In Memory of Caroline Bridgman-Rees and Lula White

The PAR Planning Committee mourns the passing of Caroline Bridgman-Rees (Dec. 31, 1922-Aug. 28, 2019) and Lula White (died at the age of 80 on Sept. 10, 2019), two women with deep ties to the greater New Haven peace community and the world who dedicated their lives for peace, equality and justice for all humanity.

Caroline was an NGO representative of the United Nations and member of a multitude of peace organizations — international, national and local. She was involved with the Progressive Action Roundtable right from its beginning in 1993.

Caroline’s memorial service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 11:30 a.m., at the Unitarian Society of New Haven, 700 Hartford Turnpike, Hamden.

Excerpt from Lula’s obituary notice in the New Haven Register, Sept. 16, 2019

Most people knew Lula White as a retired New Haven school teacher, board member of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association and member of the PAR mailing committee. For many of us in New Haven, we didn’t realize the scope of her bravery and profound sense of justice until she told us her history of being a freedom rider.

Family members have set Lula’s memorial service for Saturday, Dec. 14. Inquiries should be directed to Lulamwhitememorialservice@gmail.com.

We cherish the friendship, wisdom and inspiration Caroline and Lula shared with us. Our condolences to the families of these two remarkable, brave women who gave so much of themselves for a better world.

We are Each A Precious Entity: The Activist Life of Caroline Bridgman-Rees

The following is an edited version from the tribute written by PJ Deak for the Unitarian Society of New Haven.

Caroline Bridgman-Rees

Caroline was born on New Year’s Eve, 1922 and grew up on Staten Island. Her father, a Yale graduate, was a history professor at NYU for 29 years. A decorated war veteran, he came home from WWI in 1918 traumatized by the horrors of war, its barbarism, death, and destruction.

As a result of her father’s experiences, Caroline became very aware of the toll and folly of war – and of the importance of working for peace. In 1945, Caroline, 22, a Phi Beta Kappa and recent graduate of Smith College, joined the Red Cross. She sailed on a ship to the Philippines where she worked with the Red Cross until 1946 when she went to Korea. Why did she do it? To see the world and “to see life with the soldiers.”

She remembered the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with horror and condemnation – a bombing that in her words “was totally against moral and international law and which began a frightful new era that threatened all life on earth.”

In the 1960s, Caroline began her teaching career at Bradford College in Massachusetts – teaching Asian History and Philosophy. Caroline became increasingly concerned about the conflict between the US and both the Vietnamese liberation forces and all of Indochina.

Caroline Bridgman-Rees, Nancy Eberg and Jim Pandaru (l-r)

She joined a number of prominent peace organizations: The American Friends Service Committee; Sane/Freeze – later known as Peace Action; The Women’s International League for Peace And Freedom; The War Resisters League; Mobilization for Survival; and because of her service in the Red Cross, Veterans Against The War.

“I felt then, as I do now, that non-violent direct action is a citizen’s responsibility when the government is committing major war crimes against humanity!”

In 1972 Caroline was one of 171 American peace leaders chosen to attend the Paris Peace Talks. Also in 1972, she was part of a team of women who traveled to India and conducted interviews with Indian women about the role of women in the world – Caroline even had the privilege to interview Ms. Ghandi. In 1973, Caroline, her husband and 10-year-old son traveled through India, Burma, Thailand, Hong Kong, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Caroline became involved with the United Nations as an NGO representative, and also was active with the Greater New Haven Peace Council. In 1991-1992 she spent a year in England giving 45 separate lectures on Nuclear Disarmament and attended an international peace conference in the Netherlands.

When the first Iraq War began, Caroline was active as the anti-war movement surged anew – seeking avenues for mediation and diplomacy rather than violence.

Caroline attended meetings to discuss and take action on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke out about the size of the US military budget, the number of US military bases around the world (over 1,000) and the pollution they are allowed to create. She wrote letters to the editor that were published in the New Haven Register and participated in the New Haven Peace Council and the Unitarian Society of New Haven Peace Task Force.

“We need community, not guns. We must create a world with love, and caring and cooperation.”

