Grandmothers Organize By DOROTHY BRYANT Special to the Planet

Tuesday January 03, 2006

“Do I have to be a grandmother to come?” was the first question asked by recipients of an e-mail invitation signed by Pat Cody (co-founder, Cody’s Books, EB Women for Peace, DES Action), Clare Fischer (GTU Professor of Religion and Culture ), Marge Lasky (DVC Emerita, History), Joan Levinson (Media Consultant), Sydney Carson (CCA, Professor of Dramatic Arts), and Rita Maran (UC lecturer on Human Rights). 

The answer was, “We define the term ‘grandmother’ as a concept of love, all embracing; biology, gender, and age don’t matter.”  

Inspired by reports of groups like Raging Grannies, Grandmothers for Peace and other groups around the nation, 23 women met in a South Berkeley home on Dec. 11. Marge Lasky facilitated, standing beside an easel holding sheets of newsprint on which she had listed a simple agenda.  

First on the agenda were self-introductions: name and brief summary of activist experience. Many of the names sounded familiar if you’d been in the Bay Area for a while, and some of the women knew each other from working together before. The list of their affiliations and experiences sounded like a roster of half a century of civil rights, anti-nuclear, feminist, health, and anti-war organizations. 

“Keep that sign-up sheet moving,” said Lasky. “Don’t forget to write your e-mail address.” 

The group moved quickly into item two: a session of brainstorming. Off the tops of their well-stocked heads, women called out possible aims, strategies, actions, connections, and outreach strategies, all aimed at bringing an end to the Iraq War. 

Thoughts were boiled down to a word or two by a SFSU professor who scribbled with felt-top pens onto more sheets of newsprint. As she filled each sheet, one woman or another stepped up to tear it off and stick it to it to a window or a wall. Soon the group was surrounded by brightly colored lists of long range plans, ongoing projects to join, original immediate actions, aims, hopes, pitfalls, and possibilities. 

Now surrounded by their raw thoughts, the women were ready to identify and discuss their priorities. 

“We need a steering committee to screen suggestions, or we’ll spend all day e-mailing one another.” 

“I’m not one for attending a lot of meetings!” 

“But we need enough meetings to get to know each other.” 

“We need to schedule one short-range action and start planning now or we’ll lose momentum.” 

“Need a steering committee for that too.” 

“Someone has to work on nationwide hook-ups with other groups and media coverage. We have to think big or we’ll get nowhere.” 

“Who has media contacts? Who knows how to write a good press release?” 

“And letter-writing. Not just e-mail, hard copy.” 

“I’m already spending 20 minutes every day signing e-mail petitions!” 

“Is anybody getting all this down?” 

“Me. And give me the sign-up sheets too. I’m no good at writing letters, but I’m well-organized.” 

“How about Valentine’s Day for a group action?” 

“Anyone know a good First Amendment lawyer?” 

“Who’s going to do posters and flyers to hand out?” 

“How about this slogan for Valentine’s Day?” Helen Isaacson paused dramatically. “WE LOVE OUR TROOPS AND WANT THEM BACK HOME!” 

Finally the group was minutes from adjournment, time for the last item on the agenda: naming the group. Having thrashed out aims and actions for nearly two hours, the women were less likely to get bogged down on choice of words although—this being Berkeley—there were some strong opinions on semantics. Fairly quickly the majority voted to go with Joan Levinson’s insistence on “a strong statement, a tough statement of opposition. We’re against the war!” 

Then the women gave a final proof of long experience in activism by briskly cleaning up traces of paper cups and cookie crumbs before leaving, satisfied with having chosen: 

1. A name, Bay Area Grandmothers Against the War. 

2. A coordinating committee, to receive questions, suggestions for actions, agenda items for future meetings, etc. 

3. A date, Feb. 14, for an action at military recruiting centers. 

4. A steering committee for the Valentine’s Day action, to meet again within days for planning. 

5. A date for another general meeting early in January. 


Anyone interested in further information about the upcoming meeting and/or in joining can contact bayareagrandmothers@yahoo.com.