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SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2002
The Raging Grannies Without Borders! That is what our community named itself at our first meeting today. Since we hope to have women from both Detroit, MI and Windsor, ON, we refuse to be bound by the artificial borders that seek to divide us. We will never be divided: ours is one voice, the voice of Women.
What a rousing success! Fifteen women showed up at my Detroit area door today and brought with them a shared commitment to peace, long herstories of working for justice and equality, concern for the earth and consciousness of its need to be protected, love of the children. Oh, so many serious issues swirled around us as we sang humorous lyrics with hard-hitting messages. And after this one meeting, the circle agreed to accept our first invitation to perform at an anti-war rally and march next Sunday, November 17 in Windsor, ON. We rehearsed songs from the songbook Kathy and I had prepared using revised lyrics from the Rochester, NY Raging Grannies. We changed whatever words and phrases didn't work for us, and added gestures--like pointing our fingers when we sing, "Georgie Bush is telling stories" and taking off our hats at "Liberty's simply old hat." We used a consensus model for decision-making and managed to agree on the essentials of who we are and what we want to bring to the world. It was amazing to watch fifteen strong women hammer out whatever needed to be hammered out, and do it with respect and humor. We had no problem deciding how we want to dress--silly hats with whatever costumes folks want to put together. Aprons, feather boas, shawls, old-lady jewelry, anti-war pins, peace doves, globes...our imaginations will determine the final product. Kathy, who dreamed our group into being, brought assorted items that women had fun trying on and taking home. It reminded me of when we little girls used to delve into our dress-up box full of dresses, hats, shoes, jewelry and hand-me-down treasures. We will meet to rehearse at my house on the second Saturday of each month, not counting our gigs. And we're open to having any woman who wants to join us--you don't have to be a granny or even granny-aged. The more the merrier!
I can't think of any better
way to celebrate my Mom's life than this. As Ed said when he saw
me dressed up in my
Raging Granny outfit, "Now that your mother's gone, you've
become the granny." I'm proud to say he's right.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2002
As exhausted as I am tonight--and that is Exhausted with a capital E--I feel good about the Raging Grannies Without Borders' debut performance at today's NO WAR rally and march in Windsor, Ontario. The rally itself was excellent and we grannies had a ton of fun. I also learned something about the media. All you have to do is dress up in silly outfits and sing outrageous songs to be at the center of a media blitz. It was interesting to see how cameras and mics were thrust in our faces even while we were simply practicing before the march began. The ones I remember being interviewed by were CKLW radio and CBC-TV. At least I think it was CBC. Anyway, Kathy and I were both pretty OUT THERE in our comments, with me calling the US a terrorist state. Ah yes, one of these days there's gonna be a knock on the door...but until then I'll just keep raging on!
On days filled with the excitement of new experiences, there is often one simple moment that will stay with you for life. That moment came for me when four young Muslim women responded to my hand gestures of invitation and joined our Raging Grannies Without Borders in singing our last song of the day, "The Battle Hymn of the People." Their enthusiastic voices in song and their mother's words of appreciation afterwards were like being given a taste of world peace out on that cold, windy riverfront in Canada. It was everything we want our world to be.
The first carloads of Raging Grannies Without Borders (of Detroit and Windsor) arrived in Windsor, Ontario around noon on this cold, overcast day. I think the high today was +2 C ( 37° F) with bitter winds down by the river where the rally was held. Longjohns, ski mittens, two pairs of socks, sweatpants under skirts, earmuffs under decorative bonnets were the favored dress for most grannies. But even so, we looked pretty swell!
After a good gaggle of grannies had stopped at Tim Hortons for something hot to drink, we gathered at the Charles Clarke Square near City Hall for the start of the march. While waiting, we practiced the three songs we were planning to sing at the rally. We also invited young women to join us and swelled our numbers considerably that way. While most Raging Grannies groups seem to have age requirements, our community decided to accept any woman who wanted to join us. Hey, if a young woman wants to be a Raging Granny, more power to her! Happily, our young grannies were from Canada so they helped us become in truth the name we'd chosen. Kathy had brought some extra hats and we had extra songbooks, so everyone felt ready to RAGE. It was at this time that the media got their interviews with Kathy, Peg and me.
Enver, one of the organizers of this NO WAR rally and march, asked us to come to the front and sing into a bull horn to start the march. We were happy to do so, and soon we were on the road walking/scooting and chanting behind a wonderful banner that simply said, NO WAR. I'd guess there were 200-300 marchers, most carrying homemade signs and banners. It was one of the best chanting crowds I've ever been part of. "We are Iraqi! We are Palestinian!" "No blood for oil" "1-2-3-4 We don't want Bush's war!" The chants never stopped during our five-block march down to Dieppe Park at the foot of Ouellette Avenue (Windsor's main street) on the Detroit River. In fact there were often two or three chants going on at the same time. They helped keep us warm!
As always at such marches and rallies, the signs pulled no punches. When you have to say what you want to say in six words or less, it cuts to the quick. I want to thank Mary, a student activist from Michigan, for taking all the march and rally pictures for me. Here are just a few of the signs:
Take a Stand Against This War
Bush N Blair, Baffle Brains
Don't Bomb Iraq Again
Homes Not Bombs
U$ Unilateral Action
One Humanity One Struggle
Canada Just Say No! If Not Now, When? & School Students for Peace
I Destroy My Enemies When I Make Them My Friends
No Blood For Oil & Iraq: Bush's Weapon of Mass Distraction
Don't Buy Their War & Bush's Bombs Batter Babies
Butter Not Bombs & War Crimes Are Still War Crimes When Committed by the US & a sign in Arabic
When we got to Dieppe Park, that wind off the river fairly took your breath away. But it didn't stop us Raging Grannies. We sang and sang some more as the organizers prepared the stage for the speakers. The response from the crowd was fabulous! They laughed at the right places, sang along with us, and cheered our every effort. Now I know why the Raging Grannies have survived so long and just keep growing in strength and numbers. It's one thing to speak the truth and quite another to sing it.
Believe me, that was a committed group of folks who stayed for the rally! We were young and old, of many different national origins. Even Uncle Sam was there with his tank and bomber. The program was MCed by my friend, Margaret, one of Windsor's most dedicated, informed, tireless workers for peace and justice. The organizers had invited five persons to speak; I was honored to be among the five. I spoke as an activist from within the belly of the beast, the US.
My message was short and to the point. There are LOTS more of us anti-war activists in the States than you're ever going to hear about in the Windsor Star, the Toronto Globe and Mail (except for Naomi Klein), the Toronto Star, or on CBC radio or CBC television. We're doing all we can, but now is the time that we must form coalitions across the borders. We need to follow the example of the million Europeans who marched together last weekend in Florence against a war on Iraq. The time is past when isolated efforts--no matter how well intended--can bear fruit; only together will we have a chance to stop this and other wars. I gave as a small example our newly-formed Raging Grannies Without Borders that draws members from both sides of the Detroit River.
After the rally, a Windsor
woman came forward to share with me her discomfort when I spoke
of not being bound by the borders between our countries in our
work for peace. She said quite frankly that the border offers
her some small sense of protection from the United States. I can't
say that I blame her. But on this day I did not feel there were
any borders between us; we spoke with one voice and it was a voice
that cried with passion and commitment, NO WAR! And it was a cry
that echoed across Canada as folks took to the streets in cities
and towns from Halifax to Vancouver, Montreal to Medicine Hat,
Ottawa to Edmondton and beyond. As we learned at our rally, even
the polls say that 70% of Canadians do not want this war. Prime
Minister Chrétien, are you listening?
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2002
The Raging Grannies Without
Borders sang at the CPR (Committee for the Political Resurrection
of Detroit) fundraiser at the International Institute in Detroit
at 4:30 PM. Unfortunately I had to miss it because my husband
Ed and I were driving to Washington, DC that day to bury my Mom.
I gather it went wonderfully well and the audience LOVED the Grannies...even
brought them back for an encore!
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2002
Ten Grannies were roving
carolers on the streets of Detroit's Cultural Center during the
annual Noel Night. They sang a mix of anti-consumer holiday songs
and anti-war songs and felt it was good to sing to non-activists
for a change. This is what Raging Grannies DO...get out on the
streets and bring their message to the general public. When they
went inside Detroit's Main Library to warm up--it was VERY cold--Granny
Susan asked the guard if they could sing and he said "Yes!"
So our Grannies went up to one of the balconies in this elegant
old building and serenaded the library patrons! I have no photos
because I again had to miss it...this time because I was down
with a bug ;-(
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2002
My bug continued but so
did the Raging Grannies Without Borders! Tonight, eight Grannies--adding
two new women to our numbers--sang at the "Give Peace A Dance"
fundraiser at the Magic Stick Club in Detroit. Again, the folks
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2002
With about 24 hours notice
we gathered a gaggle of seven Grannies to sing at the annual Peace
Action holiday dinner. It was great fun finally to sing
with my sisters again--I'd missed them. The Peace
Action folks loved us, as I'd felt sure they would. These
gigs where we sing to the choir, so to speak, are good opportunities
to make ourselves known here in town, but we're longing to get
outside the structures and start creating change.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2002
There are moments when you are so full of happiness you don't think you'll ever run empty again. I feel that way right now. Eleven Raging Grannies have just left my home after our monthly meeting/rehearsal and lyric-writing time together. Could anything be more powerful than a circle of post-menopausal women who are awake, aware and ready to stand up and sing about it? The energy they deposited in our living room is still crackling! And this was only our second opportunity to meet in a setting where we could talk about the dreams and challenges that keep us working for peace and sustainability in a world that seems to have forgotten such possibilities exist.
Virginia, a 79 year-old newcomer to our group (she just joined us last weekend singing at Noel Night and Give Peace A Dance) brought three granny songs she'd created since Sunday! Then Peg came up with a wonderful song during the hour we devoted to writing lyrics. She went upstairs, typed it out on my computer and printed copies for us right then and there. We rehearsed it during our meeting and plan to sing it at the military recruiting station demonstration next Saturday. I forgot to mention that two of Virginia's songs were absolutely perfect to sing to military recruits. How the Universe provides!
We had a lot of issues to discuss, the main one being whom we see as the primary audience for our singing. Is it the general public who might agree with a lot of our stands on war, violent toys, the rape of the environment, the loss of civil liberties and the growing gap between the so-called "haves" and "have-nots", but are reluctant to give voice to these counter-cultural views for fear of being called unpatriotic or worse? Or is it other activists whom we can encourage with our songs and our wonderfully outrageous presence? Are we a group that waits to be invited or are we willing to show up where we are definitely not wanted, like at malls where war toys are being sold? Just who do we see the Raging Grannies Without Borders to be?
I'd say there was general agreement that our gaggle is more interested in being what the Canadian grannies call "guerrella grannies" than to play it safe and sing to the converted. We'll see how that translates into action as time goes on.
Two new grannies joined us today, at least new to our group. Marie was a Raging Granny here in Detroit before most of us even knew such a thing existed. She, Magi (another of our present-day grannies), and four other women formed a gaggle several years ago and sang together until one woman moved to Arizona, another developed Alzheimer's and their leader moved to San Francisco. Julianne, now the coordinator of the San Francisco Raging Grannies, heard about us through her sister and sent us an email this week. In it she mentioned the names of the original Detroit Raging Grannies. Kathy (our co-founder) gave Marie a call this morning and invited her to our meeting. Marie was so excited that she changed her plans for the day and drove thirty miles to join us. And we were tickled pink to welcome her into our circle. By the way, there are no closed doors here. Well, I guess we do ask that you be a woman, but except for that, everyone is welcome. Our other new granny had found us on the internet! A male colleague had sent Rose our web site's URL and said he thought this was something she might find interesting. Did she ever! Rose lives fifty miles from my house and came anyway.
I find myself struggling to express what it felt like to sit among these women today and hear them speak of what's going on in the world, and to experience their courage and determination not to give up the fight to make things better. We share a vision of how we want this world to be for the young ones who will follow, and we're not going to rest until we see signs that change is on the way.
What ever became of a
"restful" old age???
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2002
What a wonderful demonstration! Young and old gathered together on a frigid day to say Not In Our Name to unending war and THINK AGAIN to those who might be going to sign up at this Military Recruiting Center in Detroit's central city. After practicing new songs in the parking lot, we Raging Grannies Without Borders joined the young activists who had organized this picket, and sang from our ever-growing repertoire of anti-war songs. Virgina Haynes, a wonderful addition to our gaggle, had recently written two songs that were perfect for this particular event. Even though this was the first time many of the Grannies had seen Virginia's songs, we sang them with gusto.
There was actually a lot of community singing today. We Grannies shared our songbooks with our sister and brother demonstrators, and then joined the young activists in singing songs from their songsheets. Singing helped keep us warm.
Our numbers were small but our hearts were huge. And there were many affirming honks from cars passing by on East Jefferson, a busy Detroit street. We even got a big TOOT from a cement-mixer truck! Marie and Frank from Food Not Bombs kept us warm and happy with hot apple cider and delicious sticky rice with veggies. A young activist led us in making the Pledge of Resistance put out by notinournames.net. After about an hour we chilled Grannies repaired to a local restaurant to thaw out, visit with one another, and sing to the patrons.
We may even have recruited a new Granny there, a young mother of three named Deshunda. She adopted us grannies and waited on our table even though this was a self-serve restaurant. When we showed her pictures of JC Penney's war toys, she said she'd like to sing with us sometime. We sure hope she does.
Isn't it strange how we
managed to transform a picket/demo at the Military Recruiting
Center into a recruiting effort of our own? Rage on, Grannies!
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2002
What a successful, energizing, challenging, lifegiving, exhausting day!
The Raging Grannies met
at 1 PM in front of the JC Penney's store at Oakland Mall in a
northern Detroit suburb. It was again bitterly cold with a strong
wind so we were happy to use Penney's
covered entrance as our singing/leafletting spot. There were
eight of us altogether, although this
photo only shows Judy, Magi, Kathy, Rosalie, Charlotte and
me; we're missing Dolores who was leafletting and Barbara who
had not yet arrived. As you know if you're a regular reader, we
were there to encourage parents not to buy the horrendous
war toys that JC Penney's is selling this year. We had songs
especially created for this purpose, and a flyer that showed a
picture of a little boy riding one of Penney's toy tanks. It said:
Please DO NOT buy war toys for your children. To create PEACE ON EARTH we need to teach our children that war, killing, violence, and destruction are NOT acceptable or inevitable. Instead buy books, musical instruments, building blocks, stuffed animals, dolls, non-violent games, and board games the whole family can play. Happy Holidays from the Raging Grannies Without Borders (of Detroit and Windsor)
As six of us sang, two grannies handed out leaflets to folks entering and leaving the store. We must have given out 150 flyers during our 50 minutes there. The responses ranged from two different women giving us a couple of dollars with the words, "Keep up the good work!", to lots of smiles and a few negative comments. Most people accepted our flyers and went on their way. All in all it was just what we'd wanted: an opportunity to get people thinking about how war toys might affect their kids. I think we made an impact in a non-threatening--after all, we're just grannies!--entertaining way. It was plenty cold but singing kept us warm. Besides there was a steady stream of people so we were always "on." It was fun.
About 1:50 PM, a rather sour-faced woman came out of Penneys, lit up a cigarette and said, "You know you aren't allowed to be here. This is private property." I said that we were aware of that and started another song. In a minute or two an older security guard stopped his car in front of the entrance and came over to us with the words, "You'll have to leave now. This is private property and JC Penney's doesn't want you here." I went into my semi-rehearsed response that we were just singing carols and handing out holiday greetings from the grannies. I then asked, respectfully of course, what law were we breaking? At this point he was joined by Captain Whittaker, the head security guard, a smiling young man who told us we'd have to leave. I asked where we might get permission to stay and he said that the office was closed and wouldn't be open until tomorrow. I then asked what would happen if we decided to stay and sing some more. He said he'd have to call the police. I turned to our gaggle of grannies and asked what they wanted to do. The consensus was that we'd accomplished what we'd set out to do and were cold and ready to leave.
But before we did, one of our grannies asked the sour-faced woman, who worked for JC Penney's and had been the one to call the security guards, if she was in a position to influence the head office not to carry such violent toys. We tried to show her and the guards the color print-out Kathy had made of the most horrendous examples from Penney's online catalogue, and offered them some of our flyers...none of which they would look at. The woman answered that yes, she might be in a position to influence such decisions but that she would not do so. She said, "I see it as a matter of choice." She added, "My own kids were raised with war toys and they've grown up to be wonderful adults. They don't do anything violent."
Captain Whittaker more firmly repeated his request that we leave and we decided it was time to comply. We had accomplished our goal of educating the public, and had maybe offered some food for thought to the "authorities" with whom we'd dealt. It had been a successful day.
After putting our Grannies things in the car, Judy and I were hungry so we went into the mall. As I told her, only the Raging Grannies could get me in a mall! I hate malls. But I had not yet eaten and it was close to 3 PM. We managed to find a halfway decent Thai restaurant and got what for me was brunchinner (breakfast/lunch/dinner). As we left the restaurant and were walk/scooting down one of the crowded halls, we passed Captain Whittaker. I said a cheery, "Hi, Captain Whittaker!" and we continued on our way. Was it a coincidence that almost immediately a security guard was behind us and even followed us onto the elevator? It's easy to get paranoid when you're a "bad girl!"
On the way home from my next event of the day--a women's Solstice gathering in Windsor, Ontario--I reflected on a conversation I'd had with my Canadian activist sister, Pat. She had remarked on the comment another woman had made about feeling completely hopeless about the world situation. I had found myself answering with surprising passion, "There is only ONE way to combat hopelessness and that is to ACT!"
I guess I'm getting tired
of folks moaning about how hopeless they feel about the world
situation. I certainly feel upset, distressed, enraged and discouraged
about what's going on, but never hopeless. And I don't
find my hope coming down into my waiting hands/heart like some
sweet little miracle. No, I work hard for every bit of hope I
have. But that's the whole point. If you don't DO something, you're
sure to feel hopeless. How can you have hope if you're just sitting
around moaning and groaning about how the world is going to hell
in a handbasket? I don't do my work for peace in order to find
hope; it just happens. And for me, it is the people I meet while
doing such work who give me hope. It's the feisty Raging Grannies
who are willing to get out there on freezing cold days and stand
strong for what they believe. It's the young activists who keep
organizing demonstrations, rallies and teach-ins; the ones who
teach me most of what I know. It's Cynthia, the symphony conductor
who had come from Colorado to the anti-war rally and march in
Washington, DC on October 26...only the second demonstration of
her life. It's Conchita who has been sleeping sitting up (because
one is not allowed to sleep lying down on park property in DC)
across from the White House since 1981 as a solitary witness for
peace. So many, many individuals and groups who give me hope.
And if I weren't out there myself, I would never have met them.
That's what I mean about hope being tied to action.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 2003
A letter to the Raging Grannies...
I'm home for 45 minutes to warm up before I head back down to the INS office. Our Grannies will be RAGING there between 2-4 PM today, Friday. There was a demo from 7-9 AM and now there will be another one from 2-4 PM. The INS office is supposed to close at 3:30 PM but there are still so many people inside waiting to be seen (100-150 according to a man I talked to).
I got down there with my sign--"We are ALL immigrants...stop the round-ups!!!"--about 9 AM, just as the demo was ending. I talked to Bob Parsons of the Blue Triangle Network, the group that organized the vigil, and he offered to come and speak to us Raging Grannies at tomorrow's meeting! Hope lots of you can make it! Anyway, I stayed in my car with my sign from 9-11:20 AM, holding it out the door and telling folks who were on their way into the INS that I was with them and I totally disagreed with this registration business. They seemed to appreciate it. Then a woman reporter from the Detroit Free Press showed up, asked me some questions, but the main thing was that a man from Pakistan who had just left the INS office, came over to talk with us. He gave her a superb interview. This is a man who has been working as an engineer for General Motors for years. By the way, he's been waiting FIVE YEARS for the INS to process his application for a Green Card! This is a well educated--currently working on his PhD--man who had to go through being searched, fingerprinted, questioned, as well as waiting from 7 AM until 11 AM to be seen. FOUR HOURS! He said the security officer was very unpleasant--"the woman treated you like you were a criminal"--but the interviewer was OK.
