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September 4th, 2008

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Five Grannies and a fella pitch ‘Opt Out Option’ at East Harlem Teen Fair.

August 30:  Educational and career outreach, health information, and support groups for teens and families along with food, music, face painting and fun — City Council Rep, Melissa Mark Viverito sure knows how to throw a party. Nydia, Judy, one Joan and both Barbaras are joined by our new friend, Kevin, from Brooklyn for Peace. Our table is set up with stacks of Opt-Out forms, Truth in Recruiting information, information about alternative opportunities to the military and candy — lifesavers and lollipops. Turns are taken holding down the table as the others fan out to engage the young participants and their parents.

Teen Fair table - group

We weave through the crowd, distributing the forms and starting conversations. Several other organizations and their representatives are working the room, offering us opportunities for further networking including the Education Advocate from State Senator Jose Serrano’s office, the Executive Director of Peace on the Street, and representatives from the Center for Employment Opportunities, Harlem Drummers, CodePink and AmeriCorp dedicated activists who are all doing important are work with high school students on non-military educational and career options.

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The crowd is lively, responsive and receptive to our message. One thing is very clear, in the world of “No Child Left Behind”, all too many parents and kids are not getting the facts about the Opt Out Option. The vast majority of people we talk to – moms, dads and even their ‘too cool’ teenage offspring – are deeply grateful for the information we give them.

A young video crew from MNN Youth Channel asks to interview us about our work and we are more than pleased to get in front of their cameras. As soon as we get a broadcast date and time, we’ll let you all know.

To all of you folks who are so generous in your praise of the Granny Peace Brigade, who often ask us, “But what can I do?”, here is a suggestion.

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Go on our website – www.grannypeacebrigade.org – and click on the section about Counter Recruitment. Read up on what we’ve been doing, take a look at our videos and download and print out some Opt Out forms. Counter recruiting is something you can do on a spontaneous basis — you don’t need banners, buttons, maps, permits or anything other than a good opening line and a smile. Grab a friend (like swimmers, counter recruiters should use the Buddy System) stake out a spot near a hub for teenagers and/or their parents — then get busy! Prepare to be welcomed (sometimes hesitantly) and thanked (often effusively) — and when you’re done, be secure in the knowledge that you have helped build a more peaceful and just world.

Okay, get out there — and keep in touch. We can learn so much from each other and there is much for us all to do.

Peace,
Barbara Harris & Fran Sears with Barbara Walker, Joan Pleune, Judy Lear, Nydia Leaf, Kevin (a college student working with Brooklyn for Peace)

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