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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

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EXTRAordinary women drive change in Boston

Honorees+and+other+attendees+of+the+EXTRAordinary+Women%E2%80%99s+Reception+pose+for+a+photo.+MOWA+hosted+the+event%2C+during+which+41+honorees+were+recognized+in+the+categories+of+economic+equity%2C+health%2C+safety+and+representation.
Alexis Algazy
Honorees and other attendees of the EXTRAordinary Women’s Reception pose for a photo. MOWA hosted the event, during which 41 honorees were recognized in the categories of economic equity, health, safety and representation.

For the past two years during Women’s History Month, the city of Boston has honored women who impact and propel change within the Boston community at the EXTRAordinary Women’s Reception

The event is organized by the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, or MOWA, to celebrate Women’s History Month. The office chose 41 honorees, with roughly 10 falling into each category: economic equity, health, safety and representation. 

This year’s EXTRAordinary Women, their loved ones and a number of notable attendees, including City Councilor Brian Worrell, State Representative Christopher Worrell and Miss Boston 2024 Tatyana Brown, took to Hilton Boston Park Plaza for a night full of powerful speeches, entertainment and food.

Mariangely Solis Cervera, chief of equity and inclusion for the city, kicked the night off with a speech. 

“Why on earth would the city of Boston organize and host an event like this?” Solis Cervera said. “That is because the city of Boston is made up of people, women, people who identify as women, with untold stories that should be told, because you are what makes the city run.” 

She continued by sharing a previously untold story about her grandmother. During the 1930s in Puerto Rico, her grandmother — who was just 7 years old at the time — picked tobacco instead of attending school to support her family. Solis Cervera then asked attendees to reflect on the extraordinary women in their lives. 

Kendra Beaver, 2024 honoree forthe safety category and the climate justice coordinator for the Fairmount Indigo CDC Collaborative, did just that. 

“My great aunt Louise has always shown me the importance of caring for your community and giving back,” Beaver told The News. “That inspired my career path in climate justice.”

Reception guests excitedly applauded the arrival of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who began her speech by honoring the late Sarah-Ann Shaw. Shaw, the city’s first Black woman TV news reporter passed away Thursday at 90 years old. Wu reflected on her personal experience with Shaw. 

“With all of the stature that she held, with all of the importance, she always had time for that next conversation with the next young person who wanted to get involved,” Wu said.

Wu went on to highlight the work of a handful of honorees, including Alfreda Harris, a public servant who, among her many accomplishments, served as deputy commissar of parks and recreation for the Boston Parks Department until 1996. She is also the longest-serving member of the Boston School Committee, a women’s basketball coach and an advocate for young Bostonians.

“Ms. Harris, I’m looking at you especially, for being the person that whenever I speak to a leader that grew up in Boston, particularly who might have been a baller back in the day, they said they wouldn’t be where they are today without you,” Wu said.

Mayor Michelle Wu smiles and speaks to the audience at the EXTRAordinary Women’s Reception. Wu honored the late Sarah-Ann Shaw and highlighted the work of various honorees during her speech. (Alexis Algazy)

The night was also filled with entertainment, beginning with Amanda Shea, a spoken word poet who performed a poem titled “Resilience” for honorees and guests. The night also included two performances by Urbanity Dance, a nonprofit arts organization. 

Wu thanked the many people responsible for organizing the reception, including Hali Smith and Emma Staff, the program manager and policy director, respectively, for MOWA. The pair spoke to The News about their experience working in Boston’s government.

“One of my biggest passions within this work is getting to think about who government has not served in the past or is not currently serving,” Staff said. 

This sentiment was clear during the office’s event, where speakers recognized impactful women who paved the way for current women driving change within the Boston community, like the night’s honorees.

The impact of earning the title of an EXTRAordinary Women honoree lasts far longer than the reception, said Ana Baptista, 2023 honoree and owner and CEO of GirlFriends Boston, a network that fosters community for the city’s women. 

“We were able to meet with all the women for different networking activities to get to know one another,” Baptista said. 

MOWA planned the event not only to recognize impactful women in Boston, but also connect community leaders and propel both them and the city forward. Wu shared this sentiment. 

“Across so many generations, the women in this room save lives, keep us safe, educate young minds and create, innovate and advocate for a better city for all of us,” she said.

About the Contributor
Alexis Algazy, Deputy City Editor
Alexis Algazy is a second-year journalism and political science major with a public relations minor. This is her second semester serving as the deputy city editor, and she is looking forward to extending city and political coverage. This semester Alexis is doing media relations at BCG for co-op. Follow her on X @alexisalgazy for article updates.
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