Category Archives: Poems & Songs & Stories

Carol Husten Presente

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Oh Carol, Old Pricey,
I have known for several years now Carol from the Granny Peace Brigade and Peace Action. For me, she was like a tree,strong protective,seemingly eternal- but a tree with a great sense of humor. When the Grannies made a trek from New York to DC in 2006, we created actions and performances along the way. Carol had the idea of embodying the odious Barbara Bush: with a white wig and large pearl necklace, she hilariously impersonated the cold calculating mother of the mindless, scary cipher occupying the White House.

After she returned from a trip to Palestine,like all of us who have had the privilege of actually traveling there and meeting many of the incredibly courageous and resilient Palestinian people, Carol was changed. Not that she didn’t have great empathy for the terrible situation before she went. But having seen the brutality and destruction of the Israeli Occupation first-hand, she called a meeting and we formed a Palestine Committee, gathering in her beautiful kitchen, fortified by an abundance of delicious ethnic specialties from the neighborhood. Unfortunately, her hard work didn’t result in the range of actions she and we hoped for and I think this was a disappointment for all of us.

Even when she became ill and was unable to come to meetings or be physically present, Carol was with us. In one of her emails, she made suggestions about whom to contact and what research to do, adding ” Can I be on the phone. (Listening to all u r planning???”)

Carol never hesitated to speak her mind. She was always thinking, planning, working to solve the problem and bring light to every issue. I can hear her wonderful gravelly voice telling me: “Annie, here’s what we gotta do”, and off she went, ideas, creative ideas, overflowing.

Overflowing. A word I associate with Carol. Ideas, laughter, love, kindness, endless generosity, overflowing, all without an ounce of self-interest. When she was interviewed for Ahmad’s film on the grannies, Carol said,2006-09-19_un_protest_Ann photo

“I often think to myself, “You could be playing bridge.You could be playing tennis. But there is something inside of me that does not allow me to just go and make believe that nothing is going on in this world.” 2006-09-19_UN-protest

Carol’s home overflowed with beauty and hospitality, her heart overflowed with love for her family and endless pride in her grandchildren, and with boundless love and respect for all people, everywhere.

When I received the shocking news that Carol had died, the words of a popular song immediately came to mind:

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down…

Sail on, silver girl.

You are extraordinary.

We will always miss you.

– Ann Shirazi
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Thoughts on being alone in a cage

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I’ve been lucky. Every time I’ve been in a cage by myself, I’ve known that people are watching out for me, people on the outside and on the inside. I also know that my time in solitary  won’t last very long.

Parchman Prison’s maximum security unit, Parchman Mississippi – 1962. Joan spent five weeks in first cell on right 54 years ago. (AP Photo)

Now, I need to convince my AUTONOMIC nervous system of that–you know, the part of the brain over which you have little control, the one responsible for fear, anxiety, and terror. The one where the best you can say to yourself is, “Breathe in, breathe out. Don’t start screaming or rattling the cage.”  On July 23 in 2014, Martha, Claire, Erica, Felton and I were arrested at Hancock AFB protesting the manning of drones from that base.  We were placed  in a general pop cell with other prisoners. It was filthy and uncomfortable, but there were some pretty cool women to socialize with. Much of our time that first day was spent “in the circle,” an area in front of the officers’ desk with a television and a phone. Such luxury! One  by one, we went off to see the nurse. One of the routine questions asked by the nurse was whether we would agree to a tine (TB) test. I told her there wasn’t much point in that, I would test positive, the same as I’d been doing for the past 40 years. That was that. The nurse’s eyes filled with tears and I was escorted to a filthy cell with a one inch mattress and no sheet by a not nice man. I would be there until they could x-ray me. There were no other people within hearing distance. My pulse was racing. My body resisted. I asked for a magazine. Hah! I was gonna have to survive being incommunicado all by myself. The toilet was in the front of the cell and across the cell block I could see a male trustee standing there staring at me. He was there all night. I later decided his job was to keep an eye on me. Although he probably couldn’t see me peeing, he could see me wiping myself (assuming he wanted to, of course). My trustee’s voice was the only voice I would hear for the next 18 hours. He brought me my meals and always said a few words. The next day Bill Cutty from Jail Ministries came to see me. He knew I was incommunicado and scared. He asked if I wanted to be bailed out. I told him I would try it for another day, even though I was convinced that if I had a heart attack, I’d be a goner. What a gutsy girl I am! I thought often of Chelsea Manning and Jose Padilla and how they survived years of this. All this happened on Wednesday/Thursday. I guess Wednesday was the night they chose to pick up young men on old bench warrants. One beautiful young man after another was brought into the holding area way across the cellblock from me. They were dressed in tank tops and shorts, not suitable for an overly air-conditioned jail cell. Some were as panicky as I was. I remember one grinding his feet into the cement outside the cell and begging three aggressive officers not to push him into the cage. They did. Then he screamed and screamed and pounded on the glass. Maybe these officers are so mean because they too are in jail. I don’t think anybody should be in a cage, not even Bush and Cheney.

