A Tribute to Counter-recruitment Activist Barbara G Harris


Barbara Harris discussing ways to educate parents about their right to keep information on their children from the military.Credit...Yana Paskova for The New York Times

 The steering committee and staff of The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth wish to send our condolences to the family, friends, and activist collaborators of Barbara G Harris on her recent passing after a long illness in New York City. Barbara served as a valuable member of the NNOMY Steering Committee and provided informed guidance for our network's projects and campaigns since her joining our organizing committee in 2014 as a representative of the Granny Peace Brigade of New York City. 
NNOMY Steering Committee and staff

My own story of Barbara was visiting the Manhattan apartment of her and her husband, Gerald, on a visit to see family in Brooklyn. Beyond our kind reception for a visit in their dining room, where we shared an afternoon refreshment and conversation, was a small room that was Barbara's space that was a kind of history in pictures and memorabilia representing her 50 plus years of activism for peace, woman's rights, and the environment. She explained some of the things on the walls to my wife, Sandra, and I felt Barbara's history and commitment to activism from her school years through adulthood. It was a special place for me to share that likely few have experienced and it stood as a humane and personal reflection upon her. Barbara was a rare example of an activist and advocate in NYC schools countering the deceptive military recruiter narrative of the benefits of joining into war and doing the important work of youth demilitarization.

Below are a series of excerpts, and links to read the rest, of articles about her activism in our schools reaching out to youth to promote with them a future for peace and not a personal legacy of war.
Gary Ghirardi - NNOMY Communications Staff 

Barbara Harris discussing ways to educate parents about their right to keep information on their children from the military. Credit...Yana Paskova for The New York Times

Barbara Harris and "counter-recruitment" in NYC

The New York Times ran a story today about Barbara Harris, 71, of CODEPINK NYC, "a retired teacher and longtime peace advocate ... on a personal crusade to block recruiters for the United States military from contacting New York City high school students."

She'll be out at a New York City high school tonight -- other volunteers will be at 52 other schools -- at Parent Teacher Conference night, talking with parents about how they can "opt-out" from having the school send their children's private information to the military under a small provision of No Child Left Behind.

“You give them the information, you see them change their minds,” she said. “They know their kids are vulnerable. They say: ‘They’re calling my baby and I don’t want them to speak to my child. What should I do?’ ”

Barbara is amazing -- so intelligent, strong, organized and kind. She has a heart of gold and has made this cause a top priority in her life. What do you think of recruiters in schools?
Posted by CODEPINK Staff - 23 October 2008 - https://www.codepink.org/barbara_harris_and_counter_recruitment_in_nyc


Law & Disorder Radio: The Granny Peace Brigade

If you’ve attended NYC protests over the past few years you might have seen a group of women that stand out from the crowd. A lot of credit is given to younger generations for their increasing presence in marches and protests, but this group is made up of women who have been protesting for decades. They call themselves the Granny Peace Brigade. The name is fitting in every way as the group is comprised of all older women who have been at the forefront of many anti-war, anti-military and counter recruitment movements.

After a group of them were arrested at the Times Square recruitment center in 2005, they made their official debut as the Granny Peace Brigade to defend their civil rights in court. In the next 13 years as new members joined, their message only grew louder. In conjunction with other groups over time, such as Code Pink and the Raging Grannies, the Granny Peace Brigade has worked to denounce and resist both local and global militarism, war and endless devastation to civilian life. Granny Peace Brigade Blog

Guests – Joan Plune and Barbara Harris, two longstanding members of the Granny Peace Brigade.



Why Counter-Recruitment?

On a series of chilly evenings in November 2014, Barbara Harris, the counter-recruitment coordinator for the New York City chapters of Code Pink and Granny Peace Brigade, braved the cold to share a sidewalk with other group members, mostly women in their 50s and 60s. At one high school in Staten Island, she was also joined by what she described as “apprentice activists”: students from the school’s sociology class. “It was their first time doing a street action,” Barbara later recalled, “and they were effective in making a difference by adding their voice to the conversation.” It was “parent-teacher conference” night at the school, and Barbara and her friends were there to provide information to parents about non-military options for their children and to pass out flyers like Questions to Ask and Points to Consider Before You Enlist. While the venue did not encourage much interaction with parents, many of whom were in a rush to get inside, there were some highlights. “I met with a mother,” Barbara later recalled, “who was thankful for that flyer and noted that the questions posed and answers provided were very pertinent.” She told Barbara, “Few kids know what enlistment really means. I want to show this to a few boys I know.”

