 2015 JVP vigil with Black Lives Matter banner from Women Against War, December 8, 2015This is just one more instance of several community groups sharing their resources and passions during a local vigil.  May we have many more as our different groups come together to combat, racism, militarism and fear mongering.

Brief report on the Women Against War annual gathering held on Saturday, November 14, 2015. With photos by Priscilla Fairbank, Connie Frisbee Houde and Doreen Glynn.

Our gathering was held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 10 N. Main, Albany. A perfect venue to accommodate all of the people and activities planned for the evening.

Fran and Kate taking donations at the door, photo by Doreen Glyn

Fran and Kate taking donations at the door, photo by Doreen Glyn

The evening began with a potluck of savory and sweet finger foods and a chance for people to catch up with each other and hear more about the activities of the several groups represented by people there to honor Mabel and to hear the ideas of our keynote speaker, Marjorie Cohn.

View of the front of the room, photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

View of the front of the room, photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

Gallery of photos by Priscilla Fairbank:Buffet line, photo by Priscilla Fairbank More potluck participants, photo by Priscilla Fairbank Overview of the potluch and the decorations at the 2015 annual dinner, photo by Priscilla Fairbank Sumptuous potluck and people enjoying it, photo by Priscilla Fairbank Pat Beetle at the potluck, photo by Priscilla Fairbank Dan, Maureen and Jeanne at the annual dinner, photo by Priscilla Fairbank Paul and Katja and some anti war signs near the silent auction, photo by Priscilla Fairbank
The program then went on to include a report of Women Against War’s 2015 projects and activities by Maud Easter.

Maud sharing the annual report, photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

Maud sharing the annual report, photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

One piece of new business that Maud announced was the appointment to the Women Against War’s steering committee of Kate Cavanaugh. Kate, who is a very active member of the Iran Project and a Professor Emerita of Saint Rose College, replaces previous steering committee member Saira Kahn who has finished her Master’s degree and moved to New York City in August, to work as a Budget Analyst in the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

Kate Cavanaugh at annual dinner, photo by Priscilla Fairbank

Kate Cavanaugh at annual dinner, photo by Priscilla Fairbank

This was followed by  the presentation of the 2015 Woman of Peace award to Mabel Leon

Mabel at home in 2011, photo by Daily Gazette

Mabel at home in 2011, photo by Daily Gazette

Mabel was briefly described in the outreach materials as follows:

An impassioned and lifelong activist, photographer and artist, Mabel strengthens Women Against War, Grannies for Peace and the entire social justice community through her creativity and commitment.

All this and more is true of Mabel but the introduction by Maureen Aumand brought more ideas and feelings to light. Maureen particularly focused on Mabel’s long time dedication to the Pastors for Peace annual Caravan of medical supplies to Cuba and her love and support for the Cuban people long suffering under a cruel US embargo.

Maureen introducing Mabel before the award ceremony, photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

Maureen introducing Mabel before the award ceremony, photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

In this context, Maureen shared a short poem by Cuban activist and artist Jose Marti.
I Cultivate a White Rose
By Jose Marti

I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand honestly

And for the cruel person who tears out
the heart with which I live,
I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns:
I cultivate a white rose.

Mabel accepting the white rose of the Jose Marti poem, photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

Mabel accepting the white roses of the Jose Marti poem, photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

Here’s another quote from Jose Marti that shares some of the spirit of Mabel’s work and the goals that we all try to achieve here in the Capital District peace and justice community:

We are free, but not to be evil, not to be indifferent to human suffering, not to profit from the people, from the work created and sustained through their spirit of political association, while refusing to contribute to the political state that we profit from. We must say no once more. Man is not free to watch impassively the enslavement and dishonor of men, nor their struggles for liberty and honor.

Mabel taking the stage after Maureen's introduction

Maureen is holding a giant card with a great photo of Mabel as” Miss – Appropriation” during a Schenectady Neighbors for Peace “I Miss America” pageant.
Marcia Hopple spent much of the time during the potluck circulating the card for signatures so that everyone could write a personal message to Mabel as part of honoring her. Kudos to Marcia for her dedicated work on this!

Mabel with yard sign Mabel displaying the beautiful peace dove Maureen fastening the peace dove pendant for Mabel Mabel Leon WAW 2015 woman of the year

All photos of the Woman of Peace Award and Mabel's acceptance speech taken by Connie Frisbee Houde

All photos of the Woman of Peace Award and Mabel’s acceptance speech taken by Connie Frisbee Houde

Mabel’s acceptance speech was inspiring.  She explained her reluctance to accept the award because she felt that she was just one person who worked as part of a large community of peace and justice activists and she went on to name and acknowledge the work of many in Women Against War and some of the other groups that we often work in coalition with.

