In 1970, when the United Presbyterian church informed 65 year-old Maggie Kuhn that she would have to retire from her executive position, she was suprised and unprepared. But, instead of bemoaning her fate, she proceeded to do what she'd done all her life: changed the rules. She and some older friends who were nearing retirement age organized.
They discovered common bonds with younger people during the turmoil of the Vietnam War. They forged an intergenerational organization they called "The Consultation of Older and Younger Adults for Social Change". Their motto: "Age and Youth in Action". At the suggestion of a television producer, Maggie decided that her group's name should be changed to the "Gray Panthers". Adoption of this name, according to Maggie Kuhn's biography "No Stone Unturned", "gave us a sense of urgency and, after all, we did want to create a stir".
Shortly after the Gray Panthers was formed at a national level, Oak Park native, Lillian Rosinger, heard Maggie Kuhn speak on a television talk show. Lillian was impressed with Maggie's intergenerational philosophy and her involvement with youth protesting the Vietnam war. Early in 1978, after working 25 years as a secretary, Lillian decided to take an early retirement so she could devote more time to social issues.
Lillian's strong commitment to social justice -- to making an impact on issues which touched people's lives provided the creative energy out of which the Gray Panthers of Metro Detroit (GPMD) network was organized. In April, 1978 an intergenerational Steering Committee elected Lillian Rosinger as the first Convener of Gray Panthers - Metro North, as it was then called.
Over the years, Gray Panthers of Metro Detroit kept in touch with and supported efforts of National Gray Panthers to take national leadership on major social and economic issues. We keep in touch with Michigan's other Gray Panthers' network in Ann Arbor. Our Gray Panthers' network, as its local chapters are called, has attracted grass roots activists into its membership from the City of Detroit and Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties.
From the beginning, GPMD has published a monthly newsletter and organized action packed monthly meetings. The public is invited to hear top notch speakers on a variety of topics at these sessions. Our network has taken thoughtful positions on many issues. We have worked individually and in coalitions for universal health care, public education, human rights, campaign finance reform and international peace. Gray Panthers challenge discrimination based on race, sex or age. We protest unfair labor practices and wasteful military spending.
We educate, contact elected officials, organize coalitions, sign petitions, march, protest and demonstrate. Whether Gray Panthers have written letters to elected officials, spoke out in public forums or carried protest signs, they have been a force for change.
Written by Randy Block, Co-Chair, GPMD