Anyway, I'm off again in a few minutes to be a presence of solidarity for the persons being registered and a protester of the system that set this up. Talk about reminders of how the Japanese-Americans were treated in the US during WWII! Now everything is set up for detention camps right here and now. AGHHHGGG!!!
enRAGED and ready to sing with my sisters
Well, I think I'm finally thawed out. After a long hot shower and some time at the computer my fingers are acting as fingers should. There for awhile I wondered if they ever would again. What I neglected to mention in the letter I wrote to the Grannies at noon was to dress warmly--very warmly--if they were coming down to the demo at 2 PM. But of course if they looked outside their windows, they'd know that. Heavy snow showers chased sun and blue skies off and on during this bitter cold January day. A day that surely tested the mettle of protesters. But, hey, this is Michigan after all!
Anyway, six Raging Grannies braved the chill and joined me in front of the INS office in Detroit for the 2-4 PM rally and demonstration. Judy Drylie, Bev Bloedel, Dolores Killewald, Magi Mooney, Virginia Haynes and our co-founder, the intrepid Kathy Russell. We sang and sang and sang some more. It was such fun to see people's faces as they heard our lyrics! Even the hardboiled press and media seemed to get a pretty big kick out of us Grannies. As the afternoon wore on, we were photographed by both Channel 7 TV and a Detroit Free Press photographer. Ed has already seen us on the 6 PM TV news, and Hugh of the Free Press took all of our names and said ours was his favorite picture. He even took a Raging Grannies portrait for us with my camera. If you wonder where the rest of our Grannies are in the assorted pictures, all I can say is that occasionally we lost a sister or two to a warmly-heated car. But usually they returned.
Certainly it was fun to have press and media attention, but that serves only one purpose: to wake people up to what is happening in this country that they might still think is a democracy. Today it was immigrant men 16 years of age and older from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. December 16 it had been immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Sudan. Who will be next? All of us out on that cold, windy sidewalk remembered the words of Pastor Martin Niemoeller of Nazi Germany: "First they came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, but by that time, no one was left to speak up." I think each one of us wants to say, when it is all done, that we did everything we could. We did not remain silent. We did not hide our heads in the sand.
Today's demonstration of solidarity with the immigrants who had to register with the INS was at the same time a demonstration of protest against what our country has been doing to persons of Arab and South Asian descent since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Everyone out there today fears that the illegal jailings, like that of my brother Rabih Haddad, coupled with this wave of registrations, and the general anti-immigrant attitudes and actions by the government and public alike will lead to round-ups and detention camps like those that terrorized Japanese-Americans during World War II. A young man at the demonstration held a sign that said it plainly, "What's next? Concentration camps?"
Hopefully, the press and media will tell it like it is, so that people of conscience can begin to see what is happening and do something about it. Like join us on the streets, or if not that, at least talk to friends and family, maybe write letters to the editor, or contact their senators and representatives and ask them to advocate for immigrants. We have to get beyond this "us" and "them" mentality that is being fostered by the man who currently sits in the oval office. His words and prejudices remind me of persons I've met who fear differences because they feel so poorly about themselves. If you feel good about yourself in a healthy and respectful way, you have no need to put others down or see them as enemies.
Be that as it may, on the streets of Detroit this cold wintery day, we knew who we were: sisters and brothers to one another. Here are some demonstrators talking with a man who had had to be registered and his wife. You know, that was what touched me most deeply about this demonstration. So often we are advocating for people who are far away, like the Iraqis this year and the the people of Afghanistan last year. But here we were offering support to the very individuals who walked by us or stopped to speak. When we Grannies sang or the group chanted; when we held our banners and signs high, when speakers took the bullhorn and shared their thoughts and feelings...all of these things were seen and heard by the very people we were there to support. I can't remember feeling more gratified by a day of activism.
But as grateful as I am, I remain deeply saddened by images I saw of the men on their way in and out of the INS office today. Young men carrying toddlers and their wives walking beside them, both with worried expressions on their faces. Old men with their wives, looking lost and forlorn. Men walking by themselves, heads lowered as if expecting a blow. Groups of young men, smiling and with the ubiquitous cell phones to their ears, trying to look like they weren't scared but not quite succeeding. The fear was palpable; no one was exempt. And no wonder. After what had happened in Los Angeles on December 16--600 Iranian men strip searched and thrown in jail--who could feel safe? But, from news reports I've heard so far, no one was jailed in Detroit today.
I want to thank the Blue Triangle Network for organizing today's demo, and for all their efforts on behalf of the Arab and South Asian communities...and especially for the "disappeared" who have been jailed. I also want to thank Judy Drylie, my friend and Raging Granny sister, who got my scooter in and out of my car and took many of these photos. Actually, I didn't take any of today's pictures. You can tell because I'm in so many of them! The other photos were taken by Judy Markle, Hugh the Detroit Free Press photograher, and one by the Public Relations Director of the Detroit INS (!).
And now, my friends, I
have got to go to bed. This was a very big day.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 11, 2003
These Raging Grannies really deserve a lot of credit. They are very busy women and yet we still had ten grannies show up for our monthly meeting today, two of them new to our gaggle. We welcomed Kim Redigan, a gifted political parody songwriter, and Wendy Watson, a longstanding community activist, both of whom will add a lot to our group.
Half of the women at today's meeting had been part of yesterday's most strenuous demonstration at the INS. Kathy admitted that she'd stayed bundled up most of last night, trying to get warm again. Both of us had had problems with our feet becoming painful and then numb in yesterday's +9° F wind chill conditions. At dinner afterwards, we had shared our concerns over what this problem was going to mean for us at next Saturday's rally and march in DC. After all, yesterday's demo was only two hours long; how would it be when we were on the streets from 9 AM to 6 PM? Today that dear woman brought me a pair of socks that are supposed to keep you warm down to -40° F. I think she may have taken care of our problem. Thanks, Kathy!
Today's meeting was most informative. Bob Parsons of the Blue Triangle Network came to speak to us about the work of their group. It was the Blue Triangle Network that organized yesterday's demo at the INS. He tied their struggle for just treatment of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in the US to the historical treatment of Jews in Germany and Japanese-Americans in the US during WWII. In post-September 11th US, this coalition of Arab and non-Arab organizations and individuals has seen chilling reminders of everything that led up to concentration camps for the Jews and internment camps for the Japanese-Americans. He told us how years of mandatory registration of Japanese-Americans in this country had made it easy for the government to round up the leaders of that community in three days and ship them off to internment camps. And that was only the beginning. This is why the Blue Triangle Network is so disturbed by the recent mandatory INS registrations of immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries. They see where this can lead.
Our Grannies listened closely, asked searching questions, discussed how they saw it, and seemed to understand Bob's message with both their hearts and their heads. We committed to doing everything we can to educate the public about what this increased repression and mandatory registration of immigrants means and where it is likely to go. As it is, a good number of our songs already address this subject.
After Bob left, we had an hour to handle our monthly business. We firmed up plans for the Washington, DC rally/march on January 18--at least six of us are going!--and arranged for a gaggle of our Grannies to sing at the Windsor, Ontario anti-war rally/march scheduled for the same day. It was suggested by one of our members that we focus exclusively on the repression of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians like the Blue Triangle Network does. That opened the door to a fruitful discussion of how each of us sees the mission of the Raging Grannies Without Borders.
I invited Peg to tell us about the Sweetwater Alliance and their struggle to stop Perrier from taking--at no cost to them--spring water from Michigan's aquifers in the middle of the state, and making $1.5 million a day selling it as Ice Mountain bottled water. The only money received by the state of Michigan from Perrier has been $85 for their original permit. Perrier is currently planning to build a second factory elsewhere in the state so they can take even more water from the Great Lakes basin and double their profits. The Sweetwater Alliance has been active statewide in protesting this precedent-setting theft of water using both the legal system and community-based group actions. Needless to say, we are all asked to boycott Ice Mountain water.
I then spoke of the ongoing community demonstrations in front of Detroit's DTE building and the Detroit Water Department to protest their cutting off gas, electricity and water for non-payment of bills. Often renters are caught in the middle and suddenly find themselves without heat, electricity or water. People have died because of this. The Sweetwater Alliance web site also tells the story of this struggle to keep access to water a right and not a privilege.
After discussing these and other issues, we decided by consensus that the Raging Grannies need to be involved in as many of these struggles as we can, rather than limiting ourselves to one issue, no matter how important it is. Our commitment is to our grandchildren and all who will come after us. We want to leave them a world that is rich and diverse, healthy and just.
And then we sang...which, after all, is what we Raging Grannies are all about.
By the way, the Detroit
Free Press ran a good
article by Kim North Shine about yesterday's INS registrations
and protest demo. The Grannies weren't pictured but the issues
were given a fair hearing. That's all we ask.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 17, 2003
On The Way To Washington,
Friday, January 17, 2003
Liquid tears frozen on
rocky ledges cut by the highway's
rusty blade. Do tears drip like
icicles from our eyes or have we lost
the ability to cry?
Do we stare dry-eyed into
face of war and say it can't be
stopped, it is inevitable?
Have we lost the capacity for
horror, to feel in our cells the
tragic cost of war?
Do we sit before our TV
numbed to what is being said,
what is being planned? Is it
too late to wake up our sleeping
sensibilities and cry tears,
hot and heavy tears that can
The questions raised in this poem that I wrote as we drove through the hills of northern Maryland on Friday afternoon were answered a few hours later as I "happened upon"--they say there are no accidents in the scheme of things--Starhawk leading a Spiral Dance in a small park on 17th Street not far from the White House. I scooted over to the circle of perhaps 100 young and old women and men and asked to join. I was invited into the center of the circle where Starhawk and a community of drummers were preparing to begin the ritual under the bright white full moon. I was greeted with welcoming smiles and given two rattles to shake. Then Starhawk began to invoke the Goddess and to introduce the meaning of tonight's Spiral Dance. Her voice was so soft and our numbers so large that every phrase was repeated in unison by those closest to her, so that our sisters and brothers on the outer edges of the circle could hear what was being said. This communal intonement only increased the power of her message and helped each of us recognize our place as co-creators of magic. As Starhawk described it, our dance was dedicated to weaving the web of peace with justice. She asked those in the center of the circle to hold up the "webs" that had been created using fabric strips wound around and stretched across plastic hula hoops. The intention was for these webs to catch the powerful energy being generated by the dance. I picked up a web and held it high. The chant we were all to sing as the dancers danced was:
We are a circle, within
With no beginning and never endingÖ
Breath by breath, thread
Conjure justice, weave our webÖ
Well. All I can say is
that as the dancers spiralled around me on this frosty moonlit
night, the drums, the chanting, the collective energy spiralled
deep within my being and actually made me believe that peace was
possible. I will never forget the faces--the love shining forth
from the faces--of those who danced as I sat in the center of
the circle with the web of justice held high. When Starhawk re-entered
the center of the circle--she had been leading the dancers--the
chant grew ever louder and faster until finally it became a tone
shared on different keys by all the participants. Eventually we
moved into the silence. When I opened my eyes, Starhawk was looking
at me. Our eyes met, we smiled and a connection was forged.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2003
How does one put words to experiences that touch the deepest part of your being? How do I steer clear of sentimentality when it was my heart that marched the streets of Washington, DC on this cold sunny day, a day when a half a million people (or 300,000 or 200,000 or whatever number they want to come up with) came together from all across this country to say in one voice, NO WAR ON IRAQ!
I had attended the A.N.S.W.E.R. anti-war rally and march in Washington, DC on October 26 and had not been able to imagine ever seeing anything that would top that...but this did. Partly because this was not a beautiful sunny autumn day but rather the coldest day in Washington, DC since the year 2000. We awoke to temperatures of +11º F and it never got warmer than +24º F. But there was a bright sun shining, blue skies and, most importantly, no wind. And we all knew enough to come prepared.
My travel sisters, Pat and Kim, had wisely brought hand and boot warmers to share. These miracle-workers are small plastic packages filled with a combination of iron and other heat-generating substances that you put under your toes between your socks and your boots, and between two layers of gloves or mittens. They keep you warm for six hours, and that is exactly how long they worked for me. Of course I had several more hours of scooting around outside before we finally returned to the motel at 8:30 PM, but I never got too uncomfortable.
On October 26, I had been in town to visit my mother during what turned out to be her final illness. She had perked up a lot after I'd arrived on Tuesday, so I'd felt comfortable going off on Saturday to attend the rally and march in DC. I remember being absolutely delighted that things had worked out so I could be there. I had wanted to go but my busy schedule at home had put me off. Then Mom got sick and I cancelled out of everything and went anyway. Early that Saturday morning, I'd gotten on the Metro (subway) at Shady Grove near Gaithersburg, MD. When I got off the train near the site of the rally, I happened to meet Cynthia from Colorado and we quickly formed our own two-person affinity group. It was wonderful to share the day with her. But today was different--today I felt like I was part of a big family of loving sisters. And it wasn't simply the feeling of community that made it special; it was having a shared purpose, having a unique contribution to make to the greater whole. It was as though every piece of activism I'd ever done had been leading up to this moment, that this truly reflected who I am at my core...a Raging Granny!
The Raging Grannies who had driven and those who had taken the overnight charter buses from Rochester, NY and Detroit, MI were to meet at Constitution and 1st NW at 9:30 AM. Well, Kim and I met up with Elaine, her husband Ron, and Josie from Rochester, NY soon after 9:30 AM, but the bus Grannies didn't make it until 11 AM. So the four of us stood--I sat in my scooter--on the corner welcoming folks as they made their way to Constitution and 3rd NW where the rally was to be held. Many wonderful signs passed by carried by groups of folks from all over the United States, including Minnesota and even Alaska. We met and talked with a woman named Peace Walker who has been on a solitary walk for peace since last April. We saw a woman with an apron full of peace buttons. When I saw her later in the day, her apron was almost bare. We had a long conversation with a DC Metro police officer named TJ who was assigned to protect our corner in his patrol car. This young man from Kentucky surprised me by stating in a forthright manner that he was totally opposed to Bush's proposed war on Iraq, and that he wasn't the only one. He said that many of the DC Metro police officers were veterans and knew what war was like; they didn't want anything to do with it. He also told us how much he had liked and admired Senator Paul Wellstone who used to work out with them at the police gym. TJ was one of the most transformative agents I encountered all weekend.
Although the Rochester, NY Grannies were reluctant to start singing--they have an agreement that they will only sing when eight Grannies are in attendance--I talked them into calling it "practice" so we could do what we had come there to do...sing. Did we ever get wonderful responses from folks as they gathered around with big grins on their faces and sometimes sang along with us! One young man with a baby on his back and a mandolin in his hands even accompanied us for a couple of songs.
Now, I have to tell you right up front that my being a Raging Granny has definitely gotten in the way of my former commitment to being a "photo-journalist." There is no way I can sing and take pictures at the same time. Especially today. It had taken Kim and me a full ten minutes to put on my fleece gloves and the hand warmers under my Gore-tex mittens and nothing was going to make me take them off! So any photos I wanted would have to be taken by hands other than my own. I have Granny Kim, Pat's friend Bernadette and her daughter Josie, Vincent who climbed a tree at the rally and took pictures with my camera, and innumerable women and men whose names I do not know to thank for the photos I will share here.
When we saw our Raging Grannies Without Borders coming towards us from across the street, we were four happy Grannies! And within ten minutes, the Rochester, NY gaggle showed up too. There had been so many buses coming into town--900 at last count--that everyone was delayed. Now we had a goodly gaggle with 13 Rochester Grannies and 7 from Detroit. When we sang it took two pictures to get us all in--#1 and #2!
After practicing a few songs at our meeting place, we started making our way over towards the rally; it was now 11:30 AM. We stopped to sing on a grassy field before we got to the Mall, and attracted a large, enthusiastic audience. It was there that a woman whom I'd met on the Metro last night and had encouraged to come to today's rally/march, came up and said, "I just wanted you to know--I made it!" Here are Charlotte, Vicki, Josie, Kathy and I while we were temporarly between songs. We then moved on to the Mall. Was it ever crowded! I had literally to run interference with my scooter while calling out, "Make way for the Grannies!" to get us into any kind of position so we could hear the speeches. But before we had positioned ourselves so we could hear anything, we sang another set of songs at the back of the crowd. It was then that Dorothy Russell, the daughter of my friend Julie in the Bay Area, came running up and gave me a hug. She goes to boarding school in Philadephia and had been down for the October 26 rally, but we'd missed seeing one another then. I also ran into Jayne, the wonderful bodypainter from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. She had come down on a bus from her home in New York City. It was amazing that we met again; we'd also seen one another on October 26. But this running into friends happened to me all day long. It got so the Grannies were laughing and saying, "Patricia knows everyone!"
I guess now is as good a time as any to talk about the many, many interviews we gave during the day, and the untold cameras--press, TV, documentary filmmakers' and personal--that were trained on us during this long day. The Raging Grannies are media magnets, it seems. We were interviewed and/or photographed by an Italian newspaper, NPR (National Public Radio), the Women's International News Service, the Buffalo News, the Washington Post, and many others. At one time I was surprised to see a microphone in front of my mouth as we marched along singing. But for me it wasn't the press or media attention that most delighted me; it was the smiles, laughter and cheers of our sister and brother peace marchers, especially the children and students. You could almost see their stories in their eyes, stories that so often include having parents or grandparents who do not understand or approve of their commitment to activism. It was as if seeing and hearing this group of gray-haired women who share their horror of war and are willing to get out on the streets and use hard-hitting song parodies to get their message across gave them the feeling of family understanding and approval they so richly deserve. Their faces are what will stay with me.
Even though we arrived at the rally pretty late, we still heard several speeches--among them, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jessica Lange, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Detroit, MI), and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. We were so far away that even when Vincent took this picture from up in the tree, you still can't see the stage. But the sound equipment was excellent because we could hear the speeches quite well. Actually, it surprised me that even though we were so far back, everyone around us was totally focused on what was being said and often cheered and chanted with the rest of the crowd. Don't forget, it was very cold, so standing for hours of speeches was not the easiest or most comfortable thing to do. But even though we couldn't see the stage, there was always plenty to look at with the incredible variety of signs around us. By the way, almost everyone carried a sign or a banner, many of them homemade.
I understand the march started at 1:30 PM, with the first group arriving at the Navy Yard, its destination, an hour later. We probably didn't start marching until sometime after 3 PM, and it was 5 PM before we completed the march, but lots happened during those two hours. First of all, there was a bottleneck at a place where there were no curb cuts for my scooter to navigate. The Grannies stayed with me and eventually we called on "our grandsons" around us to physically lift me and the scooter--230 lbs. total--over two curbs. Then one of our Grannies came to the end of her walking abilities and had to stop. A man happened to be pushing a cart with cardboard boxes piled high, and when our Grannies asked him, he graciously let Magi climb up on the boxes and get a ride! Magi, Kathy and one of the Rochester, NY Grannies had their own adventures after that, but all turned out well as far as I understand. When Magi had to stop, we all stopped. And while they were working out her transportation, the rest of us stood by the side of the road and sang. Lots of people stopped to listen. The warmth of their response was brighter than the sun. And even when we sang while walking--which we did a lot--the response from those around us was amazing. Everyone loves the Grannies!
Eventually we were the very last ones to be marching. The police on motorcycles were right behind us, red lights flashing. Occasionally they'd call out "Grannies, get up the sidewalk!", but we figured we had as much right to stay on the streets as everyone else, so we just kept on walking.
