“This is first-world work. Third-world work is walking 1,200 miles with a toddler on your hip, toward a better life.”
— Pixie Holbrook
Four activist grandmothers in western Massachusetts have teamed up with more than two dozen artists in their area to raise money to assist migrants who are trapped in an inhumane limbo at the United States/Mexico border, as they wait to apply for asylum and gain entry into the U.S.
Pixie Holbrook, Ruth Bowman and Michelle Sanger, all of Conway, Massachusetts, and Linda Sarage of Greenfield, Massachusetts, all retired educators and longtime social justice advocates, have collaborated with 27 artists to create “The Hilltown Online Arts Auction,” with 100-percent of the proceeds going to Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden, a grassroots, non-profit organization that provides direct assistance to immigrants at the border and in communities across the country.
The Grannies Respond mission is to provide and elicit compassionate and respectful support for asylum seekers and immigrants who are seeking safety and security in the United States.
Grannies Respond formed in spring 2018 in response to the immigration crisis at the nation’s southern border and, specifically, to reports that migrant children were being separated from their families and housed in detention “cages.”
The Grannies traveled to the border in July 2018 to see for themselves what the needs are, on the ground, and to shine a national light on the inhumanity of the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies.
Since then, Grannies Respond has formed chapters across the country that provide direct, daily aid to migrants and asylum seekers at the nation’s southern border. In addition, through its nationwide program, “The Overground Railroad,” Grannies Respond volunteers meet traveling migrants at bus stations in cities across the country to provide them with food and toiletry items, clothing, travel assistance, including translations services, along with warm smiles and encouragement, as the migrants make their way to the homes of family members and community hosts who will house them while they await immigration court dates.
What’s more, with the recent administration policy change that prevents migrants seeking asylum from entering the U.S. as they wait to complete their applications, Grannies Respond volunteers now cross the southern border daily with food and other assistance.
A need to help
Holbrook said when she and her fellow local activists heard about the work Grannies Respond is doing, they knew immediately they wanted to help. They formed Western Mass Grannies Respond to raise money for the national organization.
“The problems are enormous. But, we can each do one small piece, it can work. I’ve seen that happen,” Holbrook said. “It’s excruciating to do nothing, so you find avenues for making change. Creating this auction gives all of us the chance to donate fully, while acquiring art that will enrich our home and our day. It’s a win-win.”
Among the items featured in the auction, which is sponsored in part by the Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR), will be jewelry, fabric art, paintings, photography, pottery, wood, glass and stone.
Among those who have stepped up is world-renowned glass artist Josh Simpson (www.salmonfallsgallery.com), who donated one of his famous glass planets. “Inhabited Planet” CONTEMPORARY GLASS (Red New Mexico) was created using a special technique the artist employs only once a year. By adding copper with manganese and silver to the glass, Simpson produces a planet of unusual colors that vary from deep terracotta to a brighter orangey red, with additions of black, blue, green and sometimes even yellow.
“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. “We hoped to get 20 pieces, but It was like a blink, and we had 48 pieces.”
A worthy cause
“This is such a good cause,” said mosaic artist Cynthia Fisher of Buckland (bigbangmosaics.com). Fisher, who specializes in large-scale public art projects, says she didn’t hesitate to donate a work, “Earth, Our Planet,” a 12-inch-by-14-inch glass mosaic tile.
“As artists, we are deluged with invitations to donate to causes. With this one, there was no hesitation; I’m thrilled to do it,” Fisher said. “My heart goes out to those trying to come here for a better life. No one wants to leave their homes, the own countries. They only leave if there’s nothing for them.”
Polly French (www.salmonfallsgallery.com), who creates nature-inspired mixed media, also says she didn’t hesitate to donate, and, indeed, made two original pieces for the auction.
“This has helped me alleviate some of the helplessness and, indeed, shame I have been feeling,” French said. “There is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ People do not deserve to be treated as U.S. Immigration has been treating the asylum seekers.”
The auction went live Sunday, Oct. 27, at 6 a.m.
To view the auction items and start bidding, visit: http://fccpr.us/auctions/.
Bidding will end Sunday, Nov. 10 at 5 p.m.
Payments will be made through the secure FCCPR Paypal account.
The Western Mass. Grannies Respond will deliver items to the top bidders within 50 miles of Greenfield, Massachusetts. Top bidders from farther away will be asked to pay shipping costs.
To learn more about Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden, and/or to donate directly, visitwww.granniesrespond.org.