By Jennifer L. Warren
BEACON – “Aging may be slowing me down, but it’s not shutting me up.”
A broad smile covers Claire Norton’s face as she utters this quote someone recently told her.
These words have never resonated so loudly for Norton, along with her husband, Barry, as they have over the last month. It was around that time that Dan Aymar-Blair of the Beacon Collective made a post on Facebook about the horrific, inhumane treatment of immigrant families whose parents and children were sent to separate detention centers, many to never see one another again.
Some of those children are as young as 6-8 months old, and many, if action is not taken to reunite them with their parents and families, will suffer not only physically, but entail emotional and mental trauma that could last a lifetime. Although the government was given a deadline for the release of both children and adults, it has not been met.
“We just could not sit around and let this happen,” said Barry. “Everything we have fought for, we feel like we now have to fight for all over again.”
That activist fire is no stranger to the Norton’s. In January, 2017 they could not be here for the Women’s March. However, they were so energized by the ones taking place, they organized their own in Vieques, Puerto Rico where they were vacationing at the time. They have also been involved in smaller, local activist plights; however, on this wide-scale immigration issue, something inside told them they must go bigger.
And larger they did: Together with Aymar-Blair, a multitude of “grannies,” and young people, they formed Grannies Respond (Abuelas Responden.) A committed mission to travel to McAllen, Texas via vans, allowing their voices to be heard on this pressing issue quickly evolved. A core group of 30 developed, and word took off like wildfire on an assortment of social media venues. People were outraged, and before long, more jumped on board (goal is now to register 1000 participants), an outpouring of generous donations emerged, itineraries were planned out, banners and protest signs were constructed, and people everywhere wanted to get involved in any way possible.
Then, within just one month, several spacious, rented vans set out last Tuesday from Beacon to New York City with a final destination of the Texas locale. After picking up other “grannies,” as well as participants along the way in various states, the plan is to hold an array of protests, vigils, marches, singalongs, pot luck dinners, and anything that will promote awareness on August 6 and 7 that will bond the group as well as incite hope and fuel to bring about urgent reform and change, ultimately resulting with children being reunited with loved ones.
“We are not completely sure about exactly what we are doing, but we know as we progress, it will slowly fall into place,” explained Claire. “What we do know is we cannot afford to stay complacent any longer; we want to be models for our children and grandchildren.”
In addition to demanding children be returned to their families, the “Grannies” further hope to get the United States Immigration Policy to reflect the Golden Rule, allowing all human beings to be treated equally, fairly and with decency. The Nortons, like many in the group, see this disturbing immigration issue as a reflection of so many other concerns now facing this country, ones that require a grassroots, hands-on approach to be addressed and resolved.
“The mission is to start to have conversations with people; we want to go beyond political boundaries,” explained Claire. “We are partnering with many other groups, and are discovering that a lot of people who were not active have suddenly now been given a voice.”
And for many involved in Grannies Respond, not simply a voice, but one that won’t “shut up” at all costs.