By the time we arrived at the Navy Yard, it was close to time for our Detroit, MI and Rochester, NY Grannies to meet their buses for the return trip home. Now there was a scene I wish I'd photographed! Along New Jersey Avenue all the way up to the Capitol a mile away was bus after bus after bus. And on the sidewalks were crowds of folks waiting to board their buses. Of course, the problem was that, with the crush of buses, most were unable to go to the exact location where they'd arranged to pick up their passengers, so folks were scurrying hither and yon trying to find their buses. But that didn't keep the young activists from turning it into a party with their drums and dancing. I do love these kids!
Kim and I walk/scooted in the street because there was no room on the crowded sidewalks. We really had to keep our eyes open to keep from being run over by the buses as they crawled past. Maybe that's why I didn't think to ask Kim to take a picture! After about a mile, we came to a Mexican restaurant--actually the same Mexican restaurant at which I'd had lunch in September when I did my solitary No War On Iraq vigil in front of the Senate Office Buildings--so we went in to get some dinner. By then it was 6 PM and we hadn't eaten since breakfast. There was still a half hour wait, so I went--gratefully, I might add--to the bathroom, called Ed on my cell phone, and watched some of the nightly news on the TV in the bar. When they showed pictures of the rally/march, folks started cheering. We didn't see it but one of the fellows later told us the Raging Grannies had showed up briefly. You see, everyone in the restaurant recognized us as Grannies because of our hats and shawls. It was fun to be called "Granny" all day; it felt like we were all part of one family.
I guess that's what I'll
remember when I think of this landmark January 18 Rally and March
for peace. For on this day, we were all members of one loving
family. No one was left out, not even George Bush. If he had chosen
to come speak to us--more importantly, to come listen to
us--he would have been welcome. I don't think many of us wants
an adversarial relationship with anyone, not Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld
or Ashcroft. We just want peace...peace grounded in true
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 29, 2003
Today Detroit joined over 100 cities across the US in letting George W. Bush know exactly what we thought of his State of the Dis-Union address. Our demonstration was loud, enthusiastic and wonderfully diverse. Folks chanted for two full hours as they marched with signs in front of the Federal Building downtown. Horns honked and passersby clapped at the message we were proclaiming. And our message?
No war in my name
We vote for peace...No war on Iraq
Peace follows justice, not war
Stop war on Iraq
$200 billion war on Iraq...Money for education not war
Stop the Killing...Peace
Our Raging Grannies were
there in full force...and we picked up singers right and left.
I'd guess we numbered fifteen or more for much of the time. We
sang for a solid hour and a half over, under and around chants
being bellowed through bullhorns, and frequently with a drummer
accompanying us. This was no place for a shrinking violet, believe
me! There were also TV cameras and microphones there to record
our Grannies' songs and the marchers' chants. It was one of the
most spirited marches I've ever seen here in Detroit and I was
so grateful to be part of it. What would I do without the Raging
Grannies to keep me active and empowered during these disturbing
times! I can't imagine. We were so obviously making a significant
contribution and having a good time doing it that I think we recruited
some new members to our gaggle, among them this beautiful granny
who brought her two
granddaughters to march for peace on this cold sunny day.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2003
"No water...No peace!"
"We're fired up...Won't take no more!"
"What do we want? WATER! When do we want it? NOW!"
And so we marched, around and around in front of the Detroit Water Board Building from noon until 1 PM today, in the drizzling rain, chanting and singing. We Raging Grannies were there to join in this protest sponsored by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, as were many others...Food Not Bombs (with free hot tea, potato dill soup and a rice/vegetable dish), the local A.N.S.W.E.R. group (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), university students, older people, the disabled (besides me in my scooter, there was a man using crutches), folks from the city and the suburbs all together, working for one common purpose: to stop the water shut-offs in Detroit!
At present 40,000 Detroit homes have had their water cut off for non-payment of bills, with 8,400 more slated for shut-offs. That means one-third of Detroit school children are living in homes that have no water! The City Council has been dragging its feet on issuing a moratorium--at least until the winter is over--but community activists like Maureen Taylor (whom I got to know in the CPR group) are not going to sit back and let them get away with this cruel treatment of our citizens, especially those who are stressed enough with trying to make it on low-paying jobs or inadequate welfare grants. As the United Nations says, water is a RIGHT! And we demand that right for everyone, no matter who they are, where they live or how much or how little money they have. Water is a human right!
It isn't as if Detroit doesn't have access to water. The Great Lakes that surround us contain one fifth of all the fresh water in the world. We have the water, so why aren't we seeing to it that people get what they need? I don't even believe in charging money for water: I think it should be provided free to every citizen. Heat and electricity too. Many of the people whose water has been shut off have also had their heat and electricity cut off as well. And this has been a VERY cold winter in Detroit. How can people survive? We think some of them haven't, but it's hard to prove.
Anyway, we did what we could today to draw attention to this undeclared War on the Poor. We Grannies--Charlotte, Judy, Bev and Dolores, myself and even Helen who showed up too late to sing, but showed up nonetheless!--handed out song sheets to everyone with the new Water Board songs I'd written last week, and led songs over the bullhorn when it wasn't being used for chants. A fellow from WDET-Detroit Radio (the NPR affliate at Wayne State University) audiotaped us as we sang and interviewed me about why the Raging Grannies were there. The tape was aired on WDET-Detroit Radio News this afternoon. It's been amazing how silent the press and media have been about this crisis.
There have been weekly protests for three weeks now, and we'll be out there again next Monday. We won't give up until our people have clean fresh water pouring from their taps again! Here are some of the signs that were carried today:
Water For all
No Water Is a Public Health Hazard
Water Dept. Is the Taliban
Water For All, Not For Profit
We Can't Live Without Water
If You Cut Off Water, You Cut Off Hope, and That's the Last Straw
Cut-Offs Should Be a Crime
Free Our Utilities!
Turn On the Human Rights
Shutting Off Utilities Is Immoral!
MLK Jr. Would've Been Here With Us!
And one man connected
the dots between George W. Bush's proposed War On Iraq and our
Money For Jobs Not War
I dedicate today's
actions to my mother, Emily Miller Lay, who in her work as a social
worker and her life as a concerned citizen, taught me to
work for justice for all. Today would have been her 90th birthday.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2003
Isn't it odd how you'll think you're doing something for one reason, when in reality you're doing it for another? And often that reason is one you couldn't have anticipated no matter how hard you tried? That's how I feel about the reason why I didn't go out to San Francisco this winter. After having spent six winters there, I thought I was staying here in Michigan this year because of the "O Beautiful Gaia" CD project. And in a way I am. I dearly love working with the women of Canada and the US on such a visionary, communal project. But if I'm honest with myself, I now know there is another, much more important reason why I'm in Detroit this winter, this very very cold winter. It's to help the Raging Grannies Without Borders come into being and take their place as a force for peace and justice! And what could be more significant than that? Especially now...especially now.
Today was our Raging Grannies monthly meeting. The first Grannies appeared at my door at 1 PM for the pre-meeting songwriting workshop, and the last Granny left at 5:45 PM. What a lot of life was packed into those four hours and forty-five minutes! WOW!!! I am still high as a kite and it's already after 8 PM. We gathered a dozen of the most powerful, intelligent, creative, feisty, outRAGEous women into my living room that you could ever imagine. If hearts were generators, we would have had enough energy in this room to power a city's utilities for a month! Not just hearts, but minds and will and spirit.
Two new Grannies joined us today, Clare and Motoko. Clare is a former journalist for Time magazine who now works as a freelance writer. "I wanted to go to bed at a reasonable time." She is vice-president of the Metro Detroit chapter of WAND, Women's Action for New Directions, the organization founded by nuclear disarmament activist, Dr. Helen Caldicott. We Grannies immediately benefited from her editing and performing expertise--not to mention her enthusiasm--as we practiced and revised our songs for the anti-war march and rally to be held in Detroit as part of next Saturday's International Day of Protest.
Motoko had discovered us in front of the Federal Building at the January 29th protest of President Bush's State of the Union address. She said as soon as she heard us sing our satirical, humorous songs, she knew this where she belonged. She sang with us on that bitter cold day, and apparently started composing a Raging Grannies song on her way home. The phrase that kept running through her mind was, "This is what democracy looks like." She set it to the tune of "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" and arrived at my door today with not one but two songs she'd created around this theme! They are wonderful additions to our repertoire. When we went around the room and shared who we were and why we were here, Motoko said that she was Japanese and was living in the US (Boston) at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. She and her family went back to Japan during the war and she was there when the United States dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "I know what war is like; I have lived through it. And I will do everything in my power to stop another war from happening. I don't want a World War III."
The meeting was in turns serious, uproarious, engaging, energetic, and, for me anyway, a balancing act of spontaneity and structure. Two hours a month is a short period of time to try to pack in all that we need to discuss, sing, create and share with one another. As I told the Grannies today, it's a good thing I have 36 years experience facilitating groups because I need every bit of it to try to keep this group on track! When you have such strong women of age and experience together in one circle it can sometimes feel like a three-ring circus. For the most part, women attracted to the Raging Grannies are not shrinking violets; they are often opinionated, fearless leaders. I love and respect them totally. At the same time, I must occasionally ask one Granny or another to cut it short because we have to keep moving forward. So by the end of each meeting, I am high as a kite and utterly wiped out. Does that make sense?
Well, now it's after 11 PM and I'm almost ready for bed. Being high as a kite only lasts so long! But before I say goodnight, let me leave you with a word picture and a people picture of peace. The former is a poem called "Wage Peace" by Mary Oliver, and the latter is an aerial photograph taken today of the largest peace sign in the world. No, they weren't bare, but you did you really expect them to be on this cold February day in Michigan? Not only did 1000+ individuals come together to make this awesome sign of peace, but there were between 2800-5000 people marching through the city of Ann Arbor today saying NO to war and YES to peace.
Whatever George and his misguided buddies might do or not do, haven't we already WAGED PEACE?
by Judyth Hill
Wage peace with
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings
and flocks of blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children
and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen
and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening:
hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools:
flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Learn to knit and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don't wait another minute.
And here's the world's
largest peace sign standing strong and true on the University
of Michigan Diag.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2003
Today was the second Monday we Grannies joined in protesting the Detroit Water Board shut-offs of water to 40,000 homes in Detroit. Happily, the snow stopped falling right at noon and then started again after the rally ended at 1 PM. A film crew from the BBC was there filming the whole thing...but not the Grannies singing (sigh). They have been in Detroit since last Wednesday doing a feature on this Water Shut-off crisis in Detroit. It will be part of a series called "Water Is a Human Right" that will be shown at the World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, as well as on Earth Report that goes to 200 million homes in 70 countries. At least SOMEONE sees the seriousness of what's happening here! The local TV news channels have never shown up, nor has the Detroit Free Press or Detroit News, to my knowledge. Only the Michigan Citizen community newspaper and WDET-Detroit radio have carried stories on this shameful situation. Sure sounds like a news black-out to me. But the good old Michigan Citizen was there again today. Actually we found out that the Grannies were pictured on the front page of the February 5 Michigan Citizen, and that they had printed one of our songs in the article!
Charlotte Kish, Judy Drylie and I were there for the whole hour yesterday, and Helen McDonald showed up in time to sing our last song with us. We sang three of our Water Board songs as a sing-a-long with 50 hand-out song sheets for the crowd. I'd say there were 60-70 people...very enthusiastic people, I might add. They LOVE the Grannies! Congressman John Conyers also showed up and spoke briefly. And Food Not Bombs was again offering free soup (potato/lentil today) and a hot rice dish.
This was, to my mind, one of the most important demonstrations in which our Raging Grannies have participated. There is something very special about marching, chanting and singing with the actual people who are suffering injustice. It reminded me of our presence outside the INS building last month as targeted immigrants were forced to register inside. By the way, there is another INS Registration deadline coming up on Friday, February 21 and I hope we'll have lots of Raging Grannies there to sing and protest this unjust intimidation of our predominantly Muslim brothers.
Now let me share photos of some of today's signs:
Will You Turn My Water On?
Can I Use Your Bathroom?
The Water Dept. Cuts Off Seniors, Disabled & Low-Income!
Rise Up Detroit
I Will Die Without Water
Code Red--Beware of the Water Dept.--Code Red
Not Just the Wealthy Deserve H2O
1/3 Detroit's School Kids Without Home Water
No Water, No Peace
Turn the Water Back On!
No Water Is a Public Health Hazard
Water For All
Water Is Life
Stop This Evil War Now
Water Is A Right
...and an American flag to remind us of what is being desecrated here in Detroit.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2003
What a day!!! It was everything I'd hoped for with a few delightful twists thrown in for good measure. I am wonderfully tired but still reliving everything in my mind. I think it's time for a nice hot shower--yes, it was cold, but not impossibly cold--and then I'm off to bed. Thanks to my dear friend, Sooz Collins, I have plenty of photos to share that will make you feel like you were there.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PROTEST IN DETROIT:
The warmth of knowing we were on the streets at the same time as millions of people across the world kept us from complaining too much about the frigid conditions. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and we were side by side in this ongoing struggle for peace. But today it didn't feel like a struggle; it felt like a celebration. A celebration of the power of people united in a single cause, the cause of peace. Old, young, Muslim, Jewish, woman, man, Iraqi, American, suburban, urban, employed, unemployed...we were all there, chanting, speaking, singing, drumming, cheering, laughing, weeping, raging. Whoever you were, whatever your unique life experiences, whatever your traditions and language, you were welcome at this party. All voices were heard at the rallies, both outside in Grand Circus Park to start and inside Cobo Hall to conclude. And they were voices that not only spoke but sang, as we Raging Grannies so love to do.
We heard from a Muslim cleric and a Methodist minister, the head of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and a member of the US/Cuba Labor Exchange, Rabih Haddad's lawyer and three vice-presidents of the UAW International, two US Congressional representatives and an organizer of the Detroit area Women In Black, a 1991 Gulf War resister and the mayor of Hamtramck (a culturally diverse city bordering Detroit), a speaker from the Chadean Federation of America and a representative of Detroit's Yemeni community. The Grannies sang as did Julie Beutel and Sistah Otis. Both rallies reflected the wonderful diversity of this world community known as Detroit, while remaining focused on why we had come together: to say NO TO WAR. But as we said NO to war, we said a resounding YES to our community's people and their lives, needs and gifts. This was not simply an ANTI-war march and rally, it was a PRO-peace statement of solidarity with the people of Iraq and all our sisters and brothers worldwide. And did the Grannies ever have fun! We sang "DOO DAH" at the rally in Grand Circus Park and "Yankee Doodle Georgie" at the Cobo Hall rally indoors. For the first time in our three months of singing publicly as Grannies, we had to do as true performers do and pause several times for the cheers and laughter to die down before we could continue our song (thanks to Granny Vicki of the Rochester, NY Raging Grannies for her hilarious lyrics!). Between those two events, we sang as we marched down Washington Boulevard. As was true in Washington, DC on January 18, we Grannies formed the caboose in the march, but that just gave us more time to sing. Besides we were marching under Kathy's beautiful new Raging Grannies Without Borders banner, so we didn't want that opportunity to pass too quickly. For me personally, there was no place on earth that I would rather be.
And we Grannies didn't
stop there. After the rally, seven of us did what is known as
Rage, which is when you sing in public places where you have
not been invited. We went downstairs to the Cobo Hall (convention
center) concourse and serenaded folks who were going to the Boat
Show. Now, this was Middle America in its pure form and judging
from some of the pursed lips we encountered, they may have a bit
of a different slant on this war business than the one we Raging
Grannies sing about. It was a highlight of the day for me because
I felt that we were no longer preaching to the converted, but
doing our unique form of public education. After all, this is
how we Raging Grannies got our name!
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2003
On this, the National Day of Solidarity with Muslim, Arab and South Asian Immigrants, I was fortunate to be with some of my favorite people of Muslim, Arab and South Asian descent. It was my day at the K-5 school in Dearborn where I get to sit with the kids every week and do the same art projects as they. Today several classes were finishing up the portraits that we're coloring with oil pastels. These drawings are based on photographs we brought in, that were then traced onto a sheet of drawing paper using an opaque projector. In essence, it's a lot like coloring in a coloring book, except many of us are trying to model our features to get a sense of roundness. I've really been enjoying this project! The photo I used was my school picture from second grade. Of course, the kids get a big kick out of seeing little Patsy with her gap-toothed grin. Teacher put my picture up on the bulletin board today, which made me feel very good indeed!
After the kids and Susan left at 3:30 PM, I put my head down on the table and caught a cat nap until 4:45 PM. It was then time for me to drive over to ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) where the Blue Triangle Network was holding its Solidarity gathering with speeches, cultural presentations and opportunities to network with other folks working against the repression of our immigrant sisters and brothers.
My friend Abayomi Azikiwe moderated the event, the Raging Grannies sang three songs,Traverse City, MI attorney Marian Kromkowski told us about the illegal arrest and detention of her friend Amer Jubran, a Palestinian political activist/organizer in Boston, Susan Sunshine read her poetry, attorney Nabih Ayad spoke of the work he and the Michigan Chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has been doing on behalf of many Arab immigrants who have been targeted by the INS and FBI, and Brother Asad Tarsin, a former student of Rabih Haddad, told of his mentor's illegal detention with no charges having been made for 14 months now. As a close friend of Rabih and his wife Sulaima, I was deeply moved by Brother Asad's presentation. He managed to give the information needed to understand Rabih's case, while also showing the heart and spirit of this exceptional human being. He also helped us see the tragic toll Rabih's unjust imprisonment has had on Sulaima and their four young children. Rabih will be very proud of how Asad spoke for him. I intend to print out the digital picture I took of Brother Asad and send it to Rabih within the next few days.
I can't say enough for the individuals and groups that responded so quickly to the targeting of our Muslim brothers and sisters after September 11 by holding a summit and founding the Blue Triangle Network. These women and men work tirelessly to educate, advocate for and personalize this ongoing struggle. We now all wear blue triangles with the name, age and country of origin of one of the "disappeared" in the US. I especially commend Mark Sheppard and Bob Parsons for all they do to keep this repressive situation within our thoughts and actions. Tomorrow many of us will meet in front of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) Building on Mt. Elliot at E. Jefferson here in Detroit between 7-9 AM and 2-4 PM to protest this, the third deadline for the INS "special registration" of immigrant men from predominantly Muslim countries. Tomorrow's registration deadline is for men aged 16 and over from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. If you stop to think for a minute, you will see the parallels between these "special registrations" and the registration of Jews in Hitler's Germany and the registration of the Japanese in Roosevelt's America. We fear it is the first step toward rounding up Muslim immigrants and putting them in internment camps in this country. There has already been mention of such a possiblity by a number of high level government officials.
These are chilling times
and we cannot sit back and just let this escalating repression
with its secret detentions and deportations happen without taking
a public stand against it. That's what I love about our Raging
Grannies; they are there to wake folks up and walk their talk.
Let's hear it for the Grannies!
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2003
This afternoon, the Raging Grannies and a small group of folks were standing on the sidewalk in front of Detroit's INS building holding signs and banners protesting the "special registration" of immigrant men from predominantly Muslim countries. We were receiving a good number of supportive honks from cars, trucks and buses driving by on busy East Jefferson Avenue--a few "birds" too, but that comes with the territory--when an EMS ambulance approached from the east with their red lights flashing. Even though they were across the street, we all heard a voice call out through their loudspeaker, "Hey, Raging Grannies!!" The driver was grinning from ear to ear and the medic in the seat beside him waved. Bob Parsons, the Blue Triangle organizer, remarked that they had started speaking before they could possibly have read our banner, so they must have recognized the Grannies! It's fun to be known in your own home town.
