Amid recent events in Gaza, the New Paltz community has come together to stand against unjust violence happening overseas. The Women In Black Organization, an activist group in the town, has been coming out every Saturday in front of the Elting Memorial Library to show their support for the Free Palestine Movement, along with calling for action for many other local, national and global issues.
The organization gathered this for the past few weekends to band together to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. They crowd the corner with signs and spirited chants to the passersby and cars going down Main Street. This is not their first effort to call for peace — they have been gathering for Palestine not only since the recent attacks from Hamas and horrific bombings on civilians in the Gaza strip, but since the Women in Black organizations inception itself. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been an international issue for decades, and the Women in Black organization has called for ceasefire from the beginning.
New Paltz Women In Black has been a staple organization in New Paltz for the past 20 years. They have five subjects they dedicate themselves to: including overcoming white supremacy, Palestinian rights, environmental justice, anti-militarism/anti-war and any relevant issue the world is currently facing. These issues form the acronym OPERA, which the organization stands by as an “easy way to remember [their] areas of focus.” They also devote a vigil to each of the subjects every week and as well as other outlying issues in society, including topics such as the genetic modification of food supply and forced familial separation. Sometimes they are met with an opposing group, but the individuals in the organization stand strong at the corner and continue their protests.
The group is not just an organization, but a community. The members can be found discussing current matters in person and online, and many have been members of the organization for years. Barbara Upton acts as the moderator of the group’s Facebook page, as she has taken part in activist movements in New Paltz since 2001, after the 9/11 attacks. Rosalyn Cherry is another notable member of Women in Black, as she has stood on the vigil corner since 2010 and worked tirelessly in environmental preservation pursuits. The group seems to not have a specified hierarchy, but individuals are in charge of moderating each section of interest for the group listed in their OPERA acronym.
Women In Black is mostly composed of senior women, but despite the groups older demographic, they are open to new members of all ages and of all identities. You can find them on the corner of Main Street and Front Street almost every Saturday from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m., as they are “demanding an immediate, permanent ceasefire and emergency aid to the suffering people of Gaza.” They ask, if you intend on coming out to support, that you wear a mask and socially distance.
The organization’s information and updates can be found on their public Facebook page, “New Paltz Women in Black.” Anyone from the community is able to join the group and post information on the page’s forum. Information and photos of events are posted regularly as are any changes to scheduling and new information.