FREETHINKING ACTIVIST NONBELIEVING NEW YORKERS (FANNY)
- Dennis Middlebrooks and Warren Allen Smith
In 1998 Dennis Middlebrooks and Warren Allen Smith founded Freethinking Activist Nonbelieving New Yorkers FANNY, a liaison to humanistic groups in the New York City area, one that caters to the interests of fellow agnostics, atheists, secularists, humanists, philosophic naturalists, freethinkers, and humanities humanists.
Agreeing to be honorary members but who now are deceased were
- painter Paul Cadmus
- novelist Sir Arthur C. Clarke
- clinical psychologist Albert Ellis
- “M*A*S*H” originator Ring Lardner Jr.;
- lexicographer Allen Walker Read
- novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
- sculptor Anita Weschler
Present honorary members are
- Exiled Bangladeshi physician-poet Taslima Nasrin, and
- USSR's first feminist dissident to be exiled Tatyana Mamonova]
Chairpersons, now deceased, have been
Chairpersons in addition to the two founding members are
- Taslima Nasrin, and
- Darren Schmidt
Membership is closed except to those “doers” who had completed an individual activist project and had been approved by the founder-directors.
Projects carried out by the group have been varied:
- Middlebrooks and Smith have entertained Taslima Nasrin numerous time since she arrived from Europe. When she received the nomination by Margaret Downey to be awarded the 2010 Richard Dawkins Award, we took her for another party at a downtown Italian restaurant, one of Dennis's favorites.
- Smith in June 2009 helped plant a tree in Thomas Paine Park, a small area in New York City's Manhattan near Federal and State court houses in the City Hall area. It was the 200th year to the day after Paine's death on 8 June 1809.
- In March 2009, Middlebrooks and Smith accompanied Taslima Nasrin in a search for an affordable apartment. After seeing almost a dozen studios and one-bedrooms, she chose one and arranged for furniture. Once moved in, she prepared a Bengali dinner and showed us around her Manhattan building and its facilities.
- In April 2008, Middlebrooks and Smith welcomed honorary member Taslima Nasrin to a dinner at Fedora's Greenwich Village restaurant upon her arrival in the United States. The "homeless woman without a country" had been "caged" in India for 8 months by officials who put her in a room "to protect her from extremist Muslims," allowing no visitors. FANNY is working to obtain American citizenship and a university position.
- In April 2008, Smith joined others who picketed the arrival of Pope Benedictine.
- In December 2001, we joined with other freethinkers for a 12/1/2001 Memorial Dinner at Fraunces Tavern for the freethought victims who perished at the World Trade Towers. Despite our demand to be allowed into the Ground Zero area, Mayor Rudy Giuliani's office would not permit us to join the various theists' groups that were allowed. The closest we could meet was the Fraunces Tavern.
- In 2000, we arranged a "toast" to the Pope at Marie's Crisis on the 400th anniversary of Giordano Bruno's execution.
- In 1995, Dennis Middlebrooks and Warren Allen Smith of FANNY counter-marched in an anti-Pope John Paul parade with Gloria Steinem, Olympia Dukakis, and almost 1,000 pro-feminists from Catholics for a Free Choice.
- In 1993, Smith with Bill Baird picketed the Pope's visit to New York City:
Other projects included FANNY's
- placing an “In Memoriam” in The New York Times on the centenary of the death of Robert G. Ingersoll, and toasting him at a plaque in his honor at the Hotel Gramercy in New York;
- introducing Taslima Nasrin to India’s Dr. Innaiah Narisetti, Ecuador’s Pablo Cevallos, and Russia’s Dr. and Mrs. Valerii Kuvakin;
- arranging contacts with journalists for Ibn Warraq, author of Why I Am Not A Muslim;
- commencing a Taslima Nasrin homepage and informing four hundred international journalists and human rights officials of her week-by-week struggle to escape from Bangladesh;
- entertaining Argentine humanist leader Hugo Estrella;
- showing 23-year-old University of Moscow graduate student Alexei Gostev where John Dewey taught at Columbia University and lived at 1158 Fifth Avenue;
- publicizing and moderating lectures by Dr. Paul Edwards*;
- covering Dana DiTullio’s research about Siloism for interested groups;
- helping arrange the BBC recorded interview of Joseph Fields and Warren Allen Smith regarding African American humanists;
- working with the BBC to record comments by Warren Allen Smith for their “World Service” radio program in regard to human rights and humanism;
- celebrating the birth and death dates of eminent freethinkers at Tom Paine’s “Marie’s Crisis” bar;
- writing humanistic comments for various letters-to-the-editor columns;
- compiling a list of alternatives to the 12-step Higher Power AA groups in the area; and
- with his approval, arranging for a plaque that was placed on the front of the Hotel Chelsea in New York City noting that Arthur C. Clarke had written 2001 there.
- retrieved the Robert Ingersoll plaque which had been a fixture at New York City's Gramercy Hotel, a site at which he had lived, and contributed it in 2007 to the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, New York
- Dennis Middlebrooks and Warren Allen Smith were televised on 3 July 2006 by Terri Murray, a London-based interviewer from Blacksheep DV Productions. The interview took place - imagine! - in Central Park's Sheep Meadow. Although basically about whether or not religion should play any role in government, the questions posed covered a wide gamut.
- Dennis Middlebrooks had a letter in the June 2006 issue of North and South, the the magazine of the Civil War Society. In this letter, which was in response to a letter from some benighted wretch in Boston who was not pleased with his previous missives, Middlebrooks lambasts Christianity, slavery, the Bible, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and pro-Confederate historians Clifford Dowdey and James Robertson, the latter of whom is a highly regarded historian but who is also a fundamentalist Christian minister who gives speeches before Civil War groups in which he praises Lee and Jackson, both slaveowners, as "Christian warriors."
- To counter efforts aimed at restricting our freedom, we freely published the the controversial and censored episode of South Park - in which Tom Cruise won't come out of the closet! Scientology is skewered much as Mark Twain with Voltaire-like wit satirized the Mormon bible ("an insipid mess of inspiraton. It is chloroform in print.")
- Published the controversial Danish cartoons that depicted Muhammed.
- When the West Bengal state in India and the country of Bangladesh did not allow Taslima Nasrin's books to be printed and read, FANNY posted the two books in Bengali for free on the web at
- In 2008, Middlebrooks and Smith were interviewed by Sean McManus of New York concerning our current views about the state of atheism and non-belief
- Smith has helped edit much of Taslima's work, including the press release that announced her leaving India in March 2008.
- Middlebrooks and Smith sent frequent "press releases" to the various freethought groups about the perfidy of the Democratic Party in its sellout strategy to the Religious Right
- Middlebrooks wrote the Daily News letter signed by Smith, pointing out that Pope Benedict arrived in the U.S. and commenced by distorting its history:
- So that she could reside in Manhattan, in March 2009 we helped Taslima Nasrin find an apartment in order that she could become a resident scholar at New York University.
- We encouraged Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers at New York University, supplying them with an entry in Philosopedia.
- We arranged for a Philosopedia entry for Hungarian General Bela Kiraly