Earlier, a woman had seen our signs and banners as she was driving by. She turned onto the street just beyond us, parked and got out of her car. As she approached our group, she said in a harsh voice, "You've got to register those Arabs after what they did to us!" Another woman who happened to be walking by, nodded and said, "Yeah, that's right." Bob engaged the two of them in a respectful dialogue but nothing he said seemed to be making an impact. A third woman, who was pushing a grocery cart, stopped in front of me and we got to talking. I said something like, "You'd think someone of African-American descent would be the first to see the danger of racial profiling." This woman said, "You got it, girl. We've seen too much of that ourselves." She went on to say, "I see them squeezing and squeezing the Arabs. It's just not right." After awhile, the first woman, still angry, got back in her car and drove off. The other two women walked on. After about five minutes one of them, the one who had agreed with the angry woman, returned and said to us, "You know, you just helped me understand. It's not right what they're doing to these folks. They have rights just like the rest of us." I invited her to join our protest and she did.
Another special moment came after we'd held a brief rally in which Bob had shared about last night's Blue Triangle Network program and the connections that had been made there. He told of a Muslim woman who had attended with her daughter even though she was unable to discuss publicly the case pending against her husband because everyone was under a "gag order." As she'd prepared to leave, she had told Bob how much the evening had meant to her: "I no longer feel alone." Then Mike spoke. He had attended another important event in the Arab community last night and that was the CBC Radio 1 (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) taping of a town hall meeting at the other ACCESS (Arab-American Community Center for Economic and Social Services) location. There, members of the Arab community had shared what life has been like for them in the US since September 11: the fear, the unjust detentions, the FBI trying to get them to "inform" on their neighbors, the danger involved in any run-in with the "authorities", no matter how innocuous, but also the unexpected support offered to them by non-Muslims. He encouraged us to listen to CBC Radio 1 next Monday, February 24, between 8-10 AM to hear the tape of this town meeting. After our rally was concluded and we were preparing to leave, two Army Humm-vees with soldiers in combat fatigues drove by. As they passed, one driver hit his horn briefly and waved! So much for my stereotypes.
Our demonstration was
not large but it felt like we were making people think and that's
good enough. By now, it's feeling like family when we meet to
protest war and repression. Most of us know one other, at least
by face. Here are some pictures of my "family": Bob,
my friend Jan who read about this in my journal and took off
from work to come, a young activist named Shawn
who is very active in the anti-war movement, Abayomi,
Virginia (Grandma Birdy) with her amazing sign in which she
used the headlines from George W's inauguration speech, longtime
political activist Helen
Auerbach, and Barbara
of Revolutionary Books. Because we Grannies were there, we didn't
simply stand around holding our signs for two hours, we spent
a lot of time singing...all
of us together!
At one point, Anti-Police Brutality Coalition member Philip and
Granny Charlotte even broke into a
polka right there on the sidewalk as we sang the Bush Barrel
Polka. All in all, a good time was had by all. Hey, I say we'd
better have fun doing these protests or we'll start staying
home. And we sure can't afford to do that. Not now.
SATURDAY, MARCH 8, 2003, INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
I can remember other International Women's Days when I worked hard to find or help create a fitting celebration of the day. In 1996 I took BART into San Francisco from the East Bay where I had a sublet apartment, in order to attend a benefit at the Women's Building for women in prison. The evening was filled with song, poetry, dance and speeches, one by Angela Davis who was there with her mother. In 2001 and 2002, I was on the planning committee and helped organize San Francisco's celebration of the Global Women's Strike Day. Last year we staged a march through town where we stopped and had speak-outs at the Welfare Office, Bank of America, City Hall, McDonalds and the Federal Building. Chandra and I were in charge of the music and led folks in singing some Raging Grannies songs. Don't they say life always gives you hints of what's next? Before I started spending the winters in San Francisco, I used to vend my women's art/ritual boxes and Sacred Stones at daylong celebrations of International Women's Day out at a union hall in Dearborn, and more recently at the First Unitarian Universalist Church on Cass in Detroit. When we were at the UU Church, our celebration included a concert that evening at the Detroit Women's Coffee House downstairs. And then there were all those years when I was totally clueless about the meaning of March 8. It's hard to imagine that now.
This year the women came to me! It just happened that today was the second Saturday of the month...the Raging Grannies meeting/rehearsal here at my house. What a perfect way to celebrate International Women's Day.
Just being in the presence of these women of experience, social conscience, commitment, humor, sensitivity and willingness to do all they can to work for peace and justice in our world gave me strength and rejuvenated my flagging spirit. No matter what governmental "leaders" do or don't do, I know there are women like this the world over, women who are bringing to birth a new way of living together and reverencing our home, the earth, women who hold at the forefront of their consciousness those who will come after us.
We had a powerful discussion today, one in which each woman shared her vision of peace and how she attempts to enact it in her life. That might sound like an airy-fairy topic, but, believe me, it showed up the differences in our circle and gave us an opportunity to do what we ask our world leaders to do...speak your truth, listen to one another and find new ways of living with the uniqueness of each.
And of course we sang. We ARE the Raging Grannies, after all. We practised/revised songs that we plan to sing at upcoming events, in addition to learning two new songs created by our resident songwriter, GranMotoko. In my opinion, she has just written the song of an era. It is sung to the tune of "American the Beautiful" and goes like this:
O beautiful for bomb-free skies
For ample waves of grain
How can we on defenceless lands
Our bombs and terror rain?
America, America, oh how
we weep for thee
Bemoan the loss of siblinghood
Across both land and sea
O beautiful for immigrants
Who gave here of their best
Who built our future, found their homes
Across the wilderness
America, America, oh how
we weep for thee
For once you stood for principles
That we all might be free
O beautiful heroic brave
Like those who ne'er came back
As up the Twin Towers steps they trod
After that grim attack
America, America, oh how
we weep for thee
How can we now civilians kill
And the aggressor be
O beautiful for wise ones' dreams
For Sanger, Tubman, King
Who saw a vision through the years
Of great awakening
America, America, oh how
we hope for thee
Restore the sense of siblinghood
Across both land and sea
MONDAY, MARCH 10, 2003
The Raging Grannies and I spent the day at a teach-in at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. I'd been asked to speak about my journey to activism and couldn't imagine doing it without the Grannies at my side. Even though a number of them hadn't heard about it until two days ago, we still had a dozen Grannies show up to sing and offer support! What a wonderful gaggle of committed women.
It was a long day. The teach-in started at 9 AM and was scheduled to end at 3 PM. It actually went on past 4 PM. It was called "War With Iraq: A Dialogue", and students were invited to stop in anytime during the day. I'd guess 400 students showed up at one time or another. The teach-in was a mix of presentations, question and answer periods, and panel discussions. Most of it was quite academic, leaning heavily toward historical and ethical perspectives. But Hasan Nawash, a Palestinian poet and activist, read his poetry, and the Raging Grannies sang, so it wasn't all "head" stuff.
I found the students' questions and comments most enlightening, but I sometimes felt the panel members--most of them professors--didn't really address the students' concerns. Instead they would use the question or comment as an opportunity to offer more information. Maybe this is the nature of the beast. It's been many decades since I was in college, and perhaps I'm forgetting how academically oriented everything tends to be. Of course, it is academia! But I felt the students' worries about how to process what they were hearing at home and in the media were glossed over. In one case a student who expressed her opinion that we should all "get behind the president and support the troops" if the US attacks Iraq, that "an America divided will fall" was practically demolished by two very informed, articulate panel members. I suspect many of the students shared her sentiments but did not dare express them for fear of being intellectually steamrolled by the "experts."
As for the Raging Grannies' part of the program, it went wonderfully. After hearing a trillion words--many of them describing terribly sad situations and possibilities--the students and the Grannies were ready for a change. I introduced our group and said that although we have many humorous, satirical songs, the song that reflects what we're feeling right now is GranMotoko's new version of "America the Beautiful". We then sang "America We Weep For Thee." Next I did as the organizers had asked and shared the story of how I became not just an activist, but a creative activist. We sang a few of our more satirical songs--which the students adored--and I opened the floor to questions/comments/sharings. Two students shared how much it meant to them to see and hear us sing. One young activist named Scott said, "You give us hope." Then Lindsay, the president of the OU Political Union, asked if we had suggestions about what kind of creative activism the students might do. I suggested using all the different forms of creative expression that the students already engage in, like drama, visual art, poetry, music, dance. One example I mentioned was writing rap songs. I laughed and said that the Grannies might not know how to do rap, but you students certainly do! And not just rap, but street theater and giant puppets too. A few of our Grannies also gave suggestions. After their questions had been answered, I invited Motoko to share her story. Remember, it was Motoko who was in the US during Pearl Harbor and then in Japan when the US dropped the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She says,"I will do everything in my power to stop wars of any kind." She told how she had been marching at a peace rally on January 19 in front of the Federal Building in Detroit, getting very tired of chanting "No blood for oil" and "This is how democracy looks," when she looked off to the side and saw a group of older women dressed in outrageous hats and aprons, singing funny, satirical songs. She said she knew in an instant this was where she belonged. And aren't we glad to have her! We finished by teaching the students Motoko's two rounds--"Are You Sleeping?" and "No to War"--and got the whole room singing it in parts.
At the end of the day, Scott came over to talk to me, as did Lindsay. We hatched the idea of their joining us at our next Grannies' meeting to brainstorm ideas about collaborative projects the Grannies and Oakland University students could do together. I am VERY excited by this idea! What could be more healing to our planet than forging intergenerational connections for peace. Besides, Scott said he wants to write a rap song for the Grannies and I can't wait to hear that!
FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 2003
The Raging Grannies Without Borders braved more frigid weather as they gathered with Detroit peace folks downtown at 7 PM to join in a candlelight vigil march from the riverfront to a rally at Central Methodist Church, where buses were scheduled to leave at 9 PM for the overnight ride to Washington, DC for yet another national anti-war demonstration. Everyone knew time was growing short to try to stop this run-away train that seemed bound and determined to crash into a country and a people who were no threat to anyone. But try to tell that to the general public who had been brainwashed by the same lies repeated so often by Bush & Co. on TV, radio and in the newspapers that they believed them. Although I was not able to attend, a good number of our gaggle showed up and sang. And Granny Kathy got on that bus and represented us in Washington, DC where she manged to hook up with the women of Code Pink. Yea, Kathy!
THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2003
His going to war didn't change any minds. We found that out this afternoon. If anything it seems to have made people more set than ever in their opposition to bombing Iraq.
At our day-of-war rally here in Detroit, not only did we have beautiful weather, but our numbers stretched all the way from the Brodhead Marine Reserve Center to the Belle Isle Bridge, about two city blocks. We were old, young and everything in between. Some of the first to arrive were my high school activist friends from yesterday, the Flagpole Protestors. For me, this gathering was like a reunion of people from wonderfully diverse chapters of my life. As sad as we all felt, there was such a closeness of spirit and a family feeling that we soon began to perk up and notice what was going on around us. And what was happening was truly amazing.
For almost three solid hours the horns of cars, buses and trucks on busy East Jefferson Avenue never stopped honking. I'm not talking about a horn here and there, but an unending cacophony of horns layered on top of one another. At one time--as we crossed the street during our march--there must have been fifteen horns blaring at once! And it wasn't just horns. Hands forming peace signs stuck out of car windows and up through moon roofs, and there were smiles and yells and thumbs up and people practically bouncing out of their seats to express their solidarity with our opposition to Bush's war. None of us had ever seen anything like this before, not even the longtime activists. It transformed our sadness into joy. No one could stop smiling and that was something we had never expected today.
So what this said so clearly was that the people are still saying NO TO WAR even after it has begun. None of this, "Now that it's started, let's stand behind our commander-in-chief. NO SIR!!! The people were not fooled before and they're not fooled now. This is such encouraging news!
Throughout the rally, we Raging Grannies sang to the accompaniment of horns honking and drummers drumming. We were honored to have friends join us; everyone was welcome. Since things were pretty laid back, I even had the opportunity to take pictures of a few of the signs.
George W Bush, Osama Bin Laden
Both Want War...Both Unelected
Bush, Draft Your Own Daughters
We pray for all forced to fight & die, We do NOT support Mr. Bush or his war,
"This war is immoral"--Pope John Paul II, "This war is illegal"--Kofi Annan
Not In My Name--No War
War Criminal (with picture of George W Bush)
Bush & Blair Defile These Colors
A Preemptive Strike Against Democracy
SATURDAY, MARCH 22, 2003
There are times when it's just plain fun to be in community. Then there are times when you can't imagine how you would survive without it. That is how I feel now. For that reason I invited the Raging Grannies to gather here at my house simply to share what this past week had been like for each one of us. I only issued the invitation late yesterday so was not surprised when only two Grannies showed up at my door. But, you know, that ended up being the perfect number.
I'd created a peace altar in our living room and we started by lighting the beautiful candle Pat K. had made for me last Christmas. Today was the first time it had been lit. We sang John Lennon's "Imagine" after I had read a poem by Denise Levertof. I then invited us to close our eyes and spend some time together in silence. I was gratified at how both Kathy and Helen responded. Our silence lasted at least twenty minutes. What comfort. We sang "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" before going around the circle and sharing whatever we needed/wanted to say about the week we had just lived through. I asked that we simply receive the sharings in silence. We were given all the time we needed. A box of tissues was at hand.
As you can imagine, each of us used our time differently and yet there was a common thread thoughout--our pain over this war actually happening. What good listening ears and open hearts we offered to one another. It was equally healing to speak and to listen.
As a closing, we each chose a Sacred Stone from my basket with the awareness that its energy would be with us as an ally during the dark days ahead. I chose (with my eyes closed) the butterfly of change, Kathy chose the moon of intuition and Helen chose the winds of freedom. We sang "We Shall Overcome" and extinguished the candle. As its flame became a column of smoke, I thought of Baghdad. I committed myself anew to be a light of peace during the dark nights ahead.
Such a simple ritual and yet I feel lighter and brighter because of it, ready to flap my wings like the paper peace dove Kathy designed and brought to our circle.
MONDAY, MARCH 24, 2003
Even though I had work to do on the computer, I decided I needed badly to get outside and feel the sun on my face and smell the subtle scents of spring. So La Lucha the scooter and I took off to go meet Ed for lunch.
What a beautiful day! Birds singing, tree branches fat with buds, tender green shoots popping their heads through winter's mulch and only one iceberg still floating in the lake. It was just what I needed! And I also needed to spend some time with my sweetie. It had been too long since we'd had a quiet lunch together.
Soon after I returned home, it was time to leave for the peace rally organized by the Arab community in Dearborn. As I drove up to the city hall, I heard them before I saw them--Iraqi refugees on one side of the street chanting and shouting in support of Bush's war to "liberate" their people, and the rally I was going to on the other side of the street with the "other side" chanting against the war. Just like it had been back in October when Bush had visited Dearborn for a Republican candidate's fundraiser. I had learned then that this antagonistic position does not fit my commitment to peace, so when I got to the rally I stayed back and did not engage in the shouting matches. A number of people I have known from other demonstrations stayed back as well. I was touched to see a sign commemorating Rachel Corrie, the young peace activist who was bulldozed to death on the West Bank a little over a week ago. And, of course, our friends from the Blue Triangle were not only there, but had been part of the coalition that organized the rally.
It was so clear that our presence as non-Arabs meant a great deal to our Arab sisters and brothers. So many smiles, heads nodding, and for me, a number of hugs from people I've known at other events around the city. For instance, the head of security for the rally was a man I'd met and talked to at length at an all-day immigration court hearing for my brother Rabih Haddad back in the autumn.
Our Raging Grannies were well represented with Kathy, Granny Birdy, Helen and Charlotte in attendance. Although the organizers had said they might have time to invite us to sing our "O Immigrants" song, it didn't happen. I think the presence of the counter protestors made the police nervous, because after very few speakers--excellent speakers, I might add--the rally was declared over and we were strongly encouraged to leave. On our way to a local restaurant, we met the editor of the Arab News who was quite taken with the Grannies and wants to do a story on us.
I am always deeply grateful to live close to such a large, vibrant Arab community. We need more than ever to reach out and support our sisters and brothers who are under threat of even greater loss of civil rights just because of being Arab, and especially Muslim. These are scary times for immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia. I admire their courage in daring to demonstrate publicly against Bush's war on Iraq.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26, 2003
Our own GranMotoko was on the planning committee for today's teach-in at Wayne State University. It was titled, "Iraq: A Day of Reflection", and offered richly diverse ways of sharing and transforming hearts and minds. There were poetry readings by WSU students and faculty, a performance by WSU theater students of "Only we who guard the mystery shall be unhappy"--an excerpt from the play by Tony Kushner, panel discussions made up of faculty members and experts on different aspects of Middle Eastern history, international law and the war on Iraq, members of the WSU faculty presenting "International Voices: A Reading of Worldwide Statements for Peace", numerous opportunities for questions/comments, a time of quiet reflection, and the Raging Grannies offering "muscial interludes." It was a privilege to be part of this day of reflection on what is really happening in Iraq as Bush & Co. pursue their grand plan of global domination.
SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2003
This evening a goodly gaggle of Grannies performed at the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization-sponsored benefit to help restore water to Detroit residents. The event was held in a club called the Music Menu in Detroit's Greektown. Not only were the Grannies received with cheers and applause, but we added a few new members to our circle, women who share our commitment to peace and justice. A dozen of our Grannies were unable to attend because of our commitment to another worthy project--the O Beautiful Gaia CD project--but we were with one another in spirit.
THURSDAY, APRIL 3, 2003
Today three Raging Grannies marched and chanted at a Michigan Welfare Right's Organization rally at the Highland Park Water Board Building to protest the continuing shut-offs of water to residents who are unable to pay their bills. Although they did not sing as Grannies, their presence showed the Raging Grannies' ongoing commitment to work for justice for our sisters and brothers, especially those for whom survival is a daily struggle. We know it is not enough to focus entirely on global issues of war; we must also see and respond to local issues of justice.
FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 2003
It wasn't snow this time, but thunderstorms that made it a challenge for our Raging Grannies to make it to yet another event, but six faithful women showed up anyway. The event was a student-organized teach-in about the war in Iraq that was held at Grosse Pointe South High School. Because of the weather, it was moved from the lawn to the auditorium but still drew about 75 students. This intrepid band of student organizers who call themselves the Flagpole Protestors braved more than weather to make this happen--they braved parents calling the school administration complaining about their allowing such an "unpatriotic" event at the school, and lots of bureaucratic hassle as well. But it happened, and it was everything you'd want a teach-in to be. There was a wonderful mix of music, teaching and discussion. The Grannies did their part by singing a couple of songs--songsheets had been passed out to the students so they could join us--and Granny Patricia shared a bit of her story of what it means to be a dissenting voice in a conservative communty.
For me personally (Patricia), there was a special connection between my having experienced Joan Baez in concert on Thursday night and then hearing a gifted student named Ruth sing at today's teach-in. As I wrote in my online journal:
There is an unbroken
thread of singers for peace. That's what brought tears to my eyes
last night and today. Joan Baez, at 62, standing tall and singing
with passion and depth songs both new and old to a standing-room-only
audience at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor last night. And
today at an excellent anti-war teach-in at my local high school,
there was Ruth singing in a pure bell-like voice one of Joan's
most famous songs, "Blowing In the Wind." It was as
though those winds had blown straight through four decades, and
been held firm within the hearts of all who have let their voices
sound the cry for peace. It gave me such a sense of comfort in
the steadfastness of this long movement, and a rising tide of
hope for the future.
SATURDAY, APRIL 5, 2003
And yet another anti-war march and rally in Detroit! This one was hampered not by snow but by a severe ice storm that made travel treacherous, especially from the northern suburbs. And again, a dozen of our Grannies were unable to attend because of a prior commitment to the O Beautiful Gaia project. But Granny Kathy and Granny Birdy made their way down to the rally at Hart Plaza on Detroit's cold and windy riverfront. And although the Grannies were scheduled to sing at the rally, two Grannies do not a gaggle make. But these two certainly get the prize for faithfulness to the cause!