— at Atlantic and Pacific Street subway in Brooklyn.Like many activists, Barbara Harris initially came to counter-recruitment out of anger over the Iraq War. A retired New York City public school teacher currently involved with a number of organizations, Barbara has more than 50 years’ experience in progressive activism. In the past she campaigned to end the war in Vietnam, stop nuclear disarmament, and to shut down Indian Point (a nuclear power plant 38 miles north of New York City). Through her involvement with nuclear energy issues, she came into the orbit of Code Pink. Recently retired and with more free time on her hands, Barbara’s participation deepened as the Bush administration made moves to invade Iraq. During her anti-war activism in 2004 and 2005, she experienced a turning point.

"I just had a realization that the lies the government told us about getting into the war were the same lies that recruiters were telling kids to get them to enlist. And I stepped back and said, this is really important because the wars will continue forever as long as they keep getting these kids in."

Read More
Scott Harding & Seth Kershner - Chapter 5: Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools 


Members of the Granny Peace Brigade and CodePink explain that the "No Child Left Behind" act requires schools to send students' contact information to the military. Students can opt out and we tell them how.




Granny Peace Brigade: Parent Teacher Conference Night – November 5, 2014, New York City


Parent Teacher Conference Night – November 5, 2014, New York CityTwice a year, at New York City high schools, volunteers distribute non-military informational flyers to parents and students during parent teacher conference night. Following is the report for the November 5, 2014 action.

As volunteers handed out flyers to parents and students entering high schools for a meeting with teachers, the White House was deciding to send 1500 more troops to Iraq.

The information being shared with parents includes Non-Military Options for Life After High School as well as Questions to Ask and Points to Consider Before You Enlist.

How very important this action continues to be as wars are endless and new military recruits are needed.  For the military - where best to look than in the high schools.

To respond, we're at high schools to counter military promotions and offer pro-peace alternatives.

It was their first time doing a street action, and they were effective in making a difference by adding their voice to the conversation. Youth helping to build the movement as apprentice activists.At a couple of schools, the Questions to Ask Before You Enlist flyer was received with greater interest than in the past.  A volunteer noted that it seemed avoiding the military was as important to parents as education after high school for their child.   I met with a mother who was thankful for that flyer and noted that the questions posed and answers provided were very pertinent. “Few kids know what enlistment really means. I want to show this to a few boys I know.”

In Staten Island, 3 students from a sociology class joined the volunteers at New Dorp High School.   It was their first time doing a street action, and they were effective in making a difference by adding their voice to the conversation. Youth helping to build the movement as apprentice activists.

Members of the Robotics team at Murry Bergtraum Campus were psyched over the Options flyer.  Their plans are focused on college.  While speaking with the guidance counselor at this high school, she mentioned that career counseling is the last item on her agenda.  A shortage of guidance counselors leaves many students in the dark concerning future goals and non-military options. She took our handouts as well.

Members of the Robotics team at Murry Bergtraum Campus were psyched over the Options flyer.  Their plans are focused on college. All those who volunteered, although they had little time for conversation with parents, made a difference.  It is appreciated when someone cares about their child's future, is willing to stand in front of a high school, and generously reaches out with educational and informational advice that they rarely receive.

Feel free to download our flyers and give them to friends, students, and teenagers you meet along the way.  You never know – you may well provide the information they are seeking and change their future direction.  Check out: www.grannypeacebrigade.orgCounter-Recruitment page,  scroll to the end of the page for links to the Options & Questions to Ask documents.

Many thanks to all the volunteers - in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

Barbara Harris
Granny Peace Brigade - Counter Recruitment


Exchange of Letters Between the Granny Peace Brigade and Chancellor Fariña’s Office re JROTC

In early December the Granny Peace Brigade sent the following letter via snail mail to Chancellor Carmen Fariña and also to members of New York City Council.

December 2016

Dear Chancellor Fariña,

One and one half million dollars of New York City taxpayer money is spent to fund Junior Reserve Officers Training programs in eighteen New York City high schools.

In addition to being opposed to the militarization of our children, we in the Granny Peace Brigade would like to point out that the JROTC programs glorify the use of weapons within the schools and at public events.

This is not in compliance with New York City policy prohibiting real or imitation weapons in schools.

(Citywide Behavioral Expectations to Support Student Learning, p.19)

We call upon you to do the right thing and defund all military programs in New York City high schools.

We can find better things for our children to hold.

Barbara Harris - Granny Peace Brigade

Read More




Activist Counter-recruitment Reports by Barbara G Harris from the Granny Peace Brigade Website

Additional Links Including mention or association of Barbara G Harris

 Granny Peace Brigade


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 Revised: 02/05/2024 GDG


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