Member Profile: Whitney Ogbesoyen, REEP alum

June 3, 2015

Whitney Ogbesoyen, REEP Alum When I started the Summer Leadership Program on social justice at The City School in 2009, I became really invested and loved the work. Their former director sent me to REEP, and I applied, got in and absolutely loved the program. There were two main campaigns and air quality was one of them. We talked about a kid who died of asthma and that was really personal to me because I have family members with asthma. Asthma is not something we really talk about among youth—we talk about other issues, like violence—but asthma was not one of them.

Roxbury, a low-income community, has six times the asthma rate of Massachusetts. It really shows that asthma is a problem—this is extremely high and it’s also high in other communities of color. We have a lot of schools in our district and people miss work and school because of asthma. We shouldn’t have this problem if we have a way to fix it.

A favorite moment from the campaign were our summer camps with schools in Mission Hill. We had city councilors come over and the kids were acting out having asthma, and many of them actually did. We asked how many kids in the class had asthma and only two kids out of ten didn’t raise their hand. That ratio is extreme. They were seeing an issue that is affecting them and knowing they can make a change and actually do something about it.

I’m extremely happy about one part of DERO: the anti-idling laws. There’s more authority now to give tickets for idling. Before, it was only two individuals giving tickets, and that’s unrealistic. Now other agencies like the police department can give tickets. I don’t want to see them abuse this power, but knowing that they can give tickets is a good thing.

Some challenges we faced were city contractors not wanting to comply with the ordinance, even when it directly affected us. Not everyone is going to be in your movement, and might not support what you stand for. We were adamant in what we stood for, saying no, this is what we want and what we deserve.

I am super excited about DERO. This is amazing, something that I’ve been working for forever—I’m in college now. This should motivate REEPers to see that they can do it. We’re ACE, we’re REEP, and we can add this to our list of accomplishments.

The next step—I never settle for less—is how we enforce this. We have DERO on paper, now we need it in reality. I feel that regardless of how long it takes, we will accomplish this.