MONDAY, APRIL 7, 2003
The Raging Grannies Without Borders were scheduled to sing/share at a noontime workshop put on by Sue Rumph at Oakland University called "Women and Activism." The flyer had put forth this wonderful description:
This workshop will be examining the question "What is Activism?" In this time of threat to many rights and conditions of human decency it is important to know what you can do. We will be examining different types of activism and will be given a demonstration by the anti-war protestors the Raging Grannies. Time for discussion will be part of the workshop, so please bring your questions.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has" -- Margaret Mead
Unfortunately Mother Nature
had other plans as she dumped a ton of snow on our city and environs
that morning, causing everything to be cancelled.
SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2003
Ah, those Raging Grannies! It's hard to imagine a more lifegiving group of women, full of zest, strong opinions and truth. I love them dearly and can't imagine where I'd be without them. Especially now, when the world is in such disarray.
Today was our April Grannies gathering here at my house and eleven of us were present. We were delighted to welcome two new Grannies--Josie and Barbara--both of whom had sung with us but had not yet joined us for our monthly gaggle gathering. They each bring unique gifts to our circle and we are fortunate to have them with us. I'm always amazed at how just the right women find our group and somehow know they belong. Such a gift!
Our Grannies have been through a lot. Since we formed our gaggle--the Raging Grannies Without Borders--five months ago, we've been out on the streets singing and protesting more times than we can count. We've sung in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan and Washington, DC. We did all we could to prevent Bush's war (massacre) against the people of Iraq, and have protested it since it began in earnest on March 20. We have stood in solidarity with Muslims of Arab and South Asian descent when the INS targeted them for "special" registrations that we fear could too easily lead to detention camps. We have joined rallies in front of the Detroit Water Board to protest their having shut off water to thousands of Detroit residents, even during this especially cold winter. We've been on the programs at high school and university teach-ins. We sang and leafleted during the holidays in front of a JC Penney's store to encourage parents and grandparents not to buy war toys as gifts for their children. We've sung at fundraisers and meetings of community action and peace groups all over metro Detroit. We have frozen our tushes more often than not, and braved sleet, snow and rain. We Raging Grannies are NO sissies!
But now we are tired, tired and discouraged. These past three weeks of war have really taken it out of us. We kept raging, yes, but our spirits have suffered. It's been very hard for us to stay upbeat, outrageous and funny. Since the war began, I couldn't even bring myself to wear my red polka-dot apron to our gigs. I could not wear color of any kind, even for the Grannies. These have been hard days and weeks for anyone who is awake, aware and actively working for peace.
So when we gathered today for our monthly gathering/rehearsal, a number of us admitted to feeling depressed. It was the perfect circle in which to share these feelings. We sang a lot, both our Raging Grannies' songs--old and new--and songs of healing that sisters brought to the circle. We talked about how we'd been making it through this last month as things seemed to change day-by-day, and played with new ideas about how we Grannies could creatively work for peace and justice. We agreed that even as we work for world peace, we need to focus on injustices right here in our local communities. We shared some ways in which we as individuals find healing, and brought new actions to the group.
It was profoundly healing and empowering. So much so, that ten of the eleven Grannies stayed from about 1:30 PM until 5:30 PM! Normally we try to finish up about 4, or at the latest, 4:30 PM. But no one even looked at their watches. It was too precious a time.
Among my favorite moments
was when I asked the gaggle to stand and sing "Look Around
You", the song we'd decided to bring to the WAND
Michigan Mother's Peace Day Breakfast in May. I encouraged them
to add more theatrics to their presentation and to spontaneously
make up gestures to go with the words. These are a few that burst
forth to the words: "Look
around you", all
races live together", "no
pollution on the planet", "a
new world will come to birth."
FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2003
THE BLUE TRIANGLE NETWORK ASKS YOU TO JOIN US IN DEMONSTRATING AGAINST INJUSTICE, FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 4:30PM
FEDERAL COURTHOUSE (OLD FEDERAL BUILDING), Lafayette & Washington Blvd, Detroit
Four Moroccan and Algerian immigrants are on trial in Detroit, charged with conspiracy to give material aid to terrorists. This trial is part of the government's attempts to show the public that there is an "enemy within" in the form of "terrorist sleeper cells" and that therefore any repression against Muslim and Arab Immigrants is justified.
The evidence is based on two things only - a snitch and a sketch. First is the testimony of a life long con artist who faced a possible 81 years in prison for credit card fraud but who now has a plea bargain agreement to get only 27-39 months as a reward for his testimony (which not surprisingly supports the government case) and two drawings in the day planner of a mentally ill man who later committed suicide and which the government claims are depictions of a military hospital in Jordan and an air base in Turkey. The Detroit Free Press has characterized these drawings as "primitive".
Along with the US wars
abroad since 9-11 there has been a constant intensification of
police state measures here at home. The government intends to
criminalize any dissent and opposition and first they have targeted
Muslims, Arabs and South Asian immigrants. To stop these measures,
we have to come to the defense of those first targeted.
In a case in Lackawanna,
NY with the same charge, 4 of 6 Yemeni-Americans pled guilty.
The government's club to get this plea? A threat to take the defendants
out of federal court, declare them "enemy combatants"
and put them in prison indefinitely with no charges, as has already
been done to Jose Padilla. We can't let the Detroit area defendants
feel that's their only alternative.
We are not at war with our neighbors. Don't let the government carry out this injustice under the pretext of fighting the "enemy within".
Demonstrate at the Federal Courthouse Fri, April 25, 4:30PM!
And the Grannies were there, singing in support of our brothers and protesting Attorney General John Ashcroft's undeclared war on Muslim persons of Arab and south Asian descent.
FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2003
Well, it wasn't so bad after all. Actually, I'm grinning as I write that, because today was amazingly wonderful! Dear Clare Mead Rosen, a Raging Granny herself, introduced Kathy and me just as we'd hoped...she called ALL the Grannies forward to receive the honor. It was perfect!
This morning Kathy Russell and I were among those honored at the WAND Michigan 2003 Mothers' Peace Day Breakfast. In my journal yesterday, I'd shared my concerns about us co-founders being singled out for an honor that rightfully belonged to the whole gaggle. And as it turned out, the gaggle received the recognition they deserved. Not only that, but we got to hear the incomparable Granny D speak!!! None of us had ever seen her in person but many of us have admired and respected her for years. It was Granny D who walked across the country in 1999-2000 for campaign finance reform. The fact that she was 90 at the time and carried a 29 lb. pack on her back has catapulted her into the status of an almost mythological being. Since that time she has been travelling the country giving powerful speeches. She gave us one today, that, hopefully, you'll soon be able to read on her web site at:
And also check out her latest project at:
It is called the Swing State Project and Granny D is asking all of us who are concerned about the state of the nation to cast absentee ballots in 2004 and travel at our own expense to swing states to help get out the vote for the Democratic candidate, so we don't have four more years of Bush & Co. By the way, this is not about politics; it is about saving the planet from further destruction and our country from greater loss of liberty.
After the official part of the breakfast meeting was over, we Raging Grannies crowded around Granny D like teenage groupies. While we were standing there together, we Grannies started singing. That inspired me to teach them the Woman's Peace Song by Karen MacKay that our O Beautiful Gaia women will be singing on the CD.
If every woman in the
had her mind set on freedom.
If every woman in the world
dreamt a sweet dream of peace.
If every woman of every
young and old, each generation,
held her hands out in the name of love,
there would be no more war.
So, there we were in a circle with Granny D in our midst, singing our hearts out. The PERFECT mother's day celebration, I'd say.
After our songfest, we did the photo-op thing, with dozens of cameras clicking right and left. A precious momento. Isn't it wonderful how many Raging Grannies were there today? A few of us--Helen, Magi, Rosalie, Kathy and I--even got to have a close-up with Granny D. What a woman!
The most unexpected part of the day came much later. Each honoree was given a framed WAND Certificate of Achievement, a bouquet of flowers and a proclamation in her name from the office of Michigan State Senator Gilda Z. Jacobs. The latter was a huge sheet of paper with lots of writing and a very official looking Michigan State seal at the top of the page and on the folder in which it was presented. To be honest, I just glanced at it this morning without reading anything. It wasn't until late this afternoon that I took the time to read it. Well. It was not at all what I'd expected. I thought it would be one of those generic "whereas..." type documents. Instead, it contained a detailed description of what the Raging Grannies, Kathy and I have done to earn this commendation. In beautiful language, it proclaimed the profound appreciation of the state, the nation and the world for my dedication and hard work for peace. It shocked the heck out of me. In all the years I've been doing this work, I've never expected to be honored for it. It's always been enough just to do it, to know I was doing everything I could to bring peace and justice to our world. Ed just read the whole thing out loud to me at the dinner table. I could feel my face turning red and myself inclined to dive under the table. But at the same time it touched me deeply.
The bouquet of flowers turned out to be another special gift. As I left the golf club where the breakfast was held, I was preparing myself for the 36 mile drive home. But before I got on the expressway, I noticed a few disturbing things going on with my car. First of all, my digital clock was blank. Secondly, the radio wouldn't turn on. And thirdly, the "air bag" light was on. I stopped at the first gas station, and pulled up to the service garage. I waved to a man who was inside and he came out to help me. After I told him what was wrong, he said, "Let me check the fuses first." Since they were right beside the driver's seat, we chatted while he worked.
Eddie's father is from Turkey and his mother from Iraq. As a child he considered both countries his home. But now that he has been in the United States for sixteen years, this is his country too. He lives on the east side of town, not far from me, but has worked in this far western suburb for years. He said his wife is always trying to get him to leave this gas station and get a job closer to home, but Eddie says, "How could I leave my regular customers?" Well, I soon found out why Eddie has such devoted customers. After he'd replaced my fuses and everything was working again, I asked how much I owed him. He smiled and said, "Nothing." I tried to talk him into charging me--definitely not the norm--but he would have none of it. Fortunately, the bouquet of flowers was on the seat beside me, so I picked it up and gave it to Eddie with the words, "For your wife." He graciously accepted it and went smiling into the garage to put the flowers in water.
This small moment felt like it held the seeds of the entire day: a moment when two people from different cultures--different worlds, in a way--meet and bridge any gaps that could have separated them. The world as we know it can be.
SATURDAY, JUNE 21, 2003
The Raging Grannies met here today. What a treat to see them again! Because of my almost total absorption with the O Beautiful Gaia CD project of late, I hadn't seen my granny sisters in almost six weeks. After having been together an average of at least once a week since our gaggle formed in November, that was quite a change. I'd really missed these women!
We did what grannies always do--sang, shared our thoughts and feelings, laughed and teased, listened closely to one another, affirmed, challenged, educated, informed, and spoke our truth. Our main agenda was to hear from the grannies who had attended the Eastern Regional Gathering of Raging Grannies that was held in Rochester, NY two weeks ago. Six of the nine were with us today and they had such stories to tell! Not only stories, but very helpful information gleaned from the many workshops they'd attended. These wonderful women had seen to it that at least one Detroit Granny was at each workshop that was offered. Most had diligently taken notes to bring home to share. They truly made us feel like we were there. And here is a picture of six of the ten grannies who gathered here today.
Happily we Raging Grannies will be singing and marching at two special events within the next ten days: 1) next Saturday's 40th anniversary Martin Luther King, Jr. March and Rally here in Detroit, and 2) the July 4th parade in Ann Arbor where we'll join the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace with their float, drummers, band and marchers. It'll be good to be out on the streets again raising a little racket!
SATURDAY, JUNE 28, 2003
There are always moments--often hidden, seemingly insignificant moments--that carry the core meaning of an experience. During this long, full, exhausting and energizing 40th Anniversary Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "From 1963 to 2003 The Dream Lives On" March and Rally here in Detroit, that moment came for me at the very end of the day. Thousands of us--young and old, women and men, black and white--had marched the same three miles down Woodward Avenue that 250,000 had marched with Dr. King in 1963. We'd sat through similar speeches--including a rousing one by his son, Martin Luther King III--at a rally down near the waterfront. We Raging Grannies had marched, and sung as best we could when there was not a marching band at our side. The day was filled with grandeur, but, as I say, it is one small moment that I will not forget.
The last speaker had spoken and the final singing group had taken the stage. The refrain, "We Shall Overcome" lifted everyone to their feet. Each of us reached out our hands to the persons beside us. As I did so, my right hand was clasped firmly by a 12 year old boy and my left by an elderly gentleman. Beside each of them, holding them by the hand, was a Raging Granny. So there we were--young and old, woman and man, black and white, singing the song that had stirred the movement to bring us to this day. Dr. King was there...and he was smiling.
To see more photos of Detroit's 40th Anniversary Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March and Rally, go to my MLK March & Rally Photo Album.
FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2003
I never thought I'd see the day that we peacemakers would be cheered by crowds of flag-waving folks, but today it happened! In Ann Arbor, Michigan at the Jaycee's "Proud To Be An American" 4th of July parade, the Raging Grannies Without Borders marched with the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace and received grins, cheers and waves along the entire route. So much for my prejudice against flag-waving Americans! The sidewalks were lined with children, women and men clothed in assorted varieties of red, white and blue, and they made us Grannies feel like celebrities. As soon as they'd see our Raging Grannies Without Borders banner, our crazy hats, aprons and shawls, we'd hear cries of "It's the Grannies!", "Hi Grannies!" The faces that stay with me are the little ones with their hands waving in the air, some with smiles and others with wide-eyed somber looks indicating their respect for this event. It was, as the kids and I like to say, awesome!
And what a gift to be with this faithful group of peacemakers. With their giant dove, float with "Proud To Be A Peacemaker" painted on its side and a band singing and playing on its platform, drummers drumming on plastic food buckets from the Ann Arbor coop--thanks to Lori Fithian--and all the children, there must have been at least 300 of us marching with the Ann Arbor Area Committee For Peace. Most of our Raging Grannies had left their homes in the Detroit metro area before 7:30 AM to be there in time to sing before the march began at 10 AM. We agreed that it was worth every mile traveled and every minute of lost sleep. I want to offer special thanks to Phillis Engelbert, the creative, indefatigable director of the AAACP, Mitch and all the many people who worked on the float and helped pull this event together. I can't recall a 4th of July that I have enjoyed more, at least not since I was a youngster on the Chesapeake Bay and Bobby Taylor would put on our annual fireworks show on the dock.
I have so many pictures that I've created an Ann Arbor 4th of July Parade photo album. Hopefully it will give you some idea of the wonder of this day. Even the weather cooperated. It was warm but not unbearable, sunny and blue-skied until after we'd finished lunch and gotten in our cars for the long drive home. Then the rains came pouring down in virtual buckets. Just what we needed, and just the perfect time for it to happen. A magical day from start to finish.
SATURDAY, JULY 19, 2003
No more Hiroshima, Nagasaki
Nuclear's a no-no, No more DU.
Just one bomb, a city is gone.
People dead and dying,
The living facing worse,
Burn scars never heal,
Home and work, all are lost.
Does no one care?
Generations come and go,
But deformity, disease and death
Keep following those who were there.
by Motoko Fujishiro Huthewaite, Naoko Owaki & Kazumi Sakaguchi
We Raging Grannies Without Borders were honored to have two guests from Japan join us at our monthly gathering/rehearsal this afternoon. Kazumi and Naoko were visiting our own GranMotoko for a week, and not only attended our meeting but brought us a new song, personal stories and homemade sushi.
On August 6--the 58th anniversary of the United States dropping the atomic bomb on the people of Hiroshima--we Raging Grannies will be singing at a Peace Community picnic and GranMotoko will be sharing her personal remembrances of that horrific day. Although she herself was in Toyko, that day is literally burned in her memory...as it is for all who were alive at the time. In preparation for this year's Hiroshima Remembrance Day, I'd invited GranMotoko, our best songwriter, to see if a new song might emerge from her experiences as a Japanese-American who was living in Japan on August 6, 1945. What she did was bring this request to her houseguests and on their long drive home from Mackinac Island last night, the three of them wrote this song. It is set to the tune of a traditional Japanese children's song that they sang for us as an introduction.
How can I describe the depth of pain I felt as we sang this song? Only persons who know from the inside the horror of what happened that day could have written it. And anyone singing it becomes privy to their pain. Naoko, Kazumi and Motoko also shared stories of people they either knew or knew of, people who had died, were burned or have suffered since this nightmare. Generations who have suffered.
How could the US now be starting to make new nuclear bombs, knowing what they know of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? It is unimaginable.
So we sang this song over and over until we Grannies finally caught on to its unique--to us--cadence and beat. Musically, it is unusual in that it has five sharps and is played entirely on the black keys. For me, the juxtaposition of this childlike, lilting tune with such gruesome lyrics just about knocks me out. But that's just what it should do.
In addition to the Peace Community picnic on August 6, we Grannies will be singing this Friday at the Blue Triangle Network National Retreat/Planning Meeting evening social at a local mosque. At today's meeting we chose which songs to sing. After that, the floor was open for general discussion, which is always interesting. When you have a roomful of informed, committed women, many of whom have been activists for years, you never know where such discussions will go. And that's the wonder of it. Power to the Grannies!
FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2003
The Raging Grannies Without Borders have been closely connected with the Blue Triangle Network since that frigid December day in 2002 when a number of our Grannies joined a demonstration in front of the Michigan headquarters of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) in Detroit. We were there to stand in solidarity with the immigrant men from predominantly Muslim countries who were undergoing a special registration that was reminiscent of the special registrations of Japanese Americans at the beginning of World War II. We were also out on that extremely cold sidewalk to protest this further evidence of racial targeting that our Muslim brothers and sisters of Arab and South Asian descent had been experiencing in the US since September 11. That day I met Bob Parsons, one of the Blue Triangle Network organizers, and invited him to come speak to the Grannies at our next monthly meeting. Since that time, we have demonstrated together numerous times, as well as participating in a BTN program on February 20, the International Day of Solidarity with Muslim Arab and South Asian Immigrants.
So when Bob asked the Raging Grannies to come sing at their Friday social event for Blue Triangle Network representatives from across the country, we were delighted to comply. Ten Grannies showed up in their Granny hats, aprons and shawls. After watching an hour-long film about the current racial targeting of Muslims of Arab and South Asian descent and how it compares with the treatment of the Japanese Americans during World War II, we Grannies stood up to sing. But we hoped we wouldn't be the only ones singing. We'd handed out song sheets, and although there must have been ten songs on the sheet, this group was so enthusiastic that we ended up singing them all! I think they'd had a long day sitting and talking and were ready for something a little more active. Besides, they genuinely seemed to appreciate our songs about the mistreatment of immigrants, the loss of civil liberties, the Patriot Act and Ashcroft himself. It's always a great to sing with people who understand what we're trying to say. And this group definitely did.
After another short film, Bob let me share about Rabih Haddad's deportation and the support rally we're planning for his wife and their children before their deportation on Monday. Again, this group understood everything I had to say. Before we moved from the auditorium in this lovely Dearborn mosque to the community center where we would share food and conversation, this group photo was taken to commemorate the event. When we finally had a chance to talk informally with these representatives from Blue Triangle Networks in San Francisco, San Diego, Hawaii, Houston, New York City and Chicago, it was wonderfully heartening. So many of them are young! What a fabulous generation of activists is coming up behind us.
MONDAY, JULY 28, 2003
Today we gave Sulaima, Sana, Sami, Rami and Oussama the kind of send-off they deserved. It was full of love, outrage, tenderness, song, tears and lots of TV/radio/newspaper interviews. We who have supported this family in their ongoing struggle for the release of Rabih Haddad, their husband and father, during 19 months of detention without charges, came together, as one sign put it, as "One World, One People." We were old and young, women and men, Muslim and non-Muslim, Raging Grannies Without Borders, Free Rabih Haddad Committee members, folks from the Blue Triangle Network, Peace Action, Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace, MECAWI (Michigan Emergency Committee Against War In Iraq), the Flagpole Protestors (from my local high school), and individuals who were there because they believed in the pre-September 11 American principle of law that said one is innocent until proven guilty. There was one man who captured the attention of the media and press by spray painting "Remember 9-11" on a piece of construction plywood across the street, but his was a voice that was not needed to be heard in this crowd. If there is any segment of American society that can never forget 9-11, it is our Muslim brothers and sisters of Arab descent. They bear the consequences of that tragic action every day of their lives.
