Northfield residents prepare for Women’s Marches

  • Claire Chang (at right) of Gill and Emily Koester of Northfield protest the Keystone XL Pipeline in support of clean energy during a Washington D.C. march in February 2012. Koester plans to support an upcoming D.C. march.Photo taken by Laura Kaye and contributed by Emily Koester.

Recorder Staff
Monday, December 19, 2016

NORTHFIELD — Northfield resident Karina Berenson spent much of her time in the lead-up to and following the 2016 presidential election by watching the news, in particular, the commentary of presidential elect Donald Trump.

Berenson wasn’t the only one. Her two daughters, Fiona Bird, 13, and Genevieve Bird, 9, were watching, too, and Berenson couldn’t help but notice the upsetting effect listening to Trump’s derogatory comments had on them.

“They are wanting to have a say,” Berenson said of her daughters, especially Fiona, who she said was very upset by Trump’s racist remarks. “They want their voices to be heard.”

So, when Berenson heard about the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration and the first full day of his administration, she felt compelled to take action.

“As soon as I heard about it, which was on Facebook, I just thought ‘I have to go,’” she said.

The Women’s March on Washington started as a viral idea on social media, with the goal of uniting people — both men and women — from across social, cultural, religious, political and economic identities to demand justice and equality for women. Numerous other women’s marches are cropping up across the country to be held the same day, including one in Boston.

Berenson said her first motivation, as a parent, was to see her children get involved. She plans to march in Washington, D.C. with Fiona, while her husband Michael Bird takes Genevieve to Boston.

Still, outside of her family, Berenson felt like she could do more, working to bring other Northfield residents together for the marches.

“I was waiting to see someone else do it and then I thought, ‘Why am I waiting when I can do it? Maybe it’s my turn to take it on,’” she said. “It’s just about getting out there and doing what you can. Anybody can do it.”

Berenson started a crowdfunding page, hoping for donations from anyone who would like to assist with the marchers’ travel costs. She intends to rent buses, hopefully finding 60 participants to fill two buses — one to Washington, D.C., and the other to Boston. As of Dec. 15, Berenson said 43 people had contacted her to participate.

Northfield resident Emily Koester, who plans to go to the Boston march, shares Berenson’s inspiration.

“When I was a little girl, my mom went to protest the inauguration of Richard Nixon in 1972,” Koester said. “I was too little to go … but it left a mark on me. So I want to take my (12-year-old) daughter, Lucy.”

Koester believes the marches are a way of “building community and reaffirming that everyone is connected” in the wake of the election.

Northfield residents Laura Kaye and Cate Woolner felt compelled to take a stand for women’s rights. In Woolner’s words, Trump has “given permission for unbridled misogyny and bad treatment of women” and “pulled a scab off of a pustule of sexism and misogyny.”

“For me personally, post-election, every day when there’s another announcement of who Trump is considering for his staff, it just seems to me that these people are highly inappropriate,” said Woolner, who intends to march in Boston. “I just think we’re taking a great leap backwards.”

“I wanted to be there because (Trump) has clearly shown that there’s very little regard for women’s issues,” said Kaye, who plans to march in Washington, D.C. “I think a lot of women and men have felt the call to go.”

Both Kaye and Woolner have attended several marches, with Kaye’s first march being the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, led by Martin Luther King Jr. The experience showed her the significance of mass demonstrations.

“I was just a teenager and went with my mom and my friend’s mom,” she remembers. “In that experience, I saw the power of having people gather in our nation’s capital and all sorts of cities.”

Woolner invites anyone who agrees that women’s rights are in danger to get involved.

“For me, one of the antidotes for despair is to take action,” she said. “Doing something collectively with thousands and thousands of people increases my personal sense of empowerment and combats despair. Just being in a crowd of people that feel like how I’m feeling, that keeps me going. Additionally, these large collective actions make a statement.”

Berenson wonders if organizing local residents for the women’s marches might be just the start of a larger movement.

“It’s kind of a way to bring together all of these people that are thinking and feeling the same things,” Berenson said. “Maybe it’ll be a jumping-off point for more local activism.”