There was much more including an invitation to take and distribute/display some of the new yard signs which she played such a large part in producing and obtaining funding for.
But the ending of her speech was a powerful call to action in which she defined some of the most important goals for our continuing work:

1. It is critical that all activists be informed and understand the interconnectedness of all issues related to peace and justice- including the corporate war economy, militarization of our society, inequity;  immigration, racism, mass incarceration, women’s rights and climate change.

2. As we address the pressing issues of peace saying No to Drone killings and No to arms sales, we must build coalitions joining with others in the local struggles of low wage workers, Black Lives Matter, immigration rights, climate change and ending mass incarceration.

3. To do this, we must nurture each other, face despair with action and remember to celebrate life

Fran Dempsey stepped up to introduce our speaker, Marjorie Cohn.

Fran Dempsey introducing speaker Marjorie Cohn, photo by Doreen Glynn

Fran Dempsey introducing speaker Marjorie Cohn, photo by Doreen Glynn

From Fran’s eloquent introduction we learned that Human Rights Lawyer Marjorie Cohn is also an author, journalist, media consultant and speaker on topics of international human rights, and US foreign policy. She teaches at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and is a former President of the National Lawyers Guild.  Marjorie also serves on the Advisory Board of Veterans for Peace.

Hazel selling Marjorie's book, photo by Priscilla Fairbank

Hazel selling Marjorie’s book, photo by Priscilla Fairbank

Her most recent book, which Hazel assisted people to purchase, is an edited collection of articles about the use of weaponized drones titled DRONES & TARGETED KILLING: Legal, Moral & Political Issues. The many excellent articles serve as a key resource for anti-drone activists. Bishop Desmond Tutu’s forward says,

This book provides much needed analysis of why America’s targeted killing program is illegal, immoral and unwise.

Marjorie Cohn speaking iwth banners in the background, photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

Marjorie Cohn speaking with banners in the background, photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

Rather than detail the content of her inspiring and resource filled speech I’ll link to one of her most recent articles which contains much of her content.  You can also read more about The Drone Papers recently based on information released by a whistleblower from the intelligence community and more about Marjorie Cohn in general in this article published in our blog called Waging Peace..

Marjorie Cohn speaking about her article: "‘The Drone Papers’ Revelations Are a Cry for Ending the Slaughter"  Photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

Marjorie Cohn speaking about her article:
“‘The Drone Papers’ Revelations Are a Cry for Ending the Slaughter” Photo by Connie Frisbee Houde

While Marjorie was in the Capital District she was quite busy, speaking at three local venues and doing a radio interview on WAMC’s Roundtable as well.  So her message was spread far and wide, at UAlbany, Albany Law School and at the Forum of First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany.

Finally here are a few more of Priscilla’s photos of people working, announcing, and meeting at the annual dinner.

Doreen making announcements

Doreen making announcements

Marcia Hopple and the audience during announcements

Marcia Hopple and the audience during announcements

Doreen looking over the silent auction items, which Linda LeTendre auctioned with her usual humor and effectiveness!

Doreen looking over the silent auction items, which Linda LeTendre auctioned with her usual humor and effectiveness!

Maud and Elaine at the dessert end of the buffet table, planning the evening

Maud and Elaine at the dessert end of the buffet table.

Maud and Doreen

Maud and Doreen

Joan Thornhill, art and props arranger and kitchen worker, supreme. Who along with her husband Harry helped set up Mabel's props and signs and kept coffee and other beverages going all evening!

Joan Thornhill, art and props arranger and kitchen worker, supreme. Who along with her husband Harry helped set up Mabel’s props and signs and kept coffee and other beverages going all evening!

 

At our September 10th coalition rally to urge approval of the Iran Deal, Wendy Dwyer brought news of Code Pink actions in Washington, DC

 

Get AIPAC our of Schumer's bloomers. Banner at the Code Pink demonstration, in Washington DC on September 8, 2015, photo by Wendy Dwyer

Get AIPAC our of Schumer’s bloomers. Banner at the Code Pink demonstration, in Washington DC on September 8, 2015, photo by Wendy Dwyer

As many local peace and justice groups gathered in front of the Leo O’Brien Capitol Building for the second time.[At a rally called by the Palestinian Rights Committee.]  Urging approval of the Peace Deal with Iran and calling out Senator Chuck Schumer for opposing the agreement, Wendy Dwyer, a member of Upper Hudson Peace Action and Women Against War, brought news of inspiring actions that took place in Washington DC during the launch of the Code Pink campaign “Hands across the Capitol.”