Read Caroline Bridgman-Rees’ obituary on Legacy.com.

Remembering Lula White

by Joan Cavanagh, former Archivist/Director, Greater New Haven Labor History Association (2001-2017)

Lula White poses with the Thurgood Marshall Award she received in 2016 (file photo)

Lula White poses with the Thurgood Marshall Award she received in 2016 (file)

I was with Lula White at many gatherings in 35 or so years: peace actions to oppose the endless U.S. wars; Sunday night potluck discussions; Labor History Association meetings and events; union protests at Yale; even the occasional holiday party. With Mary Johnson, she often spoke of teaching, organizing and being jailed during the teachers’ strikes in the 1970s. Her story as a youthful freedom rider in the South unfolded more slowly.

When we decided to document the history of workers at New Haven’s Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Lula and her sister, Dorothy White Johnson, both long time members of the Labor History Association Executive Board, contacted former Winchester employees, conducted interviews and borrowed artifacts for the exhibit, “Our Community at Winchester: An Elm City Story.”

After the plant closed in 2006, we transferred the files, artifacts and photographs of the workers’ union, IAM Local 609, to the office I shared with the late Nicholas Aiello, then LHA president. The plan was to inventory and preserve them. As Nick witnessed 65 boxes slowly taking over our space, he became, not unreasonably, upset. We had a heated exchange. Lula arrived just as I left to take a breath. When I returned, Lula was smiling—and so was Nick, who congratulated us for having secured custody of these important historical records. Whatever she said or did, she had, typically, transformed the situation.

At Fairfield University, where the exhibit was displayed in 2017, I introduced Lula after a short history of the project, and began asking questions. The audience, mostly students, soon took over. Lula spoke quietly and without drama about her life as the daughter of a Winchester worker, growing up in the Newhallville section of New Haven, then becoming a teacher of history and union activist. She also shared the terrifying, brave experience of being jailed in Mississippi as a young Black woman, one of hundreds of freedom riders trying to integrate the buses in 1961. In an evaluation of the session, a student wrote that she was “cool.” She had shared her hope for a future based on engaged citizenship at a moment when it was desperately needed, just following the 2017 presidential inauguration.

During my only visit to the Intensive Care Unit where Lula was confined in June, not expected to survive, I whispered to her to “Keep fighting.” It wasn’t necessary. Fight she did. Over the summer, she slowly got better. She almost made it.

Despite Lula White’s inner calm, peace and strength, it cannot have been easy being fully “woke.” May she find the joy and rest she has earned.

Excerpt from the obituary notice of the New Haven Register, Sept. 16, 2019

Ms. White was frequently jailed as a freedom rider trying to desegregate public transportation. In addition, she was arrested for striking to raise salaries for teachers, and jeered for marching to protest injustice. She was recognized by the Quinnipiac University School of Law in 2016, was awarded the Thurgood Marshall Award for her activism and commu-nity service, and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Albertus Magnus College in 2010. Lula fought the good fight.

Report on Coalition for People Annual Meeting

On April 17, the Coalition for People held its first annual meeting since 2014. Among the 24 attendees, there were many past members and some newcomers to the group.

The gathering started off with music by Flint Ladder. A slideshow featuring CFP founder Mary Johnson played during the performance.

Elected board members are Dorothy Johnson, Elizabeth Neuse, Holly Hackett and JoAnn Moran. If anyone wants to still join the board, they can be considered during the monthly business meetings. Please call (203) 468-2541 if you are interested in joining the board.

The keynote speaker was Rev. Bonita Grubbs, Director of Christian Community Action. She spoke about the long history of Coalition for People, the legacy of Mary Johnson, what it means to be organizing and inspiring people, and always pushing for what is right, even though it may not always be immediately evident. She gave the example that that week scientists were able to photograph a black hole, proving Albert Einstein’s theory about the existence of black holes, 64 years after Einstein’s death. Many ridiculed Einstein when he first presented that theory, just as many people call activists crazy for trying to change things. But just because we as activists don’t get immediate results doesn’t mean we’re crazy or wrong. Rev. Grubbs talked about the individual lights of each person, their intelligence, skills, how people have their own understanding, that everyone can bring their lights together, discuss reality and solutions from her or his own perspective, and shine the light to push things forward.

