Finding My Movement: Stories As a Young Activist
By Laila Rahbari
March For Our Lives was the first movement I ever felt so invested in that I found myself marching before I had time to think. I wanted to share a small piece of my experience with that movement and the organizing I did then that has shaped the work that I am doing today in Buffalo.
In my Freshman year of high school, 17 people were murdered at the Douglas High School shooting in South Florida, near to my home in Orlando. As a Florida public high school student, returning to my school the day after the shooting I saw a new wave of fear and panic within the student body. As a result, I began to research school safety and mental health. The next year, I started a chapter of March For Our Lives (MFOL), an organization run by students with the mission of improving school safety and mental health advocacy, at my school. Around me I saw groups of peers come together for monthly meetings to support school safety and save lives. From school walkouts to voter registration drives, I spent my time outside of school advocating for safety. I was astonished by the power of a common cause. With enough dedication, teenagers were slowly transforming my school into a politically and socially aware environment, discussing together policies for change. I then became a member of the Florida State Board of MFOL as the Florida High School Program Manager. During weekly meetings to discuss how to better our schools, I bonded with ten other activists on the state board that shared a common goal.
From the group of students at my school to the seasoned activists on the state board, we built a community. Despite the challenges that teenagers have in the era of school shootings, we persisted and created a group of activists continuously working toward all students' safety. Because of my involvement with MFOL, I now understand the capacity it takes to begin and uphold a revolution and successfully achieve change. I wouldn't have become the activist I am today without the MFOL community.
With my work on the High Road, I am able to implement my field organizing skills in my research with Senator Ryan’s office, which is focused on the refugee community in Buffalo. In both my time with MFOL and my time as a High Roader, learned to work with the community through deeply listening to others’ stories, finding shared goals, and bringing people together with a common cause. I’m developing a deeper understanding of the necessary steps to achieve change both in this movement and the next.