By Aniaya Reed
What does it mean to advocate for something beyond yourself? A year ago, Zander Brosnahan developed a solution to stop traffic violators from speeding through the neighborhood streets: speed bumps. The safety of the Northeast community and kids who walk home from school is important to him.
“I have younger siblings, and I don’t want them getting hurt,” Brosnahan said. “A lot of people speed down these streets. I have seen close calls of people almost getting hurt. I want something to be done about it, I want something to happen.”
He shared his idea with his junior youth group, and his mentor Afsaneh Zaeri. The group, Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment, was created in 2013 through the Baha’i Faith Center at 6515 Independence Ave. They want speed bumps placed on Van Brunt Boulevard, Hardesty Avenue and Denver Avenue north of St. John Avenue.
Zaeri, a mentor for the youth group, fully supported their idea to advocate for safer streets.
“The program is a social action initiative of the Baha’i community,” Zaeri said. “It’s a world religion belief system. In the group they build friendship in the neighborhood. They build their power of expression, and develop their spiritual expression.
Through the Baha’i community and the junior youth group, Brosnahan found people he could connect with.
“I moved into the neighborhood about seven years ago, and I didn’t know anybody, so I decided I would join the youth group,” Brosnahan said. “We are all very close in the group, and it has given me a new perspective in life.”
Eugene Burks graduated from the junior youth program, and now assists the group members with the petition and getting the word out to City Council members.
“We haven’t turned in the petition yet,” Burks said. “We still need more signatures, but I have a good feeling it will pass when we turn it in. Our future goal is to get the bill to pass, and just make the neighborhood nicer and safer for everyone.”
The aging road infrastructure in the Northeast neighborhoods needs work. Some areas have narrow roads, with cars parked on one or both sides, which makes it difficult for vehicles to pass through safely. There have been prior petitions to make these streets safer, especially for the kids.
“People have tried to get a petition on it many times and it has always been turned down by the City Council,” Brosnahan said. “We want to have safe neighborhoods. That is something that is key, that is needed in the Northeast area.”
The petition is more than advocating for safe streets, but advocating for the basic human right of safety. The youth group is using their right to free speech to their advantage.
“Over the years, a lot of people have been hurt on these streets due to car accidents,” Burks said “One of my cars got hit and I want to make the neighborhoods safer. We just want to make a movement.”
Burks understands on a personal level why safety measures are needed. He acknowledges why drivers speed, yet he realizes that speeding and committing traffic violations is not worth endangering the lives of others in the neighborhood.
“When we were younger, a lot of people would not mind the kids,” Burks said. “They would literally speed past us and hit us. One car almost came onto the curb and hit us. I felt unsafe due to people speeding and not paying attention. I feel guilty myself, because it’s so easy to speed. I have to tell myself to slow down.”
Advocacy seeks to ensure that all people of society are able to have their voice heard on issues that are important to them. This is an important issue for the youth group, and they are willing to advocate for change. If you would like to help you can sign their petition here: https://www.change.org/p/increase-traffic-safety-in-the-northeast-neighborhood