Discussion of various topics followed – affordable housing, Yale New Haven Hospital’s plan to move the primary care centers to Long Wharf, healthcare, homelessness, justice. It was a good gathering to share the concerns of Coalition members and supporters, as well as those new to CFP.

The monthly board meetings are open to the membership. For June, July and August, our meetings are on the third Wednesday from 3-5 p.m. at the Fair Haven Library, 182 Grand Avenue (June 19, July 17, and August 21). For more information, email coalitionforpeople@hotmail.com. Thank you!

Is Your PAR Subscription About to Run Out?

by PAR Planning Committee

The Progressive Action Roundtable newsletter publishes from September through June. Subscriptions from many of our readers will expire with the June issue.

We hope you enjoy your subscription and value the PAR newsletter as a community resource. To see if your subscription is due for renewal, please look at your address label. If “201906” is printed on the label to the right of your name, your subscription ends next month. Please send in $13 for 10 issues (Sept. 2019-June 2020) so that you can continue to read about what local organizations are doing and you can submit articles about your own organization.

The Progressive Action Roundtable was started in January 1993. After several months, this community Newsletter became the main activity of PAR, giving New Haven area organizations an opportunity for networking and for advertising their activities.

We hope to hear from you.

Why Run for Mayor? by Wendy Hamilton

Wendy Hamilton, NH homeless advocate and mayoral candidate

PAR readers may remember the article Wendy wrote in the Feb. 2018 issue of PAR about homelessness and Mark Cochran. Mark died shortly after Yale New Haven Hospital discharged him in winter with no place to go. Wendy has filed the paperwork to run for mayor and has asked if we would share her concerns with our readers.

One day I just felt fed up with the chaos, the lies, the crazy spending, the near bankruptcy, the greed, the lack of compassion, the apathy…

Justin [Elicker] and Liam [Brennan] were sitting on the fence. I decided to commit to the research and the signature-collecting because I want to be heard at the Democratic primary debates coming this fall.

After making a list of city problems, I saw they fit into four categories–Housing, Budget, Safety, and Transportation.

Housing is no longer affordable for the masses without job security and bank loans for the working poor. The cost of living increases during years of flatline wages and a widening wealth gap. Developers and slumlords are getting all the breaks. Homelessness exists in every town and city and is growing despite what mass media says. Foreclosures and evictions are everyday occurrences.

The Budget is a runaway train growing by $100 million plus with our current mayor in office. We are in debt and near bankruptcy. The biggest contribution comes from our property taxes. Biggest expenditures are police, fire, and school systems, all of which need revamping with fair and intelligent contracts and pensions. We also have a huge yearly debt payoff. Yale, on 50% of the town land, only pays about 1/33 of the yearly take. The state offers a little better money but not enough.

Safety, which includes physical elements like crime, fire, pollution of air and water and climate change, is also a desirable feeling for the public to have and many don’t feel safe here for many reasons. Our police and firefighters require contracts to make them feel safe and appreciated. City residents require a civilian review board that can address their problems by affecting real change. We need to stop treating the homeless, the addicted, and sex workers (mostly homeless women) like criminals. We need year-round hazardous waste collection and cleaner parks that operate for the public benefit, not just the lucky few. We need to get housing quickly for those living on the street.  We all need affordable medical care.

Transportation is a city theme. We have trains, buses, major highways, bike and pedestrian trails, and a harbor. We are part of East Coast Metro which includes several huge cities.  The age of automobiles is over, but city hall hasn’t figured it out yet. 25% of us have asthma. Our air is just plain dirty. Bike travel is on the rise fortunately (I am 70 and own 2). Bus routes and schedules need to be examined and improved here. Many here can’t afford a bike or a car or a cab. Cab service is pricey and undependable here. A $40 million boathouse that took years to build on its own pier lies empty and unavailable to us even though our taxes paid for it — a colossal waste.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Gandhi Peace Award to Jackson Browne

by Stanley Heller, Promoting Enduring Peace Administrator

Promoting Enduring Peace is giving its Gandhi Peace Award this year to singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. He will receive the award on Friday, Sept. 14, at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts at Southern Connecticut State University, 501 Crescent St., New Haven. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Starting the program will be two speakers: Frida Berrigan, who has worked for years warning of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and Chris George, Executive Director of IRIS — Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services. Singers Ben Grosscup and Luci Murphy will provide entertainment. Tickets can be reserved online for a donation. The Eventbrite link is https://www.eventbrite.com/e/gandhi-peace-award-2018-tickets-48315261247.

