Almost nothing can be guaranteed, and each day brings uncertainty. But on any given Saturday, between the hours of 12:45 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., one thing remains constant. There, outside of the Elting Memorial Library, you’ll see the New Paltz Women in Black (WIB) standing in the name of peace and justice.
This past Saturday’s pelting rain coupled miserably with cold fog was no threat to the WIB’s weekly vigil.
For 18 years, the New Paltz WIB has stood in the same spot at the corner of North Front Street and Main Street to hold vigils, or nonviolent demonstrations of people holding signs to express their political views.
“You feel so full of purpose when you stand with the Women in Black for a vigil for peace—it’s the most calming form of direct action. It’s a chance to reflect all that love from inside you outside to the world,” said Village of New Paltz Trustee Alexandria Wojcik.
The WIB’s website clarifies that they are not an organization, but rather a “means of communicating and a formula for action.”
The New Paltz WIB devotes a vigil each week to one of their four major areas of focus. Their number one topic is ending endless war, which is fundamental to the international WIB’s mission.
Following ending endless war on the New Paltz WIB’s agenda is free Palestine, environmental justice and resistance to the bigotry, corruption and immorality of the current administration.
“This is not a usual time we are living in,” said co-founder of the New Paltz WIB Barbara Upton, referencing the policies and conditions brought on by the current administration. “So people feel very strongly that we need to be making a real public stand for peace and for justice.”
With the new year comes a new cause for action. The New Paltz WIB have recently adopted the topic overcoming white supremacy as one of their five major areas of focus, after New Paltz WIB member Ingrid Hughes proposed the initiative.
“People from the schools came to us and were very concerned about the swastikas and a lot of signs of bigotry in their schools,” said head of the New Paltz WIB Barbara Upton. “We worked with them on an anti-hate rally and one of our members felt so strongly about it that she would like to continue it as one of our main themes.”
Reminiscing about her experience with the New Paltz WIB, Upton fondly recalls the protest of the cruelty at the borders and the separation of families. Approximately 300 people showed up that day with passion coursing through them.
“There were a lot of DACA kids there and one of the boys got out and saw the crowd, and his eyes just lit up because he was like ‘oh all of these people are with us.’ And we were like ‘absolutely, we are with you,’” Upton reflected.
The New Paltz WIB’s motto can be summed up as “the more the merrier.” They encourage students to join them in vigils, marches and rallies, and strive to have the participation of more activist groups.
“I think that all of us standing there, we feel like at least we are doing something, we are not just complaining, we are showing that we feel strongly about these issues and hope that others do too,” Upton declared.