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New Buffalo women share stories of joining the historic equality marches

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In the wake of the historic marches held around the world on January 21, 2017, a small group of New Buffalo High School graduates started comparing stories and sharing their passions via an online group. What emerged were personal accounts and the driving forces behind how these graduates went from pledging their loyalty to New Buffalo High to standing with and for the causes and people they believe in.

Cherie Seitz
Cherie Seitz

CHERIE SEITZ, 41 
1993 NBHS Graduate
Director of Education, Planned Parenthood
Resides in Kalamazoo

I graduated New Buffalo high school in 1993 and went on to college to study family life education. My first job after graduate school was as a sexuality educator for Planned Parenthood. Here I am, 18 years later, still with Planned Parenthood, now as a Director of Education. It’s not likely a surprise to say I participated in the recent Women’s March in Lansing to rally for reproductive rights, self-determination and medically accurate sexual health education and services, especially for the 65,000 people across the state who depend on Planned Parenthood.

I participated to learn from and listen to voices often marginalized and decentralized in decisions that affect them. I am a life-long organizer around social issues and on this day I marched because black lives matter. I marched in solidarity for the safety, respect and opportunities for Muslims, immigrants, people with disabilities, the aging, teens, children, veterans, LGBTQ individuals and families, assault survivors, native land and First Nation peoples. I marched because public education is at risk and healthcare is a fundamental right. I marched to demand our legislators protect our water sources, our climate and our futures.

There is much work to do to address the many injustices in the world, both outside and even within these movements.  But as one marcher said: “change does not begin, and does not end, with one day of rallying. It is what we do today and each day after that will matter even more.”  Imagine if all of us now did something every day for the issues that matter most to us.

Jodi (Kanger) Shelley
Jodi (Kanger) Shelley

Jodi (Kanger) Shelley, 41
1993 NBHS Graduate
Group Strategic Director, advertising
Resides in San Francisco, California

I marched because it is 2017 and we are not equal.

It’s time we all acknowledge our place in the greater WE. We have grown too focused on our individual struggles and the selfish pursuit of our own comfort only keeps us all down. I plan to use the privileges I have to help every woman rise and to help humanity rise together in love.

I also marched because I’m angry. Angry that it is 2017 and we still have to talk about how we are not equal.

I marched for women’s health, women’s pay, women’s insurance. For the freedom to love here, live here, thrive here, kiss a boy here, kiss a girl here, pee wherever ya want here.

I marched because guns in the wrong people’s hands kill women, lack of insurance kills women, lack of Planned Parenthood resources kills women, racism kills women, lack of sexual rights kills women.

And we are so sick and tired of our mothers, sisters, friends, lovers and daughters being killed.

We’re tired of smiling on demand. Being judged on a scale from 1-10. Being talked over, looked over, walked over. Left behind in class, left behind in the office, left behind a dumpster.

And, of course, I marched for two very personal reasons: my sons. They deserve to grow up in a world where we don’t talk about how to SURVIVE alone, but how to THRIVE together.

I went to D.C. because I want them to know that one voice can and does matter. We can choose to sit in the dark and be angry about it, or we can choose to turn on the light. I want to show them the power of one light piercing the darkness.

The march was only a moment, a symbol. The real work is happening. We have our congress people on speed dial, our to-do lists, our wallets ready. We’re putting in (yet another) work shift to take actions that hold the current Public Servant in office accountable to lift up every woman in this country from a life of abuse, poverty, racism and marginalization.

It’s 2017 and this is love’s time to win. Come hell or high water, I’m going to be there to help it.

“Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your own wings.” – Kobi Yamada

Emily Donnelly
Emily Donnelly

Emily Donnelly, 23 
2012 NBHS Graduate
Resides in New Buffalo

I thought it was important to go because I had been hearing a lot of negative talk about policy lately and I wanted to show that I didn’t agree with those words. I wanted to show that if any rights were threatened, I wasn’t going to just sit by. I was able to march with my great aunt and her daughter, as well as my aunt, making us three generations of marchers. Being a part of that was an amazing feeling.

Sally Grayson, 41
1993 NBHS Graduate
Artist and musician
Resides outside Stuttgart, Germany

I marched for equality, for we are all 100% equally valuable and worthy of love. ALL. No matter what race, gender, religion, sexual identity, political stance or anything else that could separate us, we are all worthy of equality and love. I marched for those marginalized and those who are getting trampled down. I marched to hold their hand and help them up, for I, too,desire to be picked up if trampled upon.

Sally Grayson
Sally Grayson

I miss my country, but I’m thankful that to have been a part of this movement while marching in Heidelberg, Germany.

I marched for the America I love and miss, the one I see as a beautiful melting pot of people from all different countries, cultures, languages and ways of life who come together and make up a whole, a nation. This America celebrates diversity and is kind to its neighbor. This America is open, listens and tries to empathize with and understand differing viewpoints. This America chooses acceptance over exclusion, openness over fear and love over hate. While these are high ideologies and dreams, there was someone else who had a dream and I desire to be a part of a movement taking up the torch where Dr. King left off and to stand up in a non-violent way toward love and equality, for I am called to LOVE.

Courtney Kliss
Courtney Kliss

Courtney Kliss, 25
2010 NBHS Graduate
Resides in New Buffalo

I think it’s important to show up. If you believe in something, and you’re physically able to do so, then represent yourself and the cause you’re fighting for. I don’t think anything has ever been more important to me than this, standing up for the rights of women and those who have been oppressed and marginalized. This is our future, and being complacent is not an option.

Shelby Sexton, 24
2010 NBHS Graduate
Resides in New Buffalo

The march was 100% peaceful and it was refreshing to be around thousands of others standing up for what we all believe in: positive change. I brought a flag with to wave whilst walking and I had people sign it with reasons why they were marching: “For my daughter,” “Because my mother left her whole life behind for this country,” “Reproductive rights are human rights,” and “Here to support all of the nasty women in my life,”were just a few things people wrote.