Jackson Browne is the first artist ever to receive the Gandhi Peace Award. The award recognizes Browne’s extraordinary contributions of time and talent to the inseparable causes of world peace, environmental harmony, and social justice. The award comes with a cash prize and a medallion forged from “peace bronze” composed of metals salvaged from the control systems of U.S. nuclear missiles. Consistent with tradition, Browne has been invited “to present a message of challenge and hope” to those present. A reception will follow.

The Gandhi Peace Award, named after Indian anti-imperialist and nonviolence advocate Mohandas Gandhi, derives its international renown from those who have accepted it over the years. Among the 54 awardees are Martin Luther King, Jr., Benjamin Spock, Dorothy Day, Daniel Ellsberg, César Chávez, Amy Goodman, Bill McKibben, Medea Benjamin, Tom Goldtooth, Omar Barghouti and Ralph Nader.

Browne has organized or participated in thousands of benefit performances to support the environment, social justice, and human rights as well as causes such as music and arts education in public schools and has worked with two former Gandhi Peace Award recipients, Amnesty International (1978) and the Children’s Defense Fund (1990). Browne has composed and performed songs widely regarded as among the most literate and moving songs in popular music, defining a genre of songwriting charged with honesty, emotion, and personal politics. In 2004 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

Greater New Haven Labor History Association Annual Meeting Sept. 9, 1:30 to 4 p.m.

by Steve Kass, President, GNHLHA

The annual meeting of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association will take place at the New Haven Labor Center, 267 Chapel Street, New Haven. The group will present its Augusta Louis Troup “Pass It On” award to people and organizations that advance the labor movement agenda of decent working conditions at a good wage with hope for the future.

This year’s recipients are Norman Zolot, one of the most widely known and respected labor lawyers in Connecticut history and John Lugo with his organization Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), a grassroots movement of immigrants defending labor, civil, and human rights in New Haven.

In addition, there will be presentations on the new Connec-ticut statewide labor history curriculum, the impact on the labor movement of the supreme court decision Janus vs AFCSME, an update on the teacher strikes in several states, and advocating for immigrant worker rights in New Haven.

Pizza will be served at 1:30 p.m., then at 2 p.m. the program and awards will start. Frank Panzarella will perform labor music.

The meeting is free and open to the public and membership costs annually only $25 or $10 for low income people. For more information about the GNHLHA, please visit our website at laborhistory.org.

Thousands March Against Trump and Demand Equality

by LouAnn Villani, JVPNH and MECC

By a very rough count 10,000 women and male allies and their daughters marched and rallied in Hartford’s Capitol at the “Women’s March CT, Rise and Resist 2018.” I stood with members of Jewish Voice for Peace New Haven, the Middle East Crisis Committee and the Tree of Life Educational Foundation holding banners about imprisoned Palestinian women and watched people pass by us for 50 minutes.

There were lots of signs and banners with a funny and vulgar mix that mocked Donald Trump. There was a drawing of a uterus with the words “This Machine Kills Fascists.” Another very colorful sign said, “Elect a Clown, You Get a Circus.” A good number worked off his notorious “sh**hole” remark. One had a picture of Trump being flushed down a toilet.

A lot of signs were pro-immigrants and #BlackLivesMatter, including one large banner. Other signs were about elections, “Grab Them by the Midterms” and “I’m a Nasty Woman and I Vote.” Throughout the march, there were supporters of Planned Parenthood and women’s right to choose.