– Joan Pleune
for the Granny Peace Brigade

PS. This year when I was put in solitary, I was much better at it. Maybe I learned that they don’t forget about you.

If you’re in jail you gotta have commissary.

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Editors Note:
Hancock Anti-Drone Resisters Jailed Last Night (7/29)
Posted on July 30, 2015
Four anti-drone resisters were sentenced Wednesday night in Judge Joseph J. Zavaglia’s DeWitt (NY) Town Court for alleged trespass at a “die-in” on April 28, 2013 at Hancock Air Base…
All four were identically sentenced to one year’s conditional discharge… Both Pleune and Rice told Judge Zavaglia, through their attorney Lewis Oliver, that they would not agree to the conditional discharge – which led him to sentence the two to 15 days in Jamesville Penitentiary. Pleune and Rice were taken from court in handcuffs.

A week after Bev and I got home from our week long stint at the Jamesville Correctional Facility, I went on line and put some greenbacks into the commissary account of the young woman who pressed three books into my hands as I was led into THE PIT my first night there. The guards didn’t really want to put me in solitary. It’s just that there wasn’t another available room at the inn. Anyway, back to putting money in Sal’s commissary account. When I told her about my intention and asked for her prison number, she told me not to do it. She told me that the first $25 would go to pay her fine for telling an officer to be intimate with  himself. I guess we can say that I decided to get the credit for that pithy curse. I also threw in enough for a little radio (to be used only with a headset) and  for a few toiletries too, although she had told me that the radio is the most important thing for her sanity. Not so shampoo, I guess. Usually I’d be all about the shampoo, but the importance of the radio (with headset!) I really get. You could almost skip the radio. I’d settle for the earmuff-like headset. Jail is noisy!! A lot like an indoor shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon.  But back to the commissary. If you’re in jail you gotta have commissary. You want a comb? Buy it yourself. The same for paper, a pen, coffee, deodorant, shampoo, and shoes you can actually walk in. Need pajamas or long johns, buy them yourself or get your family to send them. Only white ones. The list goes on and on.   Those without funds or friends have greasy hair.  One cute little thing that Jamesville does is on Friday night, inmate relatives can order dinner from a selected restaurant for their prisoner.  I imagine some administrator is getting a chunk of change from that restaurant. As you can imagine, there aren’t a whole lot of women who get this goody, but some do.  Like everywhere , jail has its haves and have nots. But mostly have nots.

– Joan Pleune
for the Granny Peace Brigade

 

Notes on Jail Time in “The Ville”

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Editors Note:
Hancock Anti-Drone Resisters Jailed Last Night (7/29)

Posted on July 30, 2015 by ucgdew
Four anti-drone resisters were sentenced Wednesday night in Judge Joseph J. Zavaglia’s DeWitt (NY) Town Court for alleged trespass at a “die-in” on April 28, 2013 at Hancock Air Base, home to the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard, just north of Syracuse, NY. At their four-day trial this past June trial the six-person jury acquitted the four of disorderly conduct and obstruction of government administration…

All four were identically sentenced to one year’s conditional discharge, $250 fine, $125 court costs and a two-year order of protection. Both Pleune and Rice told Judge Zavaglia, through their attorney Lewis Oliver, that they would not agree to the conditional discharge – which led him to sentence the two to 15 days in Jamesville Penitentiary. Pleune and Rice were taken from court in handcuffs.