Ed had followed me downtown on his way to work so that he could get my scooter out of the car and set it up for me. I could not possibly do what I do in the world without the support of this loving man. Anyway, that got me to the INS building a half hour early, at 9 AM. When I arrived, one TV truck was already there. And then the supporters started to arrive. We had a wonderful gaggle of Raging Grannies in attendance, two of whom--GranMotoko and Granny Carol Yamasaki--had driven an hour to get there. And there was a good group of brothers and sisters from Rabih and Sulaima's mosque who had caravaned by car and van 50 miles from Ann Arbor. The surprise to me was the large number of press and media who not only showed up but got interviews and/or photographs of just about everyone, and who stuck around for hours until the INS van had finally loaded up Sulaima and the kids and taken off for the airport at 12:20 PM. For those of us who had felt silenced and invisible every time we'd read or seen or heard the media and press repeating the Justice Department's--John Ashcroft's--unsubstantiated accusations of Rabih and his Global Relief Foundation being tied to terrorists, having a chance to say our say was both healing and empowering. It seemed as though the press and media were finally catching on to the fact that if the Justice Department had had anything on Rabih Haddad, they would never have let him go free, in Lebanon or anyplace else. It was now clear to any thinking person that the government had tried to get something on Rabih and his group for 19 months and had come up empty. All they had on him was a usually-fineable visa violation, and so they deported him, his wife and children. What a miscarriage of justice.
So when I was interviewed today--the question usually being, "Why are you here?"--I not only talked about wanting to support this family who had been so mistreated by the American government, but gave my opinions about how the government had handled the case and how the media and press had reported it (shameful in both cases). Many of the thoughts that had kept me awake last night came pouring out. I have no idea exactly what I said, but I know it came directly from my heart. What I do remember saying over and over is that, in deporting Rabih Haddad, the United States has lost an exceptional asset to our country, that I saw in him a link to persons like Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that this has been one of the worst chapters in American history, and that we supporters will continue to fight for Rabih Haddad's and the Global Relief Foundation's names to be cleared. I also said that Rabih Haddad's only "crime" was being a humanitarian who tried to alleviate the suffering of others. Anyone who interviewed me got an earful.
But it wasn't simply our opinions that we shared today, it was a song that had come to me full blown as I awoke yesterday morning. Even though it was a bit of a tongue-twister, almost everyone learned and sang it with gusto. We sang it to Sulaima and the children through the windows of the van that had carried her and a good number of sisters from Ann Arbor to Detroit. We sang it into microphones held by TV camerapersons and radio interviewers. We sang it to Rami and Sami when they came out of the INS building to say goodbye. We even sang it to Rabih himself! For one of the most amazing moments of this day came when one of the brothers held up his cell phone and said, "It's Rabih on the phone!" Granted the connection only lasted for three minutes at a time, but with the speaker phone (!) turned on, Rabih was able to make a personal statement of thanks to his supporters. Even the hardboiled press and media were shaking their heads in wonder at that.
In addition to interviews and songs, we expressed what we wanted to say in the form of signs. Yesterday I'd made six myself--#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6--not counting two with the words to our theme song. The sisters from Ann Arbor had a whole batch of excellent signs, and everyplace you looked up and down the line, there were signs in evidence. At one point I scooted across the street and took a series of photos of rally participants, looking from left to right--#1, #2, #3, #4. It was then that an INS guard came up and said, "Shall I confiscate your camera now or later?" America, home of the free and the brave.
But, as often seems to happen, there is one moment that I'm sure will always stay with me. It came about a half hour after Sulaima and the children had disappeared inside the bowels of the INS building. To be honest, I did not expect to see them again. But I looked up to see ten-and-a-half-year-old Sami coming toward me on the sidewalk. He walked right into my arms and gave me a big hug. I whispered, "I don't want you to go", and he said, "I don't want to go either." By now the cameras and microphones had closed in on us like we were M&M or something, but Sami and I didn't care. We were seeing only each another. I told him how his Dad was waiting for him, and how he'd told me he was afraid he'd "gobble up" his family, that he loved them so much. We talked about Lebanon and also about his being able to see his granddad in Kuwait for the first time in years. I told him I was planning to come visit, as were a lot of his friends from Ann Arbor. Soon I saw Rami kind of hiding behind Sami and had to coax him over to get a hug. It was obviously a very emotional time for these boys, but, as always, they handled themselves with dignity and grace. Oh, I'm going to miss these kids. But, as I said to Sami, all we want is for their family to be together again.
Most of us--supporters and media/press--waited until Sulaima and the children were to be transported to the airport. We supporters wanted one more chance to show them our love, and the media/press wanted one last photo op. But as time went on, we realized the INS was probably going to try to get them out without our seeing them. So we stationed some of our folks at one entrance on E. Jefferson Avenue, while the rest stayed in front of the gate on Mt. Elliot. Suddenly we heard a cry, "They're taking them out the E. Jefferson entrance." Everyone ran--I scooted--over to that entrance and we were able to wave to a van that our brothers assured us they'd seen Sulaima and the children get into. But instead of using the entrance where we stood, the van--with its tinted windows to prevent anyone seeing who was inside--turned toward a back entrance and drove out of sight. We ran/scooted in that direction, but they were gone. The press and media agreed with us that this was typical of how the INS operates these days. Everything is done in secret, even when they have nothing to hide. Ah well, Suliama and the kids know we were there, and more importantly, know how we feel about them.
Sana, Sami, Rami,
Whether here or Lebanon,
We love you like a family.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 2003
Our own Granny Kim Redigan invited GranMotoko and the Raging Grannies to sing "No More Hiroshima" at The Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaka Annual Commemoration that was held tonight at a Detroit area church. The evening involved making origami peace cranes, discussion of this week's Stop the Bombs direct action at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee Y12 nuclear weapons plant, showing a video on the campaign to end nuclear weapons production at Oak Ridge, a keynote speech by Maryann Mahaffey, the President of the Detroit City Council, followed by a silent procession in the streets. It was sponsored by a broad coalition of Detroit area peace organizations. Because I'd broken my ankle, I (Granny Patricia) was unable to attend, but the following are reports I received from two Grannies who were there:
Just a brief note to tell you about last night. I was amazed to find so many people--there must easily have been 100. So many organizations were represented as well. I recognized pictures from Swords into Plowshares, familiar faces from Groundwork for a Just World, Pax Christi, and our own Clare from WAND. Roberta was there too.
We were first on the program, as you said. I was flanked by sister Grannies as I gave my brief intro, then we taught the assembled group the song line by line. Finally, we all sang it together and it sounded wonderful to have all those voices join ours.
Maryann Mahaffey was superb. I'd forgotten she was a college volunteer in one of the Japanese-American relocation centers during WWII. She mentioned my name twice in her talk, quoted a young Japanese boy I happened to know, and introduced the president of the Japan American Citizens League (I think they call it) who was a good friend of my mother's.
Three Japanese missionary women were present to help with the origami cranes. They presented Maryann Mahaffey with a Japanese doll and flowers, then sang a Japanese song for everyone.
After the video and program, we processed in Women in Black style down the Royal Oak streets that were packed with young people. A number of cars honked as we carried our various Peace signs. When we got back to the church, there was a candlelight vigil with Julie Beutel leading us in song.
It was all beautifully organized with the two Kims in charge and I found much to be moving. Wish I could go to Tennessee, but have a wedding to attend. (This has been a summer for weddings!)
And from Granny Clare:
A Solemn Procession,
Some Fearful Parallels
from Clare Mead Rosen, WAND Michigan President
Sunday night, under a slim slice of moon in a Persian blue sky, WAND Michigan and many fellow peace groups joined in a solemn Hiroshima -Nagasaki memorial procession. Slowly, to the beat of funeral drums, we marchers stretched back for two blocks along Main Street in Royal Oak and filed past diners overflowing the many sidewalk cafes on one side and four lanes of Main St. traffic on our other side. Our sign read "Never Again. Abolish Nuclear Weapons." The memorial program that preceded the procession kicked off the Oak Ridge action next weekend (still some places left!) where WAND's own Kathryn Bowers will be keynoter. After the memorial program I made a pitch for the Misleader campaign, Kim made a pitch for Oak Ridge and action on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator; Raging Granny Mokoto Huthwaite, who lived in Tokyo on Aug 6 1945, led us in a song she'd written to the tune of a Japanese children's song. Detroit City Council President Maryann Mahaffey spoke of the parallels between the fear and feverish patriotism that made possible the US internment of Japanese Americans during WWII and which now makes possible the post 9/11 violations of civil liberties including indefinite detentions w/o charges and deportations based on unproven accusations. One of the most encouraging things to me in the Stop the Bombs video (again played during the program) was the presence of so many YOUNG men and women at the Oak Ridge action last spring. Keep hope alive! -CMR
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6, 2003
On this 57th anniversary of the day the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, our Raging Grannies Without Borders were invited to attend a Pointes For Peace community picnic. In remembrance of Hiroshima, GranMotoko Huthwaite was invited to share reflections of her experience as a Japanese-American living in Toyko at the time. She and the Raging Grannies were also invited to sing. GranMotoko first taught the crowd her song, "No More Hiroshima," and then the Raging Grannies led everyone in songs we'd printed on a song sheet. A broken ankle kept me (Granny Patricia) from attending, but GranMotoko sent me the following email to let me how it had gone:
Everyone missed you. It was a very pleasant crowd, men and women, children and adults, teenagers, and when they all joined in our song, it sounded wonderful. There must have been ten of us grannies and we sang from the song sheets Kathy brought us after my brief talk and song and an intermediate break of announcements.
Folks really enjoyed the regular Granny songs and I saw smiles and heard chuckles at some of our most outrageous verses and rhymes. Fern was there and sang with us. Maxine and Helen, Kathy and Charlotte, Judy and Emily, Magi and now I can't remember the other one. Anyway, it was a great gaggle.
Nancy Combs introduced me, then had to go pick up her daughter and missed the talk and our song, so I gave her my script. It dawned on me, I could do the same for you. So here goes. Let me know if you get it.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 21, 2003
Attorney General John Ashcroft came to Detroit today on his national tour to promote the Patriot Act which has been under attack of late. Of course, he was not speaking to the public but only in closed meetings to police officers. Heaven forbid, someone should question him about the loss of our civil liberties! But even if the people never did see this man who has so curtailed their rights and freedoms, there were folks standing outside his Cobo Hall meeting place with signs and chants, saying what they thought of him and his Patriot Act. Eight Raging Grannies Without Borders were among them, singing our Patriot Act songs and Ashcrof's special round that goes:
To the tune of "Frere
Are you sleeping
Are you sleeping
Uncle Sam? Uncle Sam?
Civil Rights eroding
Feelings of foreboding
As is often the case, our Grannies were media magnets! And out of the many interviews given and photographs taken, their picture ended up on the front page of the Detroit News. You go, Grannies!!!
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2003
The Raging Grannies Without Borders have had wonderful times in our ten months together, but, in my humble opinion, today beat all! There were only four of us in attendance at the Dally In the Alley street fair, but that was enough. Grannies Kathy, Charlotte, Birdy and I kept the energy up and running for eight solid hours, and never missed a beat. We never did go onstage but we didn't need to. Our table was a stage and the songs never stopped. OK, we'd rest our voices every so often, but not for very long. And did we ever have company in our singing!!! One indication of how many people came to visit us was the fact that we only had 15 song sheets left at the end of the day, and I'd brought 200!
Our gaggle has said from the beginning that we are about education, about causing folks to rethink their opinions. So often we preach to the converted at rallies and demonstrations, but not today. Today we were out among them in a way that allowed for non-confrontational, humorous, musical encounters that truly had the potential for a goodly bit of mind-expansion. And it didn't hurt that our table was next to a beer concession so those waiting in line were our captive audience!
You can see pictures of
the day by going to my Raging
Grannies/Dally In the Alley 2003 photo album.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2003
Character Sketch column by Amanda Hanlin
Real Detroit Weekly
September 17-23, 2003, p. 14
Raging Grannies Without
Borders: Hell hath no fury
Accompanying photo of Grannies Birdie, Charlotte, Patricia and Kathy
Those of us Dallying in the Alley in the Cass Corridor a few weeks ago noticed a new and interesting presence among the young families, hipsters and local lunatics. Peculiar melodies and unfamiliar voices wafted over from a cushy spot near the beer line. Compelled to quench both thirst and curiosity, I wandered by for a look-see.
Behind a table were four living replicas of Minnie Pearl. The ladies, who range in age between 50 and 80, wore shawls, aprons and straw hats and mixed strangely with the studded belts, rawk halters and mod monsters milling around them. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the ladies' geriatric regalia was accented by "NO WAR" buttons, tie-dyed socks, rainbow stickers and boldly colored peace symbols. Their strong voices belted out familiar tunes, but something seemed slightly different: Since when does "When the Saints Go Marching In" have a line about racial profiling?
The Raging Grannies Without Borders were out in force, hammering out tough tunes that pair familiar melodies with politically focused lyrics. Both a protest and education strategy, the Raging Grannies were on a mission to take their message to the streets - in song.
The Raging Grannies were originally founded in British Columbia in 1987 to promote nuclear deterrence. A small group of politically minded women became the veritable bra-burning golden girls that would eventually spawn "Granny Gaggles" throughout Canada and the U.S.
Pissed-off grannies everywhere donned their best housecoats and sharpened their voices. Strengthened by their political beliefs and initially motivated by peace issues, they set out to incite awareness and social change. Aside from the encouragement found in camaraderie, they drew inspiration from Doris Haddock, better known as Granny D. In 1999, the then- 89-year-old walked from Pasadena, California to Washington, D.C. as a demonstration for campaign finance reform. She walked 10 miles a day for 14 months - a total of 3,200 miles - making speeches and attracting other walkers along her way.
Detroit's own Granny Gaggle has had a recent coming-of-age. In late October 2002, Granny Kathy (Kathy Russell) and Granny Patricia (Patricia Lay- Dorsey) attended a mammoth anti-war march in Washington, D.C. Although not acquainted and traveling separately, they ran into one another and immediately founded the Raging Grannies Without Borders upon arriving home. "We took off like greased lightening, and it never stopped. My guess is we've had at least 40 gigs since then," says Granny Patricia. With Granny Birdie (Birdie Haynes), they and roughly 15 other Detroit-area women are involved in any number of hot-button issues. "We want to leave a better life for our grandchildren and the kids coming after them," says Granny Kathy. "We would like to leave a planet that is going to last them more than five years."
In the nearly one year they've been around, the Grannies have rung out with alternative Christmas carols during Detroit's Noel Night, protested the sale of war toys at JC Penney and harmonized for countless peace rallies. The Grannies have taken on the Detroit water shutoffs and are active in issues surrounding the environment, racial profiling and illegal detention. They even mustered a few tunes about the U.S.A. Patriot Act for Attorney General John Ashcroft's recent visit to Cobo Hall.
I had secretly been hoping
to leave our interview with some homemade jam or Nutter Butters
- or any other surprise treat of the grandma variety, really.
Instead, the Grannies three sent me home with reams of song lyrics
and a head heavy with political ideas. Before exiting, they had
me singing "Follow the Money" (to the tune of "Beer
Barrel Polka") at the top of my lungs. Although my frightful
singing voice inhibited me somewhat, I literally could not refuse.
As Granny Birdie says, "Who would have the nerve to oppose
Knitting?: Only if it's the social fabric.
Cookies?: Perhaps the odd Protest Wafer or some Campaign Reform Crunch.
Pump the Victrola: "Home, home on the job / Where we build smaller companies too / Where our working hours / Will provide more than towers / And child-care problems are few." (To the tune of "Home on the Range.")
Party On: The Raging Grannies are non-partisan, although they admit, "We think Bush has got to go."
21st-Century Grannies: www.geocities.com/raginggranni
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2003
The Raging Grannies met here this afternoon but Mercury Retrograde made things a bit tough. Everyone who came had obstacles to overcome, most of them having to do with expressway closures. It took Grannies Kathy and Birdie an hour to get here when it normally takes no more than thirty minutes. Grannies Barbara R., Judy B. and Barbara McG. got stuck on an expressway that closed with no warning. It took them two hours when it would normally have taken them no more than 45 minutes. Grannies Charlotte and Emily were delayed by a flat tire that, fortunately, Charlotte's son Barry was able to change for them. Granny Judy D., who lives just three miles from my house, was the only one who got here without a problem.
But even then, we had a wonderful gaggle gathering. We practiced five songs--four of them new--in preparation for next Saturday's rally and dinner for the Immigrant Workers Freedom Riders, and talked about upcoming events. We also had to say goodbye to our beloved Granny Birdie who is moving to Sacramento, CA. Lucky Sacramento! Granny Kathy had made an apple walnut cake from scratch this morning as a special farewell gift. It was delicious! Yes, journalist Amanda Hanlin, Raging Grannies can cook as well as RAGE.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2003
Granny Kathy says I say this after every Raging Grannies gig, but I don't care. This was the most deeply touching event I can ever remember. And one moment in particular. It was soon after the Immigrant Workers Freedom Riders had gotten off their buses and joined the crowd gathered around a flatbed truck with a sound system in an open field in Dearborn, Michigan. There were three busloads of women, men and children who had left Chicago this morning on their way to Washington, DC and then on to New York. Flags were waving, people were smiling and everyone was cheering. The Raging Grannies were introduced and we began to sing.
Well. It is one thing to sing in front of crowds when you're up on a stage or marching on the street, and quite another to sing to people who are so closely gathered around you that you could touch them. I'd introduced our songs by saying how honored we were to be with them today, and that we had written these songs especially for them. Even though many of the Freedom Riders speak Spanish and very little English, it didn't seem to matter. Somehow they seemed to know exactly what we were saying (singing) and often stopped us with cheers, and smiled with the biggest grins you could ever imagine. When we sang the Saints Go Marching In--with lyrics written for them--everyone sang along. Granny Charlotte had had a great idea and that was to write each verse on poster board and have the Grannies hold each one up when it came time to sing it. It worked wonderfully well. After we'd sung our two songs--a new one by Granny Kim called "You've Been Loading Up the Buses", and the Saints song--countless Freedom Riders came up to have their pictures taken with us. Several women hugged and kissed us. One came up, hugged me and said, "I knew God was with us when I saw you Grannies giving us so much love."
I will never be able to describe the beauty of these people. But a few of the pictures I took--#1, #2, #3--give some idea. Their beauty was so much more than physical. Whenever you are around persons of courage and strength, especially those who are putting their lives on the line for a matter of principle--as many of these undocumented workers are doing--you can feel it. I would imagine the original Freedom Riders during the 60s looked and felt much like the people we met today. What a privilege it was to be in their presence.
You can see all the pictures that friends and I took at the rally, march and dinner by going to my Raging Grannies/Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride photo album.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2003
The Raging Grannies met here this afternoon for our monthly gathering/rehearsal. What a glorious gaggle of women! I found myself looking around the circle--photos #1, #2, #3, #4--feeling such gratitude that they have come into my life. And I was gratified to learn during our eleventh month assessment--we celebrate our one year anniversary on November 9th--that they share my feelings. Not only that, but they expressed satisfaction with the way we organize, run our meetings, handle our gigs and make decisions as a gaggle. Jeanne's comment--"Why mess with success?"--was echoed by everyone in the circle. So, with a few minor adjustments, we will continue doing what we do as we are accustomed to doing it. A common thread throughout our discussion was the importance of bringing humor and song to the often deadly serious business of addressing what is out of whack in our world and needs to be changed. That's what we Grannies are all about.
What strikes me about our gaggle is how our individual gifts serve the common good. An example is songwriting.
