[sixties-l] Fwd: Raging Grannies

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Tue Aug 01 2000 - 01:03:27 CUT

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    >The Raging Grannies have an insanely simple goal:
    >To save the world
    >Tuesday, July 25, 2000
    >By M.L. LYKE
    >The old dames dress dime-store tacky. Artificial flowers
    >are wired to hats, floozy feather boas and plastic Hawaiian
    >leis thrown around necks, slips hang below thrift-store skirts,
    >and political buttons are pinned everywhere:
    >"We shall overcome."
    >"Protest the WTO."
    >"Diverse women for diversity."
    >Their shameless shtick's hardly four-star, either. Harmony's
    >hit-and-miss, the accompaniment's kazoo, and the mature soprano
    >voice warbling in and out of choruses is not Whitney Houston's.
    >Not even close.
    >"We're a gaggle of grannies/ Urging you off your fannies," sing
    >the Raging Grannies, a rococo, loco, left-leaning chorus of 18
    >activist women, aged 49-80, who are musical regulars at Seattle
    >political rallies.
    >They sang at last week's protest against the arrival of the
    >Trident submarine. They sang at the Million Mom March. They sang
    >at WTO, to the cheers of youth one-third their age who described
    >them as "awesome."
    >"I think they're wonderful. It's so encouraging to see older women
    >exercising their voice," says Seattle Central Community College
    >student Deanna Chapman, at a Grannie "sweatshop fashion show" at
    >the school.
    >The sweatshop stint's not for the politically fainthearted.
    >"We have a song for you about greed," says musical director Rosy
    >Betz-Zall, 49, introducing a gig in which the Grannies preach the
    >evils of factory worker exploitation and paint horrific pictures
    >of children laboring for 23 cents an hour behind barbed-wire
    >fences in Third World countries.
    >"There's no business like clothes business," sing the Seattle
    >satirists. One by one, they strut the room in Nike shoes, trendy
    >T-shirts from The Gap and pierced Mickey Mouse ears set off by
    >gray hairs and loose flesh. When one misses her cue, the others
    >laugh it off as "a senior moment."
    >Soon the roomful of students is giving it up for the Grannies,
    >whose goal is quite simple. They want to save the world. The sooner
    >the better. And they'll twist the lyrics of any song to that end:
    > "Oh, give me a home
    > Where the rivers don't foam
    > And the squirrels and chipmunks can play
    > Where the lakes all have fish
    > You can put on your dish
    > And the skies are not smoggy and gray."
    >The SCCC students, whose drab black, gray and olive clothes
    >contrast with the screaming, mismatched neons and primaries of
    >the Grannies, eat it up. They laugh. They sing. They pump their
    >fists along with the didactic dames up front.
    >They hear messages of peace ("We're gonna rage and roar/ And stop
    >all war"), exploitation ("If no one knows it/ Let's expose it"),
    >and are bombarded with no-no "isms": racism, ageism, sexism,
    >classism -- "and any kind of slap in the face-ism," throws in petite,
    >78-year-old Grannie Shirley Morrison, whose outr chapeau is stacked
    >almost a foot high with artificial daisies, roses and dahlias, a
    >white dove and buttons that read "First things first: A roof over
    >every bed," and "Your silence will not protect you."
    >Lifetimes of activism
    >Silence is anything but golden to these hard-core, seasoned activists.
    >This is confirmed in an afternoon meet with a half-dozen Grannies, all
    >in street dress, sipping tea and coffee and Odwalla power drinks, at
    >the Still Life in Fremont Coffeehouse. The conversation begins somberly
    >The women, whose ages span three decades, talk earnestly about the
    >mentally ill forced out on the streets, the oppression of women and
    >children, the destruction of the environment, arms proliferation,
    >genetic food manipulation, corporate greed ("They've sent our jobs out
    >of the country/ They've sent our jobs over the sea ... ").
    >The Grannies compare notes on lifetimes of activism. Some remember
    >visiting Japanese prisoners in interment camps during World War II.
    >Some remember blacks moving off sidewalks to let whites pass.
    >They talk about their participation in the farmworkers' boycott, the
    >civil rights marches, the Vietnam War sit-ins, the women's lib movement,
    >their arrests at protests over Contra funding.
    >They discuss the history of the Raging Grannies, begun in 1986-87 in
    >Victoria, B.C., by peace activists heavily involved in street theater.
    >The B.C. activists began writing satirical songs such as "Take Me Out
    >to the Clearcut" to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and the
    >ultimate grrrl group was born.
    >There are now about 60 chapters across Canada and at least five in the
    >United States. The groups share songs, publish songbooks, hold
    >"unconventions" and maintain a Web page: http://www.raginggrannies.com
    >Humor gets attention
    >The Seattle group made its debut in February of 1996, singing in the
    >rain at a President's Day rally sponsored by the Washington State
    >Labor Council. One new member, Hinda Kipnis, 68, says she saw the
    >Grannies perform before joining and thought, "No way can I be in this
    >group. I'm a perfectionist."
    >This comment makes the Grannies howl, and the rest of the conversation
    >dances between lively laughter and dead seriousness -- that one-two,
    >step-step jig the Grannies do so well. "We believe passionately in
    >issues," says Ruth Liatos, 69. "But when you use humor, when you make
    >fun of yourself, people's eyes don't glaze over.
    >"You see them spark up, smile, and they start listening."
    >Ruth, class clown for the strident choir, grows uncharacteristically
    >quiet, her malleable face momentarily fallen. "It's very rare as you
    >get older to have people listen to you," she adds.
    >But the people in the restaurant can't help but listen as the Grannies'
    >animated voices rise in the warm afternoon air. The self-described
    >"wise women elders" talk costumes. They talk lyrics. They talk about
    >trashing tired stereotypes of older women. And suddenly they burst into
    > "The old gray mares
    > We ain't what we used to be
    > We've given up respectability
    > Don't give a fig for acceptability
    > The old gray mares
    > We ain't what we used to be
    > We're far too awesome to care."
    >With that, the Still Life erupts in applause, and, for one more Raging
    >day, everything old is new again.
    >Raging on
    >The Raging Grannies are a colorful collection of left-leaning women who
    >lift their voices against such ills as greed, violence and pollution.
    >There are about 60 Raging Grannies chapters in Canada (the first formed
    >in Victoria in the mid-'80s) and at least five in the United States,
    >including the one in Seattle, which debuted in 1996.
    >For more on the Grannies, check http://www.raginggrannies.com.
    >P-I reporter M.L. Lyke can be reached at 206-448-8344 or

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