|Calling 1000 Grandmothers!|
This is Cathy Webster, again, from Chico, California.
Last fall I called for 1000 Grandmothers to come to the School of the Americas located at Ft. Benning GA to join the 16th Annual Vigil and Protest to close the notorious training school for Latin American soldiers. I was inspired by Holly Near’s song, “A Thousand Grandmothers”, and by the arrest in 1995 of another grandmother in Chico, Dorothy Parker. The idea was: What if 1000 grandmothers around America and the world were to take this song as their rallying cry, and march onto the grounds of the SOA, (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), accepting arrest and imprisonment* in an effort to shut down this training school for terrorism?
Most of you know that the School of the Americas - in Fort Benning, Georgia, is the place where Latin American soldiers are trained by the U.S. military in tactics which have resulted in assassinations, kidnappings, torture, and repression of the peoples of Latin America. Graduates of the SOA have been responsible for the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero; six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter; the massacre of the entire village of El Mozote in El Salvador; and countless other acts of violence in Central America. The SOA represents all that we wish to fight against and change in our nation. It goes against everything we as women want for our families and our world.
Thousands of grandmothers responded to the call, donned white kerchiefs in the manner of the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, held a wonderful lively Tea Party, collected hundreds of baby booties for Congressional “reminders”, and marched with the crowd of 22,000 that weekend. Three grandmothers did accept arrest. I and two others were among the 16 total Prisoners of Conscience from 2006. I served 59 days in the Sacramento County jail in the spring of 2007.
The Vigil organizers and participants were optimistic about the forthcoming vote in Congress during the summer Federal Budget process. An amendment to cut the funds for SOA/WHINSEC has been defeated by only a small margin the summer before. However the amendment was again defeated this summer by just six votes – very small indeed, but nevertheless a defeat. The grassroots movement to close this shameful use of talent, expertise, and taxpayers' money is a moving train though; it will prevail. This makes it more urgent to rally at least 1000 grandmothers and others to commit* to crossing the line at the SOA next November near the anniversary of the 1989 massacre at the Jesuit University in El Salvador. Already in Chico a list of grandmothers (and others) is growing!
Our goal is to get Grandmothers from every state to organize and come again with even stronger soulforce than we have seen last year. 20 grandmothers from each state is do-able. Take this idea and develop a plan. Holly Near has given permission to use her song for promotion of this effort - as long as no money is earned from its use. This year we are collecting quilt squares to make into a great, beautiful quilt, possibly to be raffled at the Tea Party (and sent to the winner at a later date when completed). The theme is “A Grandmother’s Heart. Please see the website for details.
*PS: If arrest and imprisonment is not for you right now, your soulforce is still needed - Come! Arrest not necessary for participation.
1000 Grandmothers Website
Read about the 1000 Grandmothers at the November 2006 Vigil
Read more about Cathy Webster and the SOA 16
PO Box 4566
Washington, DC 20017