Meagan Gray, a former Snohomish City Council candidate, is among speakers scheduled for Thursday’s International Women’s Day event at Everett Community College. (Image by Jared M. Burns - www.ja)

Meagan Gray, a former Snohomish City Council candidate, is among speakers scheduled for Thursday’s International Women’s Day event at Everett Community College. (Image by Jared M. Burns - www.ja)

International Women’s Day forum will celebrate persistence

Speakers include a former Snohomish City Council candidate who was bullied as a teen.

Meagan Gray ran for a seat on the Snohomish City Council last year. She didn’t make it past the primary. Yet in some ways, the 29-year-old hair stylist sees that entry into politics as a victory.

“The more I put myself out there — talking, being heard and seen, and giving my opinions — the more I overcame my fears,” she said Monday.

Like lots of kids, she had some hurtful experiences in seventh grade. Gray said she was bullied, and the anxieties that caused lasted for years. She kept to herself and feared speaking out.

“I think a lot of women have that fear. They don’t think their opinions are going to be heard as a man’s would be,” she said. “Step out of your comfort zone and say it anyway. Keep saying it. If you’ve been shut down, it doesn’t kill you. It makes your stronger.”

A stylist at Luxe Salon in Snohomish, Gray will share that message at an International Women’s Day forum 1:30-4:30 p.m. Thursday at Everett Community College. She is one of five scheduled speakers at the forum in Gray Wolf Hall, Room 156.

Open to all, the event is sponsored by the EvCC Diversity and Equity Center and the Everett Area P.E.O. Reciprocity group, part of the Washington State Chapter of P.E.O. Sisterhood. That group — P.E.O. stands for Philanthropic Educational Organization — provides college opportunities for women.

The other speakers, Daphne Robert-Hamilton, Mareldi Ahumada, Christine Oyaro and Ronnie Ann Jones, will talk about cultures, immigration, education and homelessness.

“In junior high, I was bullied on a daily basis,” said Gray, who attended Valley View Middle School, Snohomish High School and EvCC. It was especially bad in one class. “One girl had it out for me — I don’t know why,” she said.

One day, Gray said, classmates passed around a nasty drawing of her. When she took it to a teacher, Gray said, he handed it back and told her: “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.”

Gray took that message to heart. “It’s stuck with me my whole life,” she said. “I can laugh about it now. What the teacher did was not the responsible way to handle it, but in the long run it actually did help.”

Since losing her council race in 2017, Gray has devoted time to a Young Voters of Snohomish group. She’s part of the Snohomish City Toastmasters speaking organization. And she’s helping launch Snohomish Building Bridges, a grassroots group aiming to bring people together.

Snohomish City Council member Karen Guzak, the city’s former mayor, will be part of another International Women’s Day event. With Snohomish Rising, which grew out of a resistance group following the 2016 presidential election, Guzak and others plan a sign-waving celebration. They’ll gather, 4-6 p.m. Thursday, at Second Street and Avenue D in Snohomish to show signs promoting gender equity and celebrating women’s achievements.

Snohomish Rising, which Guzak said fosters positive change, meets regularly at Angel Arms Works, the former church building she and Warner Blake have restored. Guzak, who stepped down as mayor in 2017 after seven years in that role, also organizes an annual winter solstice walk along the Snohomish River.

International Women’s Day, recognized every March 8 by the United Nations, coincides this year with global women’s rights movements, and the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns against sexual harassment.

“It’s a very interesting time,” Guzak said. “I’m so happy to see women rising up and claiming their power. It’s high time.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;

Women’s Day events

A celebration of International Women’s Day is scheduled for 1:30-4:30 p.m. Thursday in Gray Wolf Hall, Room 156, at Everett Community College, 2000 Tower St.

It’s sponsored by EvCC’s Diversity and Equity Center and the Everett Area P.E.O. Reciprocity group, with support from Citrine Health, Women of Toastmasters, Take the Next Step, Northwest Justice Group, Soroptimist International of Everett, and Zonta Club of Everett. Speakers include:

1:40 p.m.: Daphne Robert-Hamilton, a dog trainer and firearms instructor, on “Small Talk Across the Cultures.”

2:20 p.m.: Mareldi Ahumada, a University of Washington doctoral student in electrical engineering, native of Mexico and P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship recipient, on “Gratefully Finding a Way in the U.S.A.”

2:50 p.m.: Kenyan immigrant Christine Oyaro on “Story of a Valued Citizenship.” She and her two children have studied at EvCC.

3:20 p.m.: Ronnie Ann Jones on “Moving Up, Out and Beyond Homelessness.”

4 p.m.: Meagan Gray, former Snohomish City Council candidate, on “My Battle to Bounce Back from Childhood Bullying.”

Snohomish Rising plans a sign-waving event to mark International Women’s Day 4-6 p.m. Thursday at Second Street and Avenue D in Snohomish.

All are welcome to bring signs promoting gender equity and women’s achievements. Organizers suggest wearing purple to signify dignity and justice.

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