Online art auction to benefit Grannies Respond

  • Four Franklin County activist grandmothers — Pixie Holbrook, Ruth Bowman, Michelle Sanger and Linda Sarage — have collaborated with 27 hilltown artists to create “The Hilltown Online Arts Auction,” with proceeds supporting Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 11/6/2019 10:29:44 PM
Modified: 11/6/2019 10:29:34 PM

Four Franklin County activist grandmothers recruited some artistic assistance to raise money to help migrants at the southern border as they wait to apply for asylum and gain entry into the United States.

Pixie Holbrook, Ruth Bowman, Michelle Sanger and Linda Sarage have collaborated with 27 artists from the hilltowns to create “The Hilltown Online Arts Auction,” with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden, a nonprofit grassroots organization that aims to provide direct assistance to immigrants at the border and in communities across the country. Abuelas Responden means “Grandmothers Respond” in Spanish.

The four local women — Sarage is from Greenfield; the other three live in Conway — are billed as retired educators and longtime social justice advocates. They formed Western Mass Grannies Respond to raise money for the national organization.

The auction, which can be found at fccpr.us/auctions/, went live at 6 a.m. on Oct. 27. Bidding will end at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Payments will be made through the secure PayPal account of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution, a co-sponsor. Western Mass Grannies Respond says it will deliver items to the top bidders within 50 miles of Greenfield. Top bidders from farther away will be asked to pay shipping costs.

The items up for auction include jewelry, glassware, quilts, embroidery, photography, pottery and paintings.

“The artists have been so generous. They get called on a lot to donate to lots of causes, but everyone was so eager to help. I have great respect for them,” Holbrook said in a statement. “We hoped to get 20 pieces, but it was like a blink, and we had 48 pieces.”

Bowman said she and her friends joined forces to form Western Mass Grannies Respond due to their “very deep concern about what’s going on at the border and the harm that’s coming to so many people.”

Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden formed in New York in spring 2018 as a direct response to the separation of families seeking asylum at the southern border.

According to the organization’s website, 30 grandmothers and their supporters took off from New York City’s Union Square on July 31, 2018, on a six-city, 2,000-mile trip to McAllen, Texas, home of the largest U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention center for undocumented immigrants. On their way toward the Lone Star State’s southern tip, the caravan reportedly had picked up participants from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Wisconsin, Illinois and Louisiana. Members participated in 24 hours of protests and vigils at the U.S. Border Patrol Central Processing Center and some crossed the border to bring supplies to people waiting to enter the United States.

There are now chapters established in New Orleans, Sacramento, Atlanta, Columbus, Mobile, Dallas, Houston, Louisville and Memphis.

Northampton’s Kathleen Mellen, national media/press liaison for Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden, was on that trip to McAllen and said new policies enacted by the Trump administration have made it more difficult for people applying for asylum in the United States.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, immigration law allows individuals to apply for asylum if they are fleeing their country and seeking protection based on “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” Mellen said the recent changes mean migrants who have made it to the southern border have camped out on bridges, on sidewalks and in parking lots to await a hearing before an immigration judge. She said groups of concerned citizens have taken to bringing toiletries, clothing and cooked meals across the border to the people in limbo. Proceeds from the online auction will directly support these efforts.

“Imagine your grandchildren going through what they go through,” said Mellen, a grandmother of two. “It’s more than heartbreaking. It’s beyond devastating. Can you imagine having your children ripped from your arms, to never see them again, possibly? I can’t imagine why this is something that we have to be doing.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or
413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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