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New Paltz activist group puts emphasis on the future

A new activist group has been born in New Paltz. Comprised largely of engaged mothers who wish to create the world they leave to their children, it’s called Resisterhood New Paltz. While that name is echoed in other groups that have are forming nationwide, that doesn’t mean the burgeoning movement is — at least yet — organized in any way. Instead, the idea of naming groups “Resisterhood” is springing up in truly grass-roots fashion.

In New Paltz, Resisterhood’s genesis was in the election of the current president. Several local residents who participated in the Women’s March on Washington in January also supported the Day Without a Woman last month, by bringing flowers to teachers at Duzine Elementary School who opted not to leave their students to observe the strike. Organizing in the Commissary on Church Street, they came to believe, as member Michele Zipp recalled, that they were “on to something.” Each of the women were feeling that trends in society did not reflect their own beliefs, and wanted to resist what they consider regressive momentum. Each of them felt they were among like-minded people, and wanted to continue working together.

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They describe feeling disempowered by the results of the presidential election, and rhetoric targeting topics from health care to marriage equality to environmental regulations. They speak about how, by joining together for like purpose, they are finding their power. Any member of this leaderless group is free to suggest ideas; when one is selected, their collective efforts see it through in a way that one person alone could scarcely hope to imagine. They compare it to birth, which is one reminder of the all-woman nature of this group.

Working together, raising up each others’ voices, has helped assuage the “profound despair” many in this largely progressive community felt in the wake of the November election. It allows them to make change for their children, which Zipp described as a “driving force” they all share. “This is not what America is all about,” she said.

The Resisterhood’s next group effort, a fundraiser called “Fliers for the Resistance,” will be to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union. It will be in the form of a silent art auction, to be held at Huckleberry in New Paltz on June 3 from 7 to 10 p.m. Members are still soliciting art donations, with the bidding on all pieces to start at $50. The ACLU was selected because the marginalized people it was created to serve are seen as needing more help than ever at this time. Huckleberry owners Julie Dabbs and Leah Allen agreed readily to host the event.

Even as they put the finishing details on this, their first public collaborative effort, other ideas continue to rise up. Among those still in the formative stages are an adopt-a-senior-citizen program, and handing out positive affirmations to passersby on the college campus. They also share a concern about the rise in racial incidents in local public schools since the election, and would like to help expand education about racism, and training for teachers and students alike about how to resist it when it occurs.

Beth Dulay believes that a new activist group on the scene doesn’t necessarily dilute the talent pool. She’s been standing of late with the Women in Black for Peace and Justice, who have been protesting weekly in front of Elting Memorial Library for 16 years. That time has inspired her, but she’s also realized that most members of that group have grey or silver hair. Younger activists must take up these fights, she believes, and Resisterhood members all have children at home.

Resisterhood members feel that their efforts will largely support existing campaigns and programs, such as raising funds for the ACLU, rather than result in attempts to reinvent the wheel. They have many ideas floating around about how to preserve the world for their children, and protect those kids from unsafe environmental policy decisions, unjust laws, and everything in between. At the core is a desire to build upon their own social networks and work to solidify community identity.

For Dulay, taking the time to focus on these events is also a way to leverage her privilege. “We have the opportunity to focus on these issues, while others do not,” she said, and she keeps that fact in mind at all times. “There’s a lot to protect right now,” and not always enough people to do the protecting.

“We’re trying to give back, and make the community better,” said Ronnie Yastion, as well as “help fill the funding void” left by government cutbacks or the ratcheting up of political pressure to undermine protections for marginalized people and sensitive places. They’re also happy to simply show up and add their voices to other causes, such as Black Lives Matter or supporting the work done at Planned Parenthood.

One lesson Resisterhood members have learned from the Women in Black is that activist groups don’t last without a social component. These sisters enjoy each others’ company, which suggests that they may be resisting in one form or another for years to come.

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