One sign I liked said “I March Because Silence Is Not an Option. I Will Not Be Complicit.” Several had the words ‘I Stand With Her” next to a photo of the Statue of Liberty. Many had the words “I Will Not Go Quietly Back to 1950s #Resist.”

For chants, a Latino contingent was loudest and most enthusiastic. And like last year people yelled, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Donald Trump Has Got to Go,” “We Need a Leader, Not a Creepy Tweeter,” “Dump Trump” and “This is What Democracy Looks Like.”

Our banners had drawings and a photo of Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old Palestinian girl whom the Israelis arrested a month ago and are threatening to put in jail for years for slapping a heavily-armed Israeli soldier. Perhaps 100 people commented in support and took photos of us. We also gave out 1,000 half-page flyers which were snapped up in less than 30 minutes.

The march was fantastic, and we sent word of what we did to the Tamimi family in Palestine.

Amazing Story of Mary and Eliza Freeman of Bridgeport

Hosted by CT Chapter of the National Organization for Women (CT NOW), Thursday, Jan. 11, 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm St.

Come to a fascinating talk about two remarkable Connec-ticut women who’ve been lost from history – Mary and Eliza Freeman – starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, in the Ives Performance Area of the New Haven Public Library, 133 Elm St., New Haven.

Sisters and free women of color, Mary and Eliza bought and leased houses in Bridgeport in the 1800s, leading to the creation of the “Little Liberia” neighborhood. Established 20 years before Connecticut abolished slavery for good in 1848, Little Liberia was designed to give free African-Americans the opportunity to make greater social and economic progress. The two original homes Mary and Eliza purchased are the oldest remaining houses in Connecticut built by free blacks and are part of the Connecticut Freedom Trail. However, help is needed to ensure their survival. Come hear the story of these two amazing women, presented by Maisa Tisdale, president of the Mary and Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community.

Join CWEALF for Sneak Peek Screenings of ZERO WEEKS! Nov. 3 and 17

CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund is hosting a series of “sneak peek” screenings of ZERO WEEKS, a new documentary that makes the case for paid family and medical leave for all workers across the country. Though the film will be officially released early next year, the Zero Weeks team identified CT as one of their target states and is allowing an exclusive first look. Students and Seniors free. $10 suggested donation at the door to benefit the CT Campaign for Paid Family Leave.

First Screening: Friday, November 3, 7-9 p.m. University of New Haven’s Alumni Lounge, 300 Boston Post Rd., West Haven.

Second Screening: Friday, November 17, 6-8:30 p.m., First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, 2 Ferry Rd, Old Lyme.

Courageous Women of Resistance Tour in CT — Oct. 21-29

by Tree of Life Education Foundation, tolef.org

In the history of popular struggles, a most important chapter will be the role of women who with courage and unflagging determination work for justice and human rights in their communities. Women helped to bring clean water to Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, and women were at the forefront of the encampment at Standing Rock, by the contagion of their spirit helping to build an international community of resistance.

Likewise in Israel and Palestine, in the refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, in organizations such as “Bedouin Women for Themselves” and “Grassroots Jerusalem,” women are helping to build a non-violent resist-ance movement. By refusing to be silenced or compromised by the militarism of settler colonialism, these women are speaking truth to power and in doing so, they are helping to bring enlightenment and engagement in the struggle to build a better and more peaceful future for their children.

This program will be taking place at the following locations: Saturday, October 21, Yale, New Haven – details to come. Sunday, Oct. 29, The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, 2 Ferry Street, Old Lyme – details to come.

The Courageous Women speakers: Madonna Thunder Hawk, a member of the Oohenumpa band of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has a long history of grassroots activism prior to her formative work for Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP) as a Tribal Liaison. She is co-founder of Women of All Red Nations (WARN), as well as the Black Hills Alli-ance—which prevented corporate uranium mining in the Black Hills and proved the high level of radiation in Pine Ridge reservation’s water supply.

Fayrouz Sharqawi works as the Advocacy Coordinator at Grassroots Jerusalem, a platform for Palestinian community-based mobilization, leadership and advocacy in Occupied Jerusalem. They believe that the challenges and responses of Palestinian communities must be articulated and led by them.

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