Hi All,

Joan Pleune and I refused to accept the one-year Conditional Discharge. I would rather do the jail time than curtail my first amendment rights of protest and assembly for a year. We were released after serving seven days of our fifteen-day sentence for trespassing at the Hancock Air Base. We were incarcerated at the Onondaga County Jail at Jamesville, New York. We earned five days for good behavior and three days for jail time served after the April 2013 arrest while we awaited bail payments.

Syracuse and the surrounding area have many pockets of poor Blacks and Whites. There were fifty-three women in our building. Our cell block could hold sixty-two, but some rooms were being painted. A fight broke out on the other cell block and four women were in lockdown in our isolation area called “the bubble.” Some food was stolen by the male inmates in kitchen jobs.  Six inmates on our cell block had their urine tested for drugs, were strip searched and had their cells tossed looking for drugs. They all became sick and the guards thought they might be having withdrawal symptoms. The test results had not come back when I left, but the guard told me 99% to 100% they would test positive for drugs. One girl was in there because her boyfriend shot the owner of the car they were stealing. The other inmates were critical of her because she showed no remorse. The women were in jail for various crimes due to their drug use.

We were identified as “The Protesters” and “The Golden Girls”. The other inmates were helpful and friendly to us.  They were very curious about our actions at Hancock Air Base, what drones are and how they are used in the Middle-East.  We had a six-month-old baby sharing a cell with her mother and another two girls were pregnant. They will deliver their babies in jail and have their babies with them while they serve time.

Some inmates were in lockdown for offenses. Some rarely came out of their cells at all. The eldest was 67 years old and looked much older. The inmates whom we became friendly with said they were using heroin when arrested. Most of the younger inmates looked so clean and bright because they were now drug free.

The food was starchy with loads of soy cooked in the shape of….meatballs, sausages, patties, baloney, all of it yucky. We shared much of our food with other inmates. A GED program and AA meetings seemed to be the only  activities offered. There were books – plenty of raggedy paperback romance books and two  bibles. I did find “The Scarlet Letter.” And two children’s books were fairly interesting. One was written by the author of “Bambi” , the other by a great-great granddaughter of Charles Dickens. Yes, another inappropriate book, “Poetry and Short Stories”  by Dorothy Parker. I wonder if I was the only person who ever picked it up to read.

I have another open case at the DeWitt court house; most likely the trial will be early next year.  I’m interested in seeing or hearing about some of my fellow inmates again. I hope they gain sobriety, self-control and make a better future for themselves.

– Bev Rice
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Memories of Cuba – Emma Otero

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[On July 20, 2015, the United States and Cuba re-established formal diplomatic relations after a rupture and embargo in 1961.  Lillian Pollak, oldest active Granny Peace Brigade member (100) reflects on it.  Ed.]

The histories of the United States and Cuba have been linked for years in countless ways. From the time I was 15, I was attracted to the island’s peoples and cultures and later, as a student, to its politics.  I write these short memories that go way back in the hope that some of my experiences will interest you.

Emma Otero was a plump dark beautiful 19-year-old Cuban coloratura soprano who lived with her family across from me on 156th Street in Washington Heights. During early mornings the entire neighborhood was held captive by the sweetness of her voice drifting through the open windows. I was often invited to the Otero’s living room where Emma who was delightful and gracious would sit and play us songs like the “Peanut Vendor”, the languorous melodies of “Syboney” and the tango rhythms of “Green Eyes” (Aquellos Ojos Verdes), Cuban songs that were very popular in the late 20’s and 30’s.

