The Boston March against Trump inspires new citizen, and activist
This has been a season of firsts for Yordanos Eyoel, immigrant and social entrepreneur.
A native of Ethiopia who has lived in the United States since she was a teenager, Eyoel became a citizen last September. In November, she cast her first vote as an American, for Hillary Clinton.
On Saturday, she will participate in her first organized political action, the Boston Women’s March For America. Organizers say the group protesting the ascendancy of President-elect Donald J. Trump could top 50,000 Saturday.
“I’ve never been involved in anything of this magnitude, but I was really inspired by the organic nature of the marches,” Eyoel said. “And I felt that it was important to me, both as a citizen and as someone who came to this country as an immigrant . . . to be a voice for those like me.”
In addition to the traditional celebration Friday, Trump’s inauguration has inspired a wave of protests. Marches are planned for Washington, most major cities, and many foreign countries. Organizers say there will be at least one women’s march on every continent, in what must be one of the largest protests of a new US president ever.
Many of those marching will be participating in their first political protest. Eyoel, 32, is one of them. She works for New Profit, a venture philanthropy firm that invests in socially conscious startups. She moved to the Boston area to attend Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She became a citizen to vote against Trump, after becoming alarmed by his statements about immigration.
“It was less about Trump than the issues,” she said. “What kind of America do I want to live in? And what kind of America is going to be most conducive to marginalized communities? People like myself, who want to not only achieve the American Dream, but be appreciated for what they bring to the country?”
Eyoel has become an American gradually. Her mother, a journalist in Addis Ababa, left Ethiopia fleeing political persecution. The family settled in Orlando and have all become US citizens.
“My mother ultimately made the sacrifice of her career and her life to give me a better future,” Eyoel said. “So political activism is something that has been instilled in me from childhood — but obviously very cautiously, given where I grew up.”
Eyoel said her decision to become a US citizen was especially wrenching because Ethiopia does not offer dual citizenship. Becoming an American meant renouncing a country to which she still feels deep emotional ties. She was the last member of her immediate family to take the oath of citizenship.
Eyoel may not be a typical representative of the marches — which have drawn criticism, even before the fact, for being insufficiently diverse. Indeed, organizers of the Washington march have scrambled to deflect those complaints, insisting that the threat Trump poses to women transcends issues of race and class.
For her part, Eyoel said she hopes the march will send a message of unity. “I think that mistakes have been made, but inclusivity is a priority,” she said. “People of all races, backgrounds, and religions have volunteered their time. That said, I think improving racial relations and creating an inclusive and unified country is going to continue to be a challenge.”
It’s impossible to say how immigrants will be affected by Trump’s ascendancy. But, just as his long track record of misogynistic behavior has alarmed millions of women, his statements about immigrants have created a deep sense of vulnerability. Trump has pledged to unite Americans, but he may be bringing people together in ways he never promised on the campaign trail.
For now, it has harnessed the energy of people who are no longer comfortable being observers. In her disappointment after the election, Eyeol says, doing nothing never felt like an option. “This is a time to get out there and get our voices heard.”