Doris Benit, 1927-2016, Grandmother for Peace, !Presente!
(APN) ATLANTA — Doris Benit, 88, an activist and Grandmother for Peace, of Kennesaw, Georgia, passed away on, Wednesday, March 16, 2016, after spending time in hospice care in connection with heart issues.
Benit focused not only on peace, in her opposition to U.S. invasions and occupations around the world; but on economic justice issues like health care and housing.
The Grandmothers for Peace formed in 2008 as part of an action where several Atlanta-area grandmothers attempted to enlist in the military in the place of younger people.
Ten Grandmothers for Peace were arrested, including Benit and two Board Members of Atlanta Progressive News.
“We always joked it should be called the Grandmothers for Justice because without justice, there is no peace,” Minnie Ruffin, who considered Benit her best friend, told Atlanta Progressive News.
In her later years, Benit’s civil disobedience trademark was wearing a sign from around her neck that said, “I HAVE A SEVERE HEART CONDITION!,” in hopes that she could avoid police brutality.
In 2009, Benit rallied in favor of single-payer health care, at a time when health care reform was being debated, prior to the enactment of Obamacare.
At a rally with U.S. Rep John Conyers (D-MI), she shared her personal story of how being diagnosed with heart ailments caused her to lose her health care coverage – this was before the Affordable Care Act prohibited such dropping of coverage.
Subsequent bills for treatment, surgery, and medication forced her to move in with her daughter.
In 2010, Benit was among several activists who attended a speech by U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, and turned her back on him.
Later that year, Benit helped create a fund for the family of Spc. Jamaal Addison–the first Georgian killed in the U.S. Occupation of Iraq–who was facing foreclosure.
In 2011, age 83 at the time, she was on the front lines of Occupy Atlanta movement. Atlanta Progressive News observed as Benit stood in front of a line of mounted police officers holding a sign that read “Solidarity.”
One mounted police officer told Benit and two others to get out of the street. Benit courageously did not move as the mounted police officer charged the horse toward her, stopping just one foot short of trampling her.
“I love Doris. She was always on the right side of every issue,” Gloria Tatum, Board Member and Senior News Writer for APN, said.
“We were jail mates – we were best friends, we’ve been close ever since, we’ve been several places together,” Ruffin, also a Grandmother for Peace for was arrested in the 2008 action, said.
“Even though she was sick [in recent months], she would still call the Governor to veto bills, she did a lot from home even when she couldn’t come to the rallies,” Ruffin said.
“She treated me the same as she would treat anybody. Doris doesn’t see race or color or whatever,” Ruffin, who is Black, said.
“I don’t why she liked me but she seemed to like me and that made me like her more. She cared about the same issues that I did, the racial issues in this country. Even before Black Lives Matter, she wanted to deal with that,” Ruffin said.
“She hated the way Blacks are treated in this country, the way gays are treated, the way Hispanics are treated. She didn’t like the way this State was trying to suppress the vote,” Ruffin said.
Atlantans would be surprised to learn that Benit started out as a Republican, a military wife, and a delegate to the Republican Party in Fairfax, Virginia, according to her daughter, Leslie Nelson. But, of course, this was decades ago.
Benit had described herself as an “Eisenhower Republican,” but changed when she said the party changed, and when it was revealed that the U.S. Invasion of Vietnam was a mistake of policy and fact.
Benit worked in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s, after her political conversion. She worked as a caseworker for then-U.S. Sen. Joseph Montoya (D-NM). She moved to Kennesaw in approximately 2000 to be closer to her grandchildren.
Benit is survived by two sisters, Mary Armstrong and Zora Furoy; one daughter, Leslie Nelson; and two grandchildren.
I remember Doris very well, and am sorry to hear of her passing!
May you continue your Lightwork in the afterlife, Doris!!