Wendy had been present in Washington, DC on September 8th and 9th and had taken part in several of the visually exciting actions. She also took a few photos which she has shared with us. Other photos come from the Code Pink website and from photographer Jo Freeman.

Wendy atht e September 8th and 9th peace with Iran events by Code Pink, between Michaela and Medea.

Wendy at the September 8th and 9th Peace with Iran events organized by Code Pink. Standing between Michaela and Medea. Photo by Jo Freeman

ro-peace Rabbis at the Capital.  Code Pink action September 8, 2015. Photo by Wendy Dwyer

Pro-peace Rabbis at the Capital. Code Pink action September 8, 2015. Photo by Wendy Dwyer

This is just a brief  article about Wendy’s experiences in DC, and Medea’s birthday sign and a general acknowledgement of all the energy and creativity that surrounds Code Pink and supporters of their actions,including Wendy and others from our region.

One of the actions that took place before the group visited Chuck Schumer’s office in the Rayburn building was the hanging of a banner over the balcony nearby, followed by a peaceful sit-in in Senator Schumer’s office:

Veterans For Peace banner drop at the Rayburn Office Building near Chuck Schumer's office.  Photo by Wendy Dwyer

Veterans For Peace banner drop at the Rayburn Office Building near Chuck Schumer’s office. Photo by Wendy Dwyer

 Hastily, we sang in the foyer to divert the capital police while Tarak and others dropped the banner. This was in the Rayburn building, where Schumer’s office is.  I believe it was on the third floor.

We asked to be seen and were told 3 people only and no cameras so we all sat down and started singing peace songs.  British media was there, police were called and came. They know Medea well work with her all the time.

Medea Benjamin, the rabbis, Col. Ann Wright, Michaela and others in Senator Schumer's office.  Photo by Wendy Dwyer

Medea Benjamin, the rabbis, Col. Ann Wright, Michaela and others in Senator Schumer’s office. Photo by Wendy Dwyer

Former Iranian hostage, Sara Shourd and Col. Ann Wright, in Schumer's office, Septmeber 8th Photo by Wendy Dwyer

Former Iranian hostage, Sara Shourd and Col. Ann Wright, in Schumer’s office, Septmeber 8th Photo by Wendy Dwyer

Rabbi Wright speaking in Senator Schumer's office, photo by Wendy Dwyer

Rabbi Wright speaking in Senator Schumer’s office, photo by Wendy Dwyer

Ellen Davidson of Veterans for Peace in Chuck Schumer's  Washington DC office

Ellen Davidson of Veterans for Peace in Chuck Schumer’s Washington DC office, British media in the doorway. Photo by Wendy Dwyer.

The staff person Lane Bodian eventually came out and we all spoke . We were just singing “Gonna walk with my Jewish Friends, down by the riverside” as he came into the room!

Chuck Schumer s legislative aide on Iran, Lane Bodian, September 8, 2015, photo by Wendy Dwyer

Chuck Schumer’s legislative aide on Iran, Lane Bodian, September 8, 2015, photo by Wendy Dwyer

So much went on it is hard to recount.  We went to the House Foreign Affairs Hearing, Admiral William Fallon retired USN Former Commander, U S Central Command spoke in favor of diplomacy wonderfully. I will eventually write to him if  I can find him and Rep. Reo Connolly spoke about the deal being a “Road to Peace”  they spoke bravely amidst hawks, including Mr Royce the chairman.

Meanwhile at the American Enterprise Institute, former Vice President, Dick Cheney was speaking against the peace deal with Iran.  That was where the famous confrontation of Cheney by Code Pink staff member, Michaela Anang took place.  It included a tug of war with an audience member who tried to grab her banner as she was being escorted from the room.

Michaela sent the link to an interview about this incident to Wendy.  It also includes a video of the attempt to rip the banner from her hands.  She was victorious in holding onto the banner while also calmly exiting the room. But the interview demonstrates the wisdom and strength of purpose of this 21 year old intern.

Happy Birthday, Medea, set up by Tighe Barry, September 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Medea, set up by Tighe Barry, September 10, 2015, photo by Code Pink

 Thursday, September 10th, was Medea’s birthday. Last night, despite hard work all day [up at 6 am, moving props, staffing the microphone, organizing, cooking, delivering,  on and on], Tighe set up this display in front of the U S Capital for Medea’s Birthday which was today, September 10, 2015 , the day the Iran Agreement was won!  Isn’t this amazing!  

Tighe and Medea are amazing as well!

