Lifestyle

Meet the people behind the Boston Women’s March

From left: Zachary Steigerwald Schnall, Shelley Yen, Yordanos Eyoel, Sonya Khan, and Kim Whittaker.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

From left: Zachary Steigerwald Schnall, Shelley Yen-Ewert, Yordanos Eyoel, Sonya Khan, and Kim Whittaker.

Thousands of people — including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh — are expected to participate in the Boston Women’s March for America on Saturday, one of hundreds of such events being held across the country and even overseas. The reasons they’ll participate are as varied as they are. Some will gather to protest what they see as a rising tide of discrimiation and injustice. Others will link arms in support of human rights here and abroad. Still others will be there to lend their voices to issues of economic and gender inequality. Behind it all are planners and organizers, some of whom got involved by chance, while others saw an opportunity to take action. Here are a few of the local volunteers who are making the event happen and why -- in their own words.


Kim Whittaker

Kim Whittaker, 57, lives in Winchester with her husband Greg and two sons Nick and Mitchell. She is the president of Winchester Event Marketing, and serves as project manager for Saturday’s march.

“When people ask who is behind the Boston Women’s March I reply ... we [are] just a bunch of folks. We saw an opportunity, a need and we filled it. We are not a corporate structure sitting in an office. We connect by phone, text, Google Docs and conference calls. Some of us have never met in person. The commitment, talent, and contribution of time has been extraordinary. Some of us have not hung out with our families for weeks. This is happening across the country too as other women are organizing marches in precisely the same intense fashion. An organizer in San Fransisco recently said ‘my house is a mess, my husband is mad and I haven’t slept a full night in weeks.’ This is the state of many March organizers. In Boston, we’ve been working round the clock to make this event an historic day of solidarity, and peaceful action. Interest and support for the event has been beyond all expectations. We are exhausted but energized.”

“I firmly believe that we must be engaged in our government — we are the government. It is all of us working together for common cause. Failure to pay attention, vote and hold leaders accountable has grave consequences. This is a pro-American-ideals march. We are marching for equality, dignity, justice, and human rights. I hope the Herculean effort of our organizing team will provide a platform so all voices can be heard. Through our peaceful and nonpartisan messaging, our program and our procession from the Boston Common to Commonwealth Avenue, we want to send a loud and clear message to Washington and the world. We are watching. We are engaged. We stand together. Hear our voice. We can’t just hope for the best. We have to work for it.”

Sonya Khan

Sonya Khan is 34 and lives in Arlington. She works for a health policy research non-profit in Boston.

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“My background is in politics with some event-planning experience. I worked in operations for the Democrat National Convention in 2012, as well as a handful of campaign events along the way. A friend called me up and asked if I wanted to help and her timing was perfect. That day I found myself in someone’s living room talking about what a march might look like in Boston and have been helping out ever since.”

“I woke up on Nov. 9 not knowing what the future would hold for my family. As a Pakistani-American Muslim woman and child of immigrants, I was afraid. I hate feeling afraid. So I chose, instead, to focus on the positive and to focus on action. This march represents that to me -- a place where we can put our energy, our warmth, along with our sense of community, and create something so much larger than just me and my fears. I march because this is our generation’s opportunity to shine and to show the world, and each other, that our values of human dignity, equal rights and freedom from discrimination are our legacy.”

YORDANOS EYOEL

The 32-year-old Cambridge resident is an associate partner at New Profit, a venture philanthropy fund.

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“A few days after the presidential election, I met up with a few people from the Boston area to explore the idea of creating a sister march in Boston. We were inspired by the Women’s March on Washington and felt that it was important for people who couldn’t make it to D.C. to have the opportunity to march in their own communities in solidarity with communities most affected by hate, intolerance, and acts of violence across the country.”

“On Sept. 1, 2016, I took the oath to become an American citizen. The last in my family to do so, the decision was a difficult one as it meant forgoing any allegiance to my home country of Ethiopia. But we live in extraordinary times where our voices as individuals matter the most.”

“The Boston Women’s March for America offers a platform for all of us to come together and stand for what we believe in. Some of us had the privilege to vote in the election. Some of us couldn’t. And some of us chose not to participate. Irrespective of the decisions we have made, we all have a responsibility to shape the future of the country. This is why I am marching on January 21. I march because it is my duty. I march because I still believe in the American dream. I march because I am hopeful.”

Zachary Steigerwald Schnall

Zachary Steigerwald Schnall is 19 years old and lives in Lexington. He’s taking a year off before attending Harvard College next fall.

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“I spent this past fall working on the New Hampshire Coordinated Campaign for Democrats. Shortly thereafter, one of the Nashua field organizers, Abraham Lyon, introduced me to the Boston Women’s March For America (BWMFA) team. Since then, I’ve been on the Campus & Student Outreach Committee.”

“This march is important to me for a multitude of reasons. I’m a staunch believer in equality as an ideal, and I know that we are all stronger when we work together. Discrimination in all forms is unacceptable, and it must be challenged on all fronts. I’m marching in solidarity with all who are threatened in our current society. Independently, I believe it is crucial that youth create a voice, both for their generation and for future generations to come. In issues ranging from health care to climate change, every policy implemented today will have ramifications that affect a future society composed entirely of people who aren’t yet living. We have an ethical obligation to make the world a better place, not only for ourselves, but for these future generations as well.”

SHELLEY YEN-EWERT

Shelley Yen-Ewert lives in Dorchester and works for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.

“At BARCC [the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center] we have been working on improvements to be more inclusive of people of disabilities and the Deaf community in our services, events, employment and volunteer opportunities. Because of this lens and because I know that the Boston Women’s March’s mission is to unite with communities most affected by hate, intolerance and violence, including with people with disabilities, I reached out to the organizers to ask about the accessibility of the event and was invited to join to help in this effort. It has been a privilege to have this opportunity where I continue to partner with and learn from people with disabilities and the Deaf community about what full inclusion means.”

“I want to live in a world where everyone recognizes the humanity of each person and values the diversity each person brings. I want to live in a world that is equitable, just, and caring, so the Boston Women’s March’s mission of standing for religious freedom, human rights, climate justice, racial justice, economic justice and reproductive justice resonates with me.”

“The hatred, violence and inequities in this world can make me feel despair, fearful, and helpless. It brings me hope to remember those who fought for what we have now and to be a part of a movement to create a better future, not just for a few, but for all of us.”

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.
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