Emma never succeeded in satisfying the hopes of the wealthy and politically ambitious Gerardo Machado who funded her family.  President from 1925 until 1933, Machado aspired to make Cuba “The Switzerland of the Americas” by employing architects to recreate neoclassical designs similar to those in the United States capital buildings.

With time my family and I moved away. I lost track of Emma although I looked for a music career that never appeared. But I never forgot the sweet hot chocolate that I drank in her living room and the warmth and hospitality of my neighboring Cuban family.

– Lillian Pollak
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Happy Birthday Lillian!

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One of the first warm and sunny days of 2015 set the tone for a gala birthday party celebrating 100 years of Granny extraordinaire Lillian Pollak. The spacious and light-filled community room and terrace on West 57th Street held at least 100 happy guests, comprising an impressive diversity of family, friends and comrades in attire ranging from payis and yarmulkes to kaffiyehs and political tee shirts. A large bulletin board was adorned with many photos spanning Lillian’s life, from the early 1920s, through Adolescence, marriage, children and activism. (In one photo, she poses with Trotsky.) A great band played songs popular during Lillian’s youth while guest sampled salmon, spring rolls, and other tasty finger foods, along with an inviting  array of assorted desserts and, of course, birthday cake. The Raging Grannies led a singalong of their favorite numbers (including  a solo verse by Lillian, performed without wearing glasses!), followed by a rousing  “Happy Birthday” toast, “For She’s a Jolly Good Granny” and “Lillian is unstoppable, another world is possible”. Guests mingled and shared “Lillian stories” while the Birthday Girl held court for over three hours until her family had to announce that the party was over and ushered lingerers to the door. It was an exciting day for Lillian, and certainly exhausting.

Lillian Pollak
Lillian Pollak

 

But there she was the next day, on the corner of 96th and Broadway, protesting the Israeli Occupation with Jews Say No!

Lillian, you are a wonder! You have earned every one of your 100 years!

– Ann Shirazi
for the Granny Peace Brigade

GRANNIES target TARGET: Don’t buy war toys!

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The Granny Peace Brigade, together with the NY Metro Raging Grannies targeted TARGET, Brooklyn on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 with the annual campaign “Think Before You Buy” encouraging shoppers to consider purchasing gifts that prepare children to be compassionate, responsible adults instead of gifts that glorify violence and foster aggression.


The sound of music was in the air with the cleverly re-worded Christmas carols, reflecting the messages of peace, justice, ending poverty, no guns among others. The well crafted handout was seen to be carefully read by the passers by; the idea to avoid purchasing toy guns, for example was well received, in view of the horrific police murders of both children and adults holding toy weapons around  the country this year.

I continue to be overwhelmed by the creativity of the Grannies in re-working the traditional carols and well known songs with words appropriate to the themes of stopping war, promoting peace and justice…..the true spirit of this holiday.

For those who missed this action, an example of just one of the songs, this one by GPB/RG Corinne Willinger:
Don’t Buy War Toys (Tune: Frere Jacques)
“Don’t buy war toys, don’t buy war toys
For girls or boys, For girls or boys
Let the children learn
Let the children yearn to,
Live in Peace, Live in Peace

“With wishes to all for a peaceful holiday season”

– Marty Rajandran
for the Granny peace Brigade

NY TIMES GOT IT WRONG

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Sisters and Supporters,

We of the Granny Peace Brigade epitomize the revolt of seniors.  Our “silver revolution” is certainly not muted and if our persistent, consistent actions for peace which we demonstrate with our physical bodies and our vocal cries, exhortations for peace, against the violence of war, poverty, racism, militarism, and materialism is viewed as passive then we must intensify our activities and our solidarity with the oppressed, dispossessed not only in these United States but around the world.

A boy stands at the site of suspected U.S. drone attacks in the Janikhel tribal area in Bannu district of North West Frontier Province in Pakistan, November 19, 2008 Photo: REUTERS (Click on photos for larger images.)
A boy stands at the site of suspected U.S. drone attacks in the Janikhel tribal area in Bannu district of North West Frontier Province in Pakistan, November 19, 2008 Photo: REUTERS (Click on photos for larger images.)