 

Women Against War and our part in the August 26, 2015 Rally to change Chuck Schumer’s mind about the Iran agreement. Followed by a nonviolent sit in by the “Fantastic Five.”

On Wednesday, August 26th members of Women Against War and a coalition of many other peace and justice groups, participated in a vigil and rally at the Leo O’ Brien Federal Building from noon to 1 PM which included a picket line with signs and banners, a rally with speakers and music and a walk up to Columbia Street where Representative Paul Tonko’s of ice is located, and where his new Chief of Staff, Ryan Horstmyer came out to greet us and hear our messages of thanks for his announcement of support for the Iran nuclear agreement.

I’m going to keep the text to a minimum since this has already been described in an article on our blog waging peace.

What I will share here is some of Mabel Leon’s photos of the three parts of the event and then a few photos of the sit-in that followed the coalition event.

First the picket line at the start of the rally:
IMG_0485Vigil line on Pearl Street in front of the Federal Building, photo by Mabel Leon
IMG_0490 Grannies for Peace and Janet and Kate on the vigil line, photo by Mabel Leon IMG_0493 More of the vigil line, Kate holding the Iran Deal sign, photo by Mabel Leon IMG_0497 vigil line before the rally at the Leo O' Brien Federal Building , photo by Mabel Leon IMG_0502 on the vigil line, photo Mabel Leon IMG_0507Fred on the vigil line, photo by Mabel Leon IMG_0510 Paul and Katja, Thanking Paul Tonko and defending diplomacy, photo by Mabel Leon IMG_0512David Easter with Kims Hands off Iran sign, photo by Mabel IMG_0515 (2) Three large Iran banners on the vigil line, photo by Mabel Leon IMG_0516 (2) Clinton Avenue corner of the vigil, photo by Mabel Leon IMG_0543 (2)Jackie Doneghan with one of her beautifil signs, photo by Mabel Leon IMG_0548 (2) Naomi with sign at the vigil, photo by Mable Leon More signs on the picket line, photo by Mabel Leon IMG_0592 Terri, Blue and Sue leading songs at the rally, photo by Mabel IMG_0594More signs during the rally at the Federal Building, photo by Mabel
The second part of the event was a rally held on the grassy area beside the Federal Building. There were brief, informative speakers, music of the sing along variety by Terri Roben, and a ceremony presenting signed petitions in support of the Iran nuclear agreement, with signatures of 27,500 New Yorkers.

Alice Brody speaking for Jewish Voice for Peace

Alice Brody speaking for Jewish Voice for Peace

IMG_0617 Dan Wilcox speaking for Veterans for Peace, photo by mabel leon

Dan Wilcox, speaking for Veterans for Peace

IMG_0618 (2)Marcia Hopple speaking for Women Against War, photo by Mabel

Marcia Hopple, speaking for the Iran Project of Women Against War

IMG_0637 Joe Lombardo speaking for Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, photo by Mabel

Joe Lombardo, speaking for Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace

IMG_0652 (2) Sue Dubois speaking for Solidarity Committee, photo by Mabel Leon

Sue Dubois, speaking for The Solidarity Committee

IMG_0671Tom Ellis speaking for Palestinian Rights Committee, photo by Mabel

Tom Ellis, speaking for the Palestinian Rights Committee

IMG_0676 We are Iranians, Sue Weber handing petitions to Gia Recco, photo by Mabel

Susan Weber presenting MoveOn petitions to Gia Recco.

IMG_0573 (2) At the back of the rally, Janet, Anita and Pat, photo by Mabel Leon IMG_0673In the audience at the rally, Anita on left, photo by Mabel IMG_0684 Gia Recco of Sen. Gillibrands office receiving petitions whit Steve Mann in the background

Then the rally concluded with a walk up to Representative Paul Tonko’s office on Columbia Street where his new Chief of Staff, Ryan Horstmyer greeted us and listened to our appreciation for Paul’s decision to approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Agreement. [JCPOA]

Sue Weber talking with Ryan Horstmyer, Paul Tonko's chief of staff, from video by Joe Seeman

Sue Weber talking with Ryan Horstmyer, Paul Tonko’s chief of staff, from video by Joe Seeman

After the coalition rally ended then my favorite part of the afternoon began.  It was a sit-in in the Lobby of the Federal Building by the “Fantastic Five” and their supporters.  I’ll let Marcia Hopple tell the story about how it came about and only add that it was a complex action to plan and to support but turned out quite well.

[Sue Clark, one of the Grannies for Peace], came to the Iran project meeting on 8/17 to announce that she intended to sit in at the Federal Building to urge Senator Schumer to change his mind and vote for the Iran deal . [ Before the end of our meeting] four other women… decided to join her in a civil resistance action.  Many more of us sat in with them and supported them,  but left before being arrested.  I was one of the support people.

