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  • Edith Cresmer

Gray Panther Partner Profile: The Granny Peace Brigade

On October 17, 2022, the Granny Peace Brigade NYC (GPB) observed its 17th anniversary. Most of our heads are gray, like the Gray Panthers and Barbara Fritchie, the 95-year-old memorialized in "The Ballad of Barbara Fritchie," who had an American flag flying outside her home as Confederate soldiers marched by on their way west in September, 1862.

Our motto still holds: We will not be silent. In fact, there are now more issues to be addressed than in 2005 when in opposition to the Iraq War, 18 Grannies blocked the entrance to the Times Square Recruitment Center, now dubbed a "Career Center". In the years since, our work has focused on opposing the forms of violence that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. denounced in 1967 - militarism, poverty and consumerism.

To that list, we must now add the irreparable damage done to our climate and the dangers confronting future generations, our grandchildren, and children everywhere.

One example is our challenge to militarism in our schools through the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps - JROTC - a program the Pentagon finally admits needs to be scrutinized.

The NY Times has published a series of articles on the abuses and sexual harassment in JROTC that the military has ignored for years. At a November 16th Congressional hearing on the known 58 cases of abuse, one House member suggested “temporarily shutting the program down”.

For years, NYC taxes have subsidized this program, taking funds from our NY Education budget to pay whatever the Pentagon does not cover.

Our schools should not be engaged in training students to be soldiers - we need well rounded students who understand what true security means: Knowledge-based study of arts, sciences, and humanities that informs and prepares one to contribute to others.

When the Department of Defense has $843 Billion to spend, it hardly needs New Yorkers to help pay its bill! In the original GPB action in 2005 one of the Grannies arrested was Judy Lear, then national convener for the Gray Panthers. We were linked to the Gray Panthers through her, and she reported regularly at our meetings on her work and travels insofar as they related to peacemaking.

From the beginning, Gray Panther members have stood with the Granny Peace Brigade. The Gray Panther name lent a measure of heft and stature to our efforts. Several GPB members have been honored by the Gray Panthers, including Lillian Pollak, who was included in a United Nations declaration about Aging Seniors; and Marie Runyon, former New York State Assemblywoman who fought for housing rights. Jack Kupferman is tireless in his advocacy and inspires us to keep on keepin' on -- Marie's mantra !

The mission of Gray Panthers affirms life-giving support for those of us who have been fortunate to live into our "golden years." That is our work as well.

Networking is of great importance among us who have the life experience and understand that "Another World IS Possible."


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