 

A relative of the 10 members of the Deeb family weeps at their funeral in Jabaliya refugee camp. The victims died in an Israeli strike on a a UN run school the previous day - Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA
A relative of the 10 members of the Deeb family weeps at their funeral in Jabaliya refugee camp. The victims died in an Israeli strike on a a UN run school the previous day – Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

We STAND UP for a transformation of the values of this world society.  We are no summertime soldiers. Like the evergreens surrounded by the bleakness of winter snows, we STAND OUT with the passion and wisdom of our years and with the love we  have for all living things.

Sisters, it was so good to see you in my Lower East Side yesterday marching for peace and against nuclear war. Nothing muted about us!

Peace, Power, Love

– Vinie Burrows
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Our Friend and Comrade Pat DeAngelis

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The Granny Peace Brigade has been going strong for so long-since October 2006 – that despite our collective advancing age, we have not thought about losing one of our members. Many grannies would agree that age is just a number, and our ages span approximately 30 years, from the late 60s to the late 90s. So it was with shock and sadness that we record the sudden loss of our granny Pat DeAngelis, from a stroke in December 2012.

Pat was an esteemed part of the group, offering valuable insight and suggestions  regarding the various functions of the GPB, always with a calm but knowledgeable presentation.

SONY DSC(Click on the photos for larger images.)

Tall, slim with a ready smile, Pat participated as often as possible, given that she was still working full time at the Cooper Union.

Pat DeAngelis  grew up in the Bronx, attended Hunter High School and the College of New Rochelle. Her conversion to Catholicism led to her decision to join a cloistered order in which, over ten years, she took vows of silence and performed manual labor. She then joined  another order dedicated to helping the poor in various countries. Returning to the US, Pat moved to the Lower East Side, where she became an integral part of her building and the larger community, working with Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker. In 1983 she worked at The New School, followed by almost 15 years in the School of Architecture at The Cooper Union.

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During this time, Pat joined Women in Black and the Granny Peace Brigade, continuing her life of service and commitment while holding full time employment. She was active in support of Occupy Wall Street and her years in an academic setting gave her an appreciation of and relationship with many students.

On December 17, 2012, Pat suffered a stroke, remaining in a coma for six days in Hospice. She died on December 23. Many of her friends were with her in her last days to say farewell.

On February 9, 2013, a memorial for Pat was held at the school. The full house included people from the numerous diverse areas of Pat’s religious, activist and personal life. Many shared poignant and funny reminisces about Pat, and a stunning montage of photos scored with some of her favorite music gave many of us a glimpse into Pat’s rich and fulfilling life. from childhood through adulthood. Organizer and Friend Olivia Hicks also distributed tulips representing a prize-winning and poignant story Pat wrote at age 18 for Seventeen Magazine.

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We deeply feel the loss of our extraordinary friend and comrade Pat DeAngelis.

– Ann Shirazi
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Photo (top) – Bud Korotzer
Photos (center, bottom) – Eva-Lee Baird

Smart Toys Not War Toys Campaign

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Fourteen Grannies gathered and sang in Harlem: Eva-Lee, Nydia, Joan P., Edith, Susan G., Mercy, Barbara H., Bev, Jenny, Connie, Judith, Ann and Ahmad (filming), Laura and Peg. We moved to the recruiting station because Lazarus, the toy store nearby was not featuring military or violence-provoking toys.

We were well received there by the bus stop where folks paused to sing, take literature, and listen. “Good singin’ y’all!” And a little girl in pink stood with us to her mother’s delight. The occasional marine or recruiter would pop out, but we didn’t block their door, just sang against toys of war. Afterwards, Eva-Lee, Nydia, Susan G., Laura and Mercy went to nearby Manna’s for soul food and peppery chicken soup. Eva-Lee took some wonderful pictures. This link should get you to the photos if you don’t have a Facebook account.

– Mercy Van Vlack
For the Granny Peace Brigade and the Raging Grannies