The "Fantastic Five" Mabel, Kate, Sue, Fran and Pat, photo by Wendy Dwyer

The “Fantastic Five” Mabel, Kate, Sue, Fran and Pat, photo by Wendy Dwyer

Four of the five civil resisters, Kate, sue, Fran and Pat, photo by Mabel Leon

Four of the five civil resisters, Kate, sue, Fran and Pat, photo by Mabel Leon

Early in the sit-in, Janet, Greg, Mickie, Pat, Sue, Kate and Fran, photo by Mabel Leon

Early in the sit-in, Janet, Greg, Mickie, Pat, Sue, Kate and Fran, photo by Mabel Leon

While we were sitting in at the Federal Building (from 1:45 PM to a little while after the building closed at 5:30 PM) we had a really good public conversation with Steve Mann in the lobby. Sue was able to read him our letter to Chuck Schumer

Then Wendy read her letter that explained how frustrated we were that we couldn’t reach his local  office or his Washington DC office by phone to leave messages or talk to someone; and that we couldn’t arrange meetings in a reasonable time frame.

Sue Clark reading our letter to Steve Mann, Senator Schumer's Deputy State Director, photo by Wendy Dwyer

Sue Clark reading our letter to Steve Mann, Senator Schumer’s Deputy State Director, photo by Wendy Dwyer

We had members of several other peace and justice groups who stopped by for much/ or a little of the sit-in. A couple of people stood outside with signs as well.  Some of the people who joined us were members of Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, the Beyond Afghanistan/No Drones Project of WAW, Peace Action, The Friend’s meeting, Schenectady Neighbors for Peace and Veterans for Peace.  The size of the group varied during the 4 plus hours From 16 to 7, with five people arrested

Senator Schumer’s staff were kind to us and offered us water, which Jennifer and Esther brought down later in the sit-in.Two women from the Building manager’s office stopped by to let us know that we would need a permit for any action inside the Federal Building or on the plaza outside – if we planned future actions.

An Albany police Sergeant stopped by to convince us to leave by closing time, but Sue in particular wanted to make a point by getting arrested.  He was really interested in what we had to say and stayed for a long time, Having been deployed in the military several times;  he didn’t agree that the JCPOA was a safe deal but we gave him some points to consider.  Anyhow, he left having decided that the APD would not arrest us and if any arrests or tickets were to be issued it would be the job of the Federal security officers.

However at closing time Federal Security tried to get the fantastic five to leave voluntarily and they refused.  So they were issued $80 appearance tickets and released.

Arrests at the Federal Building, photo by Wendy Dwyer

Arrests at the Federal Building, photo by Wendy Dwyer

Sue being wheeled out of the building by Homeland Security, photo by Marcia Hopple

Sue being wheeled out of the building by Homeland Security, photo by Marcia Hopple

In a show of solidarity the Upper Hudson Peace Action chapter decided to pay their fines if they decide to pay rather than contest them.  They have 30 days to decide.  And we don’t know yet what they will do.

More about the arrest/booking process from Marcia again:

The arrest scenario was that we had been lectured during our four hour sit in by Property Management staff, then an Albany city police sergeant, and finally a Homeland Security agent, all well before closing time, to think about what we were doing, realize we weren’t influencing the Senator, be realistic about media coverage since they would not allow photographers in, and leave on our own.  The woman who first proposed the sit in replied, “I will not leave willingly.”  The other four agreed with her.  Just after the building closing time, the Property Management staff and Homeland Security officer returned to give them one last chance to walk out, and then processed them.

Here’s another description from Mabel:

[A woman officer from Homeland Security], tried every way possible to talk us into walking out voluntarily and she told us what we were doing made no sense and it was not going to affect anything. Sue answered her in a strong, steady voice with compassion. She was incredibly articulate. Finally, they locked the doors at about 5:50 and brought a wheel chair for Sue and booked her first in a little office. We were each given a ticket and fine for $80.00. The press never came, but it was a good day and Sue fought the good fight!!

Pat and Fran leaving the Federal Building after the arrests, photo by Wendy Dwyer.

Pat and Fran leaving the Federal Building after the arrests. Fran holding the ticket for ” failure to comply.” photo by Wendy Dwyer.

It was a great sit-in.  We had hours to be in each others’ company and to inspire each other.  Schumer’s staff [Jennifer Wilson and Esther Hering] actually brought us cups of water, the police sergeant was humorous and interesting, the building security were very relaxed, and almost all of us were there to support Sue who was very passionate about taking her commitment to the peace deal to another level.