Women Are Still In Black
By Gavin Menu
With the start of the new year, the East End Women in Black have planned more silent vigils in opposition to the war in Iraq in both Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, where more than two years ago members began showing public opposition to both the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the plight of Palestinian people.
The vigils, which members say are the longest-running protests in the area, began as part of an international movement that was spearheaded by Israeli and Palestinian women in the 1980s. That group also declared that it was determined to break the cycle of violence in the Middle East.
In August 2002, the East End Women in Black began a string of protests on the Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. Last year, they held vigils at the war monument on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. And while the number of protesters has dipped at times, members of the group say that since the reelection of President Bush, opposition to the war in Iraq has again begun to swell.
“Women in Black are back in Sag Harbor,” said Kathy Engel, one of the founding members of the organization. “You realize that a lot of people are deeply anguished by all of this. It is clear to many of us that the president does not have a mandate.”
Ms. Engel said the vigils will now be held the first Sunday of every month at 3 p.m. in Bridgehampton, and the third Sunday of every month in Sag Harbor. The next vigil will be Sunday, January 16, at Long Wharf.
“There was a time right before the war when we had a lot of numbers,” Ms. Engel explained. “But what’s happened now is you wake up and see this is still going on and you know you want to do something. People are regrouping—you saw that at the Republican National Convention in New York. Major social change takes a long time.”
Dan Steiger, one of many men who are involved in the protests, said that the rising death toll in Iraq is likely the main cause for the increased opposition.
“The interesting thing I find is that people have been committed to this since the August before the war started,” Mr. Steiger said. “The numbers are up in terms of deaths, and the media is covering it more.”
Margaret Mead, another member of the group, called it “essential” that an outlet be provided for people who want to express their commitment to peace. “Don’t ever doubt that a small number of dedicated individuals can change the world,” Ms. Mead said. “In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Last Sunday’s vigil in Bridgehampton, the first of the New Year, was marked by a contribution from Sag Harbor songwriter Brother Khafra, whose song “Old Men Love War” honored the peace work done by East End Women in Black. Mr. Khafra said on Tuesday that he’s committed to the long haul when it comes to fighting for peace.
“It’s time to really talk about who is who,” he said. “Whatever happened to protest songs? We have no time to waste. We have no time for a CD. We have to at least make people conscious about what’s going on.”
Ms. Engel said that larger national protests are being organized, and that the East End chapter of Women in Black will do everything possible to attend. The group has already participated in several national movements, including the protests at the GOP convention this summer.
“You never know when something is going to come along that gives you strength and inspiration,” Ms. Engel said. “It’s clear that there is tremendous angst about this war.”
Issue Date: Southampton Press 1/6/05
Copyright, The Southampton Press