Today GranMotoko brought an original song for the gaggle to sing to our ailing sister, Granny Helen. When she read my email last evening in which I invited our Grannies to stop by Granny Helen's house to sing to her after our meeting today, GranMotoko sat down and wrote the following song for us to sing to her:
To the tune of "I Dream of Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair"
I dream of Helen with
the light brown hair
Dressed in her Granny outfit with flair
I see her tripping where Injustices play
Raging as Big Business Corporations get their way
Many are the strong words her feisty voice does pour
Many are the boycotts she's led o'er and o'er
I dream of Helen with the light brown hair
Raging as a Granny for the causes we share
I long for Helen with
her day-dawn smile
Walking in silence with us single file
I see her sitting in that Methodist pew
Before we carried coffins along Woodward Avenue
Sighing for the victims of war-torn poor Iraq
Sighing for our troops whom we want safely back
I long for Helen and I want her well
Standing tall and singing loud our protests to tell
I wish for Helen who
can change what we write
Making words different, scanning them aright
I see her everywhere the Grannies rage
From Cobo Hall to Oakland U to the Wayne State stage
Many are the times she has stood for peace and right
Solid are the goals for which she'd fearlessly fight
I dream of Helen with the light brown hair
Raging as a Granny for the causes we share
Now, if you weren't feeling well, wouldn't this song perk you up? Especially as sung to you by women who love and admire you. That is true medicine.
GranMotoko, the songwriter, didn't stop there. During today's rehearsal, Granny Charlotte was leading us in songs the gaggle will be singing on October 25 at the 25th anniversary dinner of the Metro Detroit Grey Panthers. Granny Dolores, a member of the planning committee for that event, gave Charlotte several sheets of paper covered with information about medical care issues in Michigan. She said the Grey Panthers wanted the Grannies to make up a new song that addressed these issues and sing it at the dinner. We asked GranMotoko to see what she could do. She went into another room and within twenty minutes had returned with some word changes and a new stanza to an exisiting Granny song that would do the trick. Like magic!
Then there's Granny Charlotte who has written us two wonderful songs about domestic and foreign affairs. Today she asked Grannies Kathy and Emily to join her in singing a song she's written for Presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich, a song she'll be singing at a Kucinich brunch when he comes to town in a week. It cleverly helps people learn how to pronounce Kucinich's name by use of the tune "Doe, A Deer, A Female Deer" from the "Sound of Music"...but the lyrics are original. I think Kucinich will LOVE it!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2003
While most of our gaggle sings at the 25th Anniversary Dinner for the Gray Panthers of Michigan, Grannies Kathy and Patricia (and a brand new Granny, Gabriela) are in Washington, DC at the huge "End the Occupation/Bring the Troops Home Now!" rally and march organized by United for Peace & Justice and International A.N.S.W.E.R. Because of our visionary sister, Granny Vicki of Rochester, NY, the Raging Grannies are singing on the Main Stage at the rally!
To read and see what our
day was like, go to the DC
Peace Rally Photo Albums. There are two albums, so be sure
to click on the link to Album #2.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2003
Today our Raging Grannies Without Borders sang at a benefit for Solid Ground, Inc., an organization that is undertaking to build "24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week handicap-accessible transitional housing to accommodate families with children, the elderly, and mentally or physically challenged individuals." Granny Dolores is working with this group and invited the Grannies to come sing at a Spaghetti Dinner to raise funds for Solid Ground, Inc. Eight Raging Grannies showed up: GranMotoko, Grannies Kathy, Charlotte, Emily, Judy D., Bev, Dolores and Patricia (me). Before it was our turn to sing, we gathered in the hall of the church social center where the event was being held, so we could practice two new songs.
The first--"No Homeless No More!"--originally had lyrics written by the Kingston, Ontario Raging Grannies to the chorus of "Home On the Range", but no verses. After researching the group we'd be singing for today, one of our most talented songwriters--GranMotoko--added three new verses that spoke about the people their new transitional housing is intended to serve. Her song goes:
NO HOMELESS NO MORE!
(tune: Home On the Range)
O give me a home, so
I don't need to roam,
Where my children are safe and can play
Where seldom is heard a disparaging word
And there's plenty to eat every day
No homeless no more!
We call on you, open a door!
Let's get folks off the street
And back up on their feet,
All the lost, sick, the hungry and poor
O give me a home so
I don't need to roam
In my feeble helpless old age
Where seldom is heard a disparaging word
Just respect to have come to this stage
O give me a home so
I don't need to roam
Challenged physically, mentally too,
Where seldom is heard a disparaging word
Just kindness and love all day through
So GranMotoko taught us her new song and we practiced it until we felt comfortable. I then introduced another song about homelessness, one I'd also found in the Southwestern Raging Grannies Song Book. This one--"Youth Homelessness"--was from the Petersborough, Ontario Raging Grannies. It goes:
(tune: "All I Want"from My Fair Lady)
All I want is a room
Far away from the cold night air
With maybe a bed and chair--
Oh, wouldn't that be loverly!
Some kids might think
it's kinda neat
To be panhandling on the street
--Believe me, it's no treat,
It's anything but loverly!
Oh, for a place where
I could shower
And wash my clothes--
Maybe even have a door,
A door that I could close!
No one there to hassle
With my own place, I would feel so free;
The future might even be
Not so sca-a-ry.
When we got up to sing, we received good response to both of these songs and to our third song, yet another version of "The Saints Come Marching In" that Grannies Charlotte and Dolores had made up for today. We then enjoyed a delicious pasta dinner--they even had vegetarian choices!--and chatted among ourselves.
When I say that GranMotoko is one of our most talented songwriters, I must make clear that creativity is abundant in our gaggle and takes many forms. Just look at this Raging Granny doll that our co-founder Granny Kathy brought today to be our official mascot. GranMotoko had found the straw hat at a church rubbage sale and brought it to our October meeting/rehearsal. Granny Kathy took it home and sewed a new dress, apron, shawl and even a pair of white lace panties for a doll she'd made a few years ago. Apparently the doll was originally pregnant, but that had to change if she were to become a Raging Granny! Now she has a flat tummy, a peace pin on her bonnet, a song book in her apron pocket, pearl earrings, rose-colored suede shoes, and lovely (sheep's wool) hair pulled back in a bun.
Aren't our Grannies awesome?!?
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2003
There are times when you're so tired you can barely stay upright, but so filled with delight that you don't want to go to bed. That describes me at this moment. The Raging Grannies Without Borders met here from 2-5:30 PM for a First Birthday party and our regular monthly meeting/rehearsal. We had an exceptionally full agenda of items to discuss, as well as songs to practice for upcoming gigs, in addition to our special birthday sharing and feasting. For me as coordinator, today's meeting was preceded by three full days of preparations, the last of which was not completed until the Grannies started coming through my front door at 2 PM. Thank goddess for Granny Kathy who tidied up my kitchen, set out the food, and laid out piles of songsheets/papers on the dining room table while I was still upstairs completing three new song books. I couldn't have managed without her help.
We were fourteen in all, going around the room clockwise with Granny Josie to my left, then Magi, Judy D, Emily, Barbara, Judy B, Charlotte, Helen, Gabriela, Clare, Kathy, Bev and Dolores. You can pick us out in these photos--#1, #2, #3, #4--I took while we were practicing one of our new songs about homelessness. These were the songs we sang last Sunday at a benefit for Solid Ground, Inc., an organization that is working on a full service shelter (three meals a day, beds and lots of social programs) for the homeless in Macomb County, just north of Wayne County in which Detroit is located. On Monday, November 17, we Grannies will be singing these songs again at the Homeless Awareness Community Week Summit at the Fort Street Presbyterian Church in downtown Detroit.
We had much to discuss at our meeting. The first order of business was the question: Were we Raging Grannies Without Borders going to join MECAWI (Michigan Emergency Committee Against the War on Iraq) at their protest of the State budget cuts this coming Tuesday evening? The protest was scheduled to coincide with Governor Granholm's address to a handpicked audience in the studios of WDIV-TV/Channel 4. It would be held from 7-8:30 PM in front of their studios in downtown Detroit. Although the protest was being portrayed as an attempt to encourage the governor to "stand up to President Bush" and insist on money for human needs at home not for wars and occupations abroad, many of our Grannies feared the media would spin their coverage of the protest as an attack on Granholm.
Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, was elected in 2002 and inherited a huge mess left behind by Republican Governor Engler, whose priorities had favored Big Business to the detriment of services for the people. And now that the federal government's budget had eviserated any funds to states for schools, health care and social services, Michigan--and all the states--were having to cut essential programs from their budgets. Was this Governor Granholm's fault? Could she "stand up" personally to the Bush administration? And if she did, would it make any difference?
After going around our circle--photos #1, #2, #3--and hearing each Granny speak her piece, it became clear that our gaggle was not comfortable joining this protest. And so we won't. As Granny Kathy said, "We don't want to be seen as joining every protest in town. If we are, no one will listen to what we have to say, and we'll lose our effectiveness."
As our meeting continued, we discussed a number of upcoming gigs. We're to sing at the Detroit Women's Forum on December 12, 2003. It will be held at a very upscale restaurant--the Whitney--in Detroit. The organizers have offered to give free lunches to six Grannies, so I was trying to find out how many of us were interested in attending. When the number rose to fourteen, Granny Kathy suggested that we share the cost of ALL the lunches rather than having a handful go free and the rest of us have to pay. This is how we Grannies do things: we try to promote justice even in small matters.
We also discussed the strike of 50 workers at the Borders book store in Ann Arbor, which started today. This is an important strike in that it will affect thousands of workers across the world. Borders--which also owns Amazon.com and Waldenbooks--has resisted their employees' attempts to organize for years. One year ago, the Ann Arbor Borders' workers formed a union and started trying to negotiate a fair contract with management. Borders management offered union recognition, arbitration for discharge without just cause, and existing wages, benefits, and working conditions. By refusing to make any improvements in wages, benefits, and working conditions Borders is denying the workers fair conditions of employment and trying to bust the union. They have beaten nine previous union drives around the country by such stonewalling. As a former bookseller myself, I know what they're up against. When I worked at a Barnes & Noble book store here in Detroit from 1995-97, I was paid $5 an hour, which was the minimum wage at the time. After a year, they raised me to $5.25. Although I usually worked 30 hours a week, I had no benefits. Borders is somewhat better, but not a lot. The Grannies agreed to sing on the picket line in solidarity with the strikers at the Ann Arbor Borders next Saturday at 1 PM. I plan to write new songs for the occasion.
By the way, this meeting/rehearsal/celebration wasn't all talk and singing; feasting was also an important part of it. Two Grannies had baked fresh apple muffins and zucchini bread, I'd provided cheesecake, hot teas and apple cider, and others had brought treats as well. Because we had so much to accomplish, we didn't take time out to eat, but Grannies went back and forth between the kitchen and the living room all afternoon.
After finishing our meeting/rehearsal, it was time to have our birthday celebration. I'd asked each Granny to bring a memory of her favorite gig to share as her "gift." Because we'd already done so talking and we Grannies have to sing or die, I invited the community to sing one of our songs after every three sharings. We started with "Doo Dah", the song with which we'd introduced ourselves at most of our early gigs. By the way, when I say "gigs", I'm talking about all the 38 anti-war protests, high school and university teach-ins, Detroit water shut-off protests, Blue Triangle Network protests and gatherings of solidarity with the Muslim/Arab/South Asian communities in front of the INS and in Dearborn, peace and community group meetings/benefits, Detroit's Noel Night and Dally In the Alley, the Immigrant Workers Freedom Riders rally in Dearborn, the big Washington, DC anti-war demos, our own anti-war toys demo at JC Penney's last Christmas, and more. Every place, in fact, where our gaggle had RAGED for peace and justice in our year together. (You can read about and see photos of all of our meetings and gigs on our Raging Grannies Without Borders Journal web page.) Even our beloved Granny Birdie, who'd recently moved to Sacramento, CA, was with us as Kathy read aloud her postcard from her new home.
What a gift it was to hear each of us tell of a different Granny-moment that had meant a lot to us! And to sing some of the songs we'd written specifically for those events. As co-founder and coordinator of many of our events, this was as sweet for me as sipping nectar from a flower.
After taking a birthday portrait of the Raging Grannies Without Borders, I gave each of them the photo collage I'd made as my gift to the gaggle. By the way, if you're a Granny who was unable to attend this meeting/celebration, I have your collage waiting here for you. I'll give it to you the next time we meet.
You know it's been a successful gathering when folks leave with smiles on their faces. How fortunate we are to be Raging Grannies Without Borders!
As a postscript to today's
entry, I want to bring forth my
mother, who died
one year ago today. She would have loved the Raging Grannies and
they would have loved her. Much of who I am, I got from her. Thanks,
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2003
Today the Raging Grannies Without Borders mounted a solidarity RAGE with the striking workers at Borders Book Store #1 in Ann Arbor. We feel especially committed to the success of this strike since Borders management has busted nine attempts to unionize their stores across the country over the past years. Two of us Grannies have had personal experience of working for minimum wage at Borders and Barnes & Noble--the two bookselling giants--neither of which has unions representing their workers. Both Granny Gabriela and I were eager to offer support to booksellers like ourselves.
It was a cold, damp, glorious RAGE, one that obviously meant a lot to the striking workers and their supporters. Not only did the Raging Grannies lead the picketers in song, but the Radical Cheerleaders led cheers as well. It was the first time we Raging Grannies Without Borders had met the Radical Cheerleaders, although we'd certainly heard of them. And what wonderful young activists they are! Here is a group photo of intergenerational activists!
Grannies Kathy, Charlotte and Gabriela joined me on the picket line on this cold, rainy day. Actually the rain was only a drizzle until after we'd been there an hour or so. It was the kind of day that an umbrella was nice, but you didn't need serious protection.
We Grannies sang and marched on the picket line from 1-4 PM, with a little time off in the middle to warm up and get some hot soup at a local cafe. At 4 PM, I scooted back to the Michigan League where I planned to spend the night--I'd checked in before meeting the Grannies at Borders at 1 PM--and only had a half hour before it was time to meet my friends, Miki and Akira, for a sushi dinner followed by a jazz concert at the Kerrytown Concert House.
It was so good to spend time with them again. And the concert was even more incredible than I'd expected...and I'd expected a lot. This duo--Sylvie Courvoisier on piano and Mark Feldman on violin--gave a sophisticated jazz audience the kind of night we'll be talking about for years to come. "Jazz On the Edge'', for sure, but even Miki, who is not usually fond of experimental jazz, found their compositions harmonious and musically exciting. Then, as we passed Borders on the way back home after the concert, I spontaneously decided to stay and picket some more with the hardy strikers who were still at it. We sang and chanted until the store closed soon after 11 PM.
That was when I learned a bit about what it means to keep a picket line going. You're tired, it's late and you find yourself getting more and more irritated to see folks--folks who should know better--cross the picket line. Now, high school and even university students I could understand--what do they know of strikes?--but not gray-haired men and women who live in this union-centered part of the country. I could find no excuses for them. But we did have some young people stop their Saturday night activities to ask questions and let our leafletter educate them about why the Borders workers are out on strike. Some of the kids even marched, drummed and chanted with us for awhile. That made us all step more sprightly.
As I was leaving town on Sunday morning, I drove by Borders to take a couple of pictures and to honk in support. It was drizzling--as it had done most of yesterday--and there they were, still circling in front of Borders, carrying their signs and chanting.
There was one moment that, to me, summed up the heartfelt meaning of this strike. Hal--an 18-year employee of Borders; the one who has tried to negotiate a fair contract with Borders' management for a year--stood and sang for awhile with us Grannies after we'd returned from our lunch break. It was raining pretty steadily by then so we were under the roof overhang, trying to stay dry as we sang. I asked Hal what song he wanted to sing and he said, "Anything but the 'Saints.' That always makes me cry." Well, as it happened, we ended up going through all of the songs on the song sheet, and that included the 'Saints' song. I noticed Hal removed his glasses and wiped his eyes when we sang
When workers rise and
When workers rise and organize,
How I want to be in the number,
When workers rise and organize.
Grannies Solidarity Strike photo album is up and running.
May our small efforts help to make their strike successful. Please,
whatever you do, DON'T SHOP AT BORDERS!!!
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2003
Today--two days after that BIG DAY on Saturday--I awoke early so I could go to yet another Raging Grannies gig. This one was in downtown Detroit at the old, historic Fort Street Presbyterian Church. It was the kick-off for Homeless Awareness Week here in Detroit. Billed as a Community Summit, it brought together community organizers, social workers, social agency administrators, politicians, ministers, volunteers, bureaucrats--just about everyone who has worked on Detroit's serious homeless situation for years, many of them for decades. And it wasn't just those who work with and advocate for the homeless; the church was filled with folks who know this problem from the inside--the homeless themselves. On the panel were: Mr. Donald Whitehead, the young, formerly-homeless Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, DC; our own beloved Dr. Samuel Trent, who has been Director of the City of Detroit's Bureau of Substance Abuse for years (when he stood up to speak many men in the audience called out, "Thank you, Dr. Trent!"); the Rev. Faith Fowler, the powerful, truth-telling Executive Director of the Cass Community Social Services; Mr. Haywood of the Mayor of Detroit's Homeless Task Force; Mr. Higgins, a worker at COTS (Coalition on Temporary Shelter) who sang his message as well as spoke it; and Mr. Samuel Chambers, President of the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries and a well-respected community organizer who has recently returned home to Detroit after having worked on homeless issues with the Clinton Administration in Washington, DC. The panel was moderated by Mr. Tyrone Chatman, the dynamic Director of the Veterans Center in Detroit. GranMotoko, a very active member of Fort Street Presbyterian Church since 1969, had arranged for the Raging Grannies to sing our three songs about homelessness. We led off the program.
It was wonderful to look around as we sang and see heads nodding, smiles, and hear "You tell it, sisters!" and "That's right!" from the audience. It was especially heartwarming to see and hear such responses from the homeless folks about whom and in whose voices we were singing. My favorite kind of RAGING--when we sing for and to those who have no voice and deserve to be heard. Just what being a Raging Granny is all about. It was a true privilege.
And then it was a real
education to listen and learn more about this tragically unnecessary
problem from people who know what they're talking about, not just
as organizers and administrators, but often as formerly homeless
folks themselves. When Mr. Higgins ended his talk by going over
to the piano and singing his own composition based on the AA Serenity
Prayer, I thought to myself, "Only in Detroit!"
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2003
Sometimes the Raging Grannies make their own demo...and so it was today. Seven of us hardy Grannies--Magi, Judy D., Motoko, Charlotte, Jeanne, Sandy and I--stood in the cold in front of the US District Courthouse of the Eastern District of Michigan for 45 minutes and sang about freedom, specifically about the LACK of freedom that Attorney General John Ashcroft and his Patriot Act have brought to our fair land. Although the supporters I'd hoped would sing with us never materialized, the people for whom we were singing--the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) attorneys and members of the MCA (Muslim Community Association)--DID see and hear us. Their smiles, thumbs up and cheers made it all worthwhile.
Today was the first hearing in regard to the first lawsuit brought by the people against Ashcroft and the Patriot Act. Not the entire Act, but Section 215, which is the part that allows the FBI to have access to things like your Internet Service Provider's records of your emails and visits to web sites, your local library records, bank records, credit card records, medical records, employment records, membership records of any organization to which you belong, and, basically, whatever records they want. They don't even have to show "just cause." All they have to do is go before a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) judge--where all proceedings are conducted in secret--and say they need this information for an ongoing "terrorism investigation." As we all know, the big T word has a lot of latitude in post-September 11th United States, and can refer to just about anything and anyone the government chooses. This lawsuit was filed last July by the ACLU on behalf of six Muslim or Arab nonprofit organizations. Rabih and Sulaima's community--the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor--is the lead plaintiff.
