Can organizing save lives?
Quartney Fore is a petite young woman studying broadcast journalism at the High School for Recording Arts (HSRA) in St. Paul, Minn. But legislators be warned: don't underestimate her because of her size or her age.
Quartney is part of Click4Life, a teen driver safety project undertaken by HSRA students and the Fo-Show with funding from State Farm Insurance. Click4Life's goal is to pass legislation in Minnesota that makes driving without a seat belt a primary offense. Ultimately, they think the new law will save teen lives.
Should be a piece of cake, right?
Not exactly. One of the biggest hurdles the group faces will be convincing state legislators that passing the primary seat belt law will not open the door for increased racial profiling. It helps that the Click4Life teams members are African-American. They can say matter-of-factly, as Quartney does, that "if the police want to pull you over, they'll pull you over for anything." And it helps that they've armed themselves with data gathered at the National Teen Driving Safety Summit and on a research trip to Meharry Medical College in Tennessee, data that shows that traffic fatalities - especially among minorities - can be prevented with increased seat belt use.
Members of the Click4Life team posed with their teacher-advisors Tony Simmons and Libby Harris, and an epidemiologist at Meharry Medical College.
But what the Click4Life team believes will make them successful is organizing. They joined the Center for Democracy and Citizenship's Organizers Breakfast Club to learn how to map power, practice one-to-one relationship building, and reflect on their work with other civic organizers working on a variety of issues.
They'll put their learning into practice this Friday, when they lead a summit with nearly 100 young people they've recruited from several local high schools. Jasmine Blanks, a graduate student at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs who is working with Click4Life, says the youth will "share ideas on how to make the campaign a success, learn some tools to get them going, and even begin making some of the contacts that will be necessary to see the seat belt law changed."
We want "to equip students and other people to go to legislators," says Bukky Ige, another member of Click4Life. "Instead of us doing it for them, they can do it themselves."
Charles Foreman, a Click4Life member and co-host of the Fo-Show, believes that young people can be especially persuasive in lobbying for the new law "just by us being there. It's showing them that we care," he says, "and that we're motivated."