Today's hearing was in response to the Justice Department's motion to have the lawsuit dismissed. According to an email I received before the hearing, "John Ashcroft asserts that: 1) the plaintiffs do not have "standing" to challenge Section 215 because they have not been injured; and (2) the act is constitutional. The ACLU has responded by: (1) showing in great detail how the Patriot Act has already injured its clients by chilling speech and activism among its members to the detriment of the organizations; and (2) explaining why the law violates the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches as well as the Due Process Clause and the First Amendment." Ann Beeson, the Associate Legal Director of the National ACLU, came in from New York to argue the case herself.
It was the first time I'd ever observed a court hearing like this. What struck me first of all was how long the attorneys were allowed to talk uninterrupted. Maybe that's not always the case, but it was today in US District Court Judge Denise Page Hood's courtroom. The second thing I noticed--and you'll see my prejudice here--was the government lawyer's tendency to do exactly what the Bush administration does: repeat lies over and over in the hope (assumption?) that repetition would make them true...or if not true, at least believable. Well, it didn't work, not for me nor for the majority of the people who filled the courtroom. The important question is, did his ploy work with the judge? I had good feelings about her. She was very attentive to everything that was said--if words were money, we'd all be rich--and I've heard positive things about her from my feminist friends. But, of course, I don't know the law nor do I know the pressures on her to support the government's position. Since she is the first judge in the country to hear a lawsuit against John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act, she is sitting in the proverbial hot seat.
When I say the government lawyer lied, I am talking specifically about several assertions he made: 1) that the plaintiffs have not been injured by Section 215 of the Patriot Act because it has not yet been implemented. Ask Rabih Haddad about that; 2) that if it were implemented, the person being investigated would have an opportunity to have a hearing by the FISA judge before the FBI obtained the personal information they wanted. That is totally untrue. In such a case, the person under investigation would have no idea the FBI was going to their library, ISP, doctor, employer or whomever and insisting--by law--that they give them personal records of the "suspect." Not only would the "suspect" be ignorant of this before the fact, but--because of the "gag rule" nature of Section 215--they would never know their records had been given to the FBI. For, with Section 215, the person or organization required to provide such records to the FBI must never tell the person under investigation that the FBI even asked them for such records, much less received them. If the "gag rule" were violated that individual or group would be held in contempt of court, a jailable offense; and 3) that the investigations where Section 215 would be implemented would only be in connection with serious threats to national security mounted by foreign intelligence suspects. Section 215 has already been enacted in ways that threaten free speech, not to mention the freedom of assembly. In a November 22 New York Times article--"FBI Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies"--it was reported that "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum."
Does this sound like a democracy?
But what DID sound like
a democracy was the impromptu
songfest that happened after the our
team of attorneys gave a press conference on the steps of
the courthouse at 4 PM. Most of the Grannies had already gone
home by then, but that didn't stop Ann Beeson and two of her associates
from joining Granny Judy D and me in singing
a couple of our favorite Raging
Grannies songs that target the Patriot Act. Even Fox News
picture of that!
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2003
This afternoon we Raging Grannies went to the Blue Triangle Network's Open House to celebrate the opening of their new national office here in Detroit. Not only did we sing, but we listened to very disturbing reports of what has been happening of late to persons of Muslim and Arab extraction, many of whom live in Southeastern Michigan. Would you believe 13,000 deportations as a result of last winter's "special registrations" of Arab, Muslim, South Asian and North Korean immigrants? As attorney Nabih Ayad said today, "We are one serious terrorist attack away from concentration camps."
But before the program even began, we Raging Grannies celebrated the birthday of one of our most faithful Grannies, Charlotte. And it was a special treat to see GranMotoko cradling the new Raging Grannies doll that she had envisioned and Granny Kathy had made.
We had a good gaggle in attendance with Granny Judy D, GranMotoko, Grannies Kathy, Magi, Patricia, Charlotte, Rose and Helen. We'd brought song sheets so everyone could join in as we sang our repertoire of songs about Ashcroft and the Patriot Act. Because we've raged so often on behalf of our Muslim and Arab sisters and brothers, we have LOTS of appropriate songs. And today we had an added treat when Mike Kelly, one of the BTN presenters, danced the Bush Barrel Polka with Granny Charlotte!
I often wonder how the American people would react if they really knew what was going on in relation to Bush and Ashcroft's domestic "War on Terror." Families torn apart as husbands, fathers, brothers and sons are deported for minor visa violations, violations that the INS caught last winter when they cast their net of "special registrations" of immigrant men 16 years and over from 24 Muslim, Arab and South Asian countries and North Korea. Not only are wives, children, mothers and sisters left here in this country--often with no way to make a living or support their families--but many of the men are thrown into dangerous situations back in their countries of origin. And don't think this is just happening to recent immigrants: it's not. A large percentage of the 13,000 men who have been or will be deported have lived in this country five years or more, some of them have been here for a decade or more. And it isn't as if they haven't tried to become citizens. The INS has a bad history of bureaucratic snafus and slow-downs. No, these are men who have raised a family, worked, maybe even owned their own business, paid taxes, and been law-abiding residents. And often the "visa violations" for which they are being deported are not their fault at all: often it is due to administrative errors on the part of that unwieldy INS bureaucracy. This could be your father, husband, son or brother. After all, aren't we nearly all descendants of immigrants?
Last winter's "special registrations" had another purpose besides discovering visa violations: now the government has a data base of 69,000 names, addresses, places of work and schools of Muslim, Arab, South Asian and North Korean men (not counting the 13,000 who have been or are scheduled to be deported). Gathering this data is all too reminiscent of the special registrations of Japanese Americans in the years before Pearl Harbor. When Pearl Harbor occurred, it took the US government three days to pick up and imprison thousands of Japanese American men, and two months to intern 110,000 men, women and children who lived on the West Coast. They already had all the names and addresses on file.
It is this historic precedent that chills us when we see the same thing happening now to persons of Muslim, Arab, South Asian and North Korean descent. Are there concentration/detention/internment camps already prepared, sitting ready for use at a moment's notice? Do a Google search of "concentration camps" and see what you find. It's easy to say this is paranoid thinking, but perhaps if the Japanese Americans had been a little more paranoid before Pearl Harbor in 1941, they might have been able to resist the rounding up when it happened. Or at least there might have been a support system of non-Japanese Americans ready to help.
That's what the Blue Triangle Network is trying to do today: sound the alarm ahead of time through education, organizing and advocacy. This opening of their national office and the redesign of their web site are important steps in that direction. And today's presentations by core members of the BTN--folks like Bob Parsons, Mike Kelly, Nabih Ayah and Theresa--helped us understand what we're up against in terms of the repressive treatment of persons of Muslim, Arab and South Asian descent in post-September 11th America.
For instance, Theresa is an American-born woman who is married to an Iraqi man. She told of a harrowing experience she and her husband recently had when they travelled to Iraq to visit his family who still live there and Theresa's daughter who is a member of the US military stationed there. Not only were they targeted to undergo special searches by Detroit Metro Airport's security personnel, but when they arrived back home, their luggage went "missing" for two days. When returned to them, Theresa's new suitcase was torn apart as if it had been ripped open by a knife, photos had been cut out of her photo albums and other personal items were missing. All this because her husband was born in Iraq.
After the BTN presentations and Raging Grannies' sing-a-long, a video was shown about the Japanese Americans' experience of internment during World War II, and their concerns that the same thing might happen to the Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in post-September 11th United States. Then Mark, another core BTN organizer, facilitated an excellent brainstorming session on how the Blue Triangle Network can become a national movement. We believe our work deserves the same level of commitment and support as the Civil Rights movement of the '60s and the '70s. My suggestions had to do with the effective use of the internet (surprise, surprise!).
If you want to donate
time and/or money to this worthy cause, go to the Blue
Triangle Network web site and check it out. We need people,
ideas, volunteers and money to do our work. And worthy work it
is. When I think of the Blue Triangle Network I always remember
these words of Pastor Martin Niemoeller, who was a concentration
camp survivor in Nazi Germany:
"First they came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, but by that time, no one was left to speak up."
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2003
Today the Raging Grannies sang at the monthly luncheon/meeting of the Detroit Women's Forum. It was held at one of Detroit's most elegant and expensive restaurants. There were thirteen Grannies in attendance, and fifty women in the room. Shaun Nethercott, the founder of the Matrix Theatre, was a presenter as well. Hearing this incredible woman speak about Detroit as a "power center"--not in the usual sense of the word, but in ecological terms--was worth all my foot-dragging and reluctance to be there.
Shaun spoke of the Detroit River, in particular, as a place of concentrated power. It funnels--on a very swift current--all the waters of the Great Lakes. At the city of Detroit itself, the river is only one mile from shore to shore (between Michigan and Ontario). To imagine one fifth of the world's fresh water flowing through that narrow seven mile-long strait gives some idea of why she calls this a place of "concentrated power."
And the land itself is unique in that four eco-systems exist here: 1) river; 2) forest; 3) marsh; and 4) prairie. From Zug Island, maybe five miles to the southwest of Detroit, all the way down to what is now Cleveland, Ohio, it was originally marshland. Marshes still exist, but have been filled in to build cities and such. Then prairie. Who would have thought that the prairie reached as far east as Southeastern Michigan? But it does. Shaun says wherever you see corn growing, you know that is prairie land. So the prairie starts just west of Lansing, which is only an hour and a half from Detroit.
She also talked about the fact that wherever you go in the Detroit metropolitan area, you find water in the form of lakes, rivers, streams and ponds. They're everyplace. Then she asked, "So why don't you see water in the city of Detroit?" Because the water was build over when the city was constructed. But that doesn't mean the water isn't still flowing underground. Shaun told us that Detroit is built on seven springs, and she took us through the city (through words) showing us where each one runs.
She also talked about the three tribes of Native Americans who lived here before the Europeans arrived. Our Spirit of Detroit statue at the heart of the city is on top of a sacred mound of the Ojibway. And Mound Road out in the northeastern suburbs was also on a sacred mound.
But the most fascinating story of all--the one that encouraged my Great Lakes Basin community of the O Beautiful Gaia CD project to write new verses to our songs after Shaun had spoken to them a year ago--was about the sturgeon. These ancient fish--twenty foot long, cartilageous fish from the era of the dinosaurs--used to run the Detroit River on their way to their spawning grounds. It is said that when the sturgeon ran there were so many that you could walk across the river on their backs. This was before the 1840s when the Europeans discovered that sturgeon eggs made excellent caviar. Within thirty years, their numbers went from millions to a remnant. Well, that remnant is coming back! Shaun has personally seen a school of twenty sturgeon, maybe five feet long, swimming in the Detroit River. And this year the state started preparing a breeding ground for them off the north end of Belle Isle, our city park. Another amazing fact about these fish is that they lived to the age of 130, and the females--who vastly outnumbered the males--only bred three times during a lifetime, the first time when they were twenty years old. The women loved hearing Shaun's dry comment that, "If you're only breeding three times in your life, you don't need many males."
Shaun Nethercott, who is originally from an old mining town in Wyoming and has only lived here in Detroit since 1989, has become a major holder of our region's stories. She and her husband Wes use their knowledge well as co-founders of the Matrix Theatre, a community-based theatre company made up of youth and adults in Southwest Detroit where they live. This amazing theatre company researches and writes its own plays. I have personally seen only two of their plays: "This Once Was Paradise" (a story of our bio-region from the time when creatures had it to themselves, and on into the 20th century when Detroit was the terminus of the Underground Railroad), and "Meadow Morphosis" (the ecological story of a o local meadow through the four seasons). In the first play I was allowed to be a sturgeon, and in the second I was asked to add song to the production (as part of a duet one day, and an ensemble the next). I think they are currently presenting "Harper's Ferry."
As I say, it was worth
the price of admission--discounted because we Raging Grannies
were singing--just to hear Shaun Nethercott tell us about the
land and waters which we can so easily take for granted.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2003
Today's monthly meeting/rehearsal was more of a group session devoted to the question of how we Grannies identify ourselves and how/when we speak when out singing as Raging Grannies. Even though our gaggle does its best to stir clear of "rules"--just you try to get a group of feisty older women to stand for rules!--occasionally things happen that require the group to discuss and come to a consensus about what it means to be a Raging Granny and how we choose to do it.This was one of those times.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2003
From Geneviéve, a wise woman I know who lives in British Columbia, I received the following email:
The reason that the last two days of being a Raging Granny have been hard for you is that the very base rock of the idea of a Raging Granny has been somewhat perverted. I mean that I think that the original and continuing ideal of a Raging Granny has always been:
--acting out in unexpected and outrageous ways that are deliberately kept ludicrous (hence the costumes) so that one might say whatever one wants and people who might otherwise have to take offence will not be able to react in a serious, violent manner. It is almost like being a clown who can taunt and tease and the recipient does not have society's approval to get angered by it. That is why the Raging Granny who got up and talked seriously about things that angered her was out of line. A Raging Granny must always keep the personae of the outrageous so that everything that must be said can be said (ie., serious actions will result in serious reactions which can terminate the ability to say anything anywhere). Do you understand what I mean?
--as well, Raging Grannies are like the coyote in native lore---poking and prodding the foibles of mankind so that they are exposed. Coyote, by his humourous trickster nature exposed the faults and weaknesses of mankind. Raging Grannies do the same. People hearing and seeing them laugh, but also understand. And those being exposed cannot react violently without making themselves appear more foolish.
--Raging Grannies are not there for entertainment, I agree. I think that being a Raging Granny should be reserved for those times when things need to be stirred up, when things need to be prodded, and when there are serious things that need to be addressed by exposing the ludicrous by being ludicrous.
--Raging Grannies are treated with affection because of the very clownlike, unexpected and poking-at-foibles quality of their actions. Never, never, never should it be anger-then-forgiveness. That action exposes grannies to harm. It would be like a clown taking off his costume and then doing all the outrageous things he does as a clown. It would not be funny and he would treated with anger. Grannies must keep that personae of humour or those opposing them will have the opportunity to take them seriously and harm them. That is why anything but the outrageous is inappropriate. It is the old "many a truth is said in jest" principle.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 1, 2004
Do I believe peace is possible? NOW I do, after experiencing today's One Day in Peace with a Global Family Potluck at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Yes, I do. When you see a room full of children, women and men of different religions/no religion, of different races and cultures, from every continent and so many countries I couldn't keep count of them all, people who speak different languages, eat different kinds of food, have different politics and life experiences...if these people can meet in peace, form coalitions dedicated to peace, listen with respect to one another and sit down at table and eat together as one family, then you KNOW peace is possible. Not only possible, but a reality here and now. And it was the children who showed us how to do it, who led us in The World Pledge for Peace. Together, young and old raised our right hands and proclaimed aloud:
allegiance to the world,
to care for earth and sea and air,
to cherish every living thing,
with peace and justice
This was the third January 1st that One Day in Peace--nationally proclaimed as such by President Bill Clinton in his final days in office--had been celebrated in this way at this mosque. We had Iman Mohammed Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom and Detroit Congressman John Conyers, Jr. to thank for co-hosting the event. Not just them, but all the people behind the scenes who worked untold hours coordinating the many parts of this celebration. And we Raging Grannies were honored to join the wonderful MC, Fadwa Alawieh, the girls from the Islamic Academy, speakers on behalf of the American Indian community, other community leaders, and especially the children.
We've tried war, now let's
SUNDAY, JANUARY 18, 2004
Tomorrow Detroit will hold its annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr birthday celebration; last Friday would have been his 75th birthday. Somehow I find it surprising that he would have been so young had he lived--just one year older than my dear husband Ed.
What would our country be like today had Dr. King been able to live the long life he deserved? What would he be saying about the current US president's choices for preemptive wars, civil rights-defeating bills like the US Patriot Act, over-bloated defense budgets and underfunded social and education programs? How would he see a federal deficit amounting to trillions, a deficit that will be left as a monstrous legacy to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren?
Would all this be happening if we had a national leader of the stature of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? I wonder.
So tomorrow at noon, Detroiters and suburbanites of all ages, races, religions, economic and educational backgrounds, countries of origin and political beliefs will meet at Central Methodist Church--the "peace church"--and at 1 PM, those of us who are able, will walk, scoot, wheel down Washington Blvd., circle around the US Federal Building on Michigan Avenue, and head back toward the church for an indoor--bless them!--rally to be held from 2-4 PM.
The organizers say we will honor "the peace and social justice legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...The rally will feature local speakers, music and a public demonstration calling for an end to the occupation and to bring the troops home now!"
The Raging Grannies Without
Borders have been invited to sing two songs at the rally. The
first will be Rochester, NY Granny Vicki Ryder Lewin's "Follow
the Money" (a song that tells in no uncertain terms who profits
from the war on Iraq), and our second song will be one I recently
adapted from a William Wolff song that one of our Grannies found
in an old Unitarian-Universalist songbook. It goes like this:
WE SING OUT FOR FREEDOM
(tune: We Gather Together)
We Grannies here gather to sing out for freedom,
To join with all people and make justice known.
No dark inquisition will sway our disposition,
In freedom's name we sing for the planet, our home.
So people of conscience, refuse to stay silent,
And dare to reclaim all the rights that are ours.
We make no concession to tyranny's oppression,
Our faith is in the people and their sov'reign pow'rs.
This day as we gather to sing out for freedom
Our voices join others who circle the earth
Together our efforts are tearing down the barriers
So freedom, peace and justice can now come to birth
MONDAY, JANUARY 19, 2004
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATED
"The hope of a
secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists
who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood."
- Martin Luther King Jr., "Strength to Love", 1963
I consider myself one of the most fortunate persons on earth to be part of such an authentic community of disciplined nonconformists who spend their lives working for peace, equality, freedom and civil rights for all. When Detroiters come together as we did on this cold January day to march, chant, sing and speak our commonly held beliefs, then I know peace is possible. We truly are one family united in the struggle for justice. We are working to bring our troops home, to see that our children and elderly have water and heat in their homes, to support our women who are trying--often by themselves--to raise their children, to combat police brutality on our streets and in cities like Miami where the FTAA protesters were beaten, abused and fired upon, to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian sisters and brothers both here and on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, to establish a US Cabinet-level Department of Peace, to confront our president's lies with Truth...and not to remain silent, no matter what the consequences.
TO SEE MORE PICTURES,
GO TO MY MLK MARCH 2004
JANUARY 20-MARCH 19, 2004
For two months I was either remiss in putting up journal entries for our Grannies' gigs and meetings, or had to miss attending them altogether. I'll try to be better from now on ;-)
SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 2004
On this last day of winter, we here in Michigan awoke to rain, rain, rain. And so it continued until Granny Judy Drylie and I got close to Ann Arbor, an hour rive from our homes on the east side of Detroit. And for three magical hours the rain held off, allowing 2500 of us to join our voices to those of people the world over in saying, singing, chanting, "The World still Says NO to war!"
Nine of us Grannies--including Marilyn, who sang with the Pittsburgh gaggle and just moved to Michigan--sang at the pre- and post-march rallies, as well as singing as we marched. The drummers were right behind us which certainly helped! When we performed it was such fun to see the smiles, hear the laughter, have to stop and start again because of all the cheers, and have the crowd sing along with us of their own accord. We were the only ones who got yells of "More! More!" and "Encore!" Most gratifying.
For me personally there was a challenge that, with the help of Phillis (the director of the AAACP and main organizer of today's event), a sound technician and my Granny sisters, was remedied. The Grannies and I had taken the ramp to the top of the library steps at the Diag, but the sound equipment they were using for the rally couldn't reach up there. So when it came time for the Grannies to sing, we had to figure out how to get me and my disability scooter down to the microphone. We managed this seemingly impossible feat when the sound technician and another fellow offered to carry my scooter down the steps, and I assured them that I could make my own way down by holding tight to the railing. Coming back up was more of a challenge, but with Phillis Engelbert's thoughtful assistance, I made it safe and sound. Anything for peace!
I've created an online photo-journal web page of the day: "The World Still Says No To War!" Ann Arbor March/Rally.
©2002-2004 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.