Joye Groff issued me a challenge. I accepted.
Just as I was doing some follow-up reporting to remind readers about the Anti-Bullying and Youth Violence Community Forum, Stand Up to Bullying, Groff emailed me about my most recent column.
I wrote about Tensie Taylor, a 2009 graduate of N.C. State University now settled in Los Angeles, who was set to appear on ABC’s “Wheel of Fortune.” It was one of Taylor’s big dreams that she said gained extra momentum every time she recalled being bullied.
“My thoughts are about those bullies who tormented her physically and emotionally throughout school,” Groff wrote. “Is there some way to find them, interview them, find out why they were so low, see what they’ve done with their lives, show them what Tensie has accomplished, and see if they understand what they did to her – and the many other ‘Tensies’ out there who didn’t succeed as she did.
“(Let’s) see what they’re doing to be positive influences on (those) in their circles of influence? Is it too late for them to learn to do the right thing?”
Groff’s email challenge came on Oct. 6, the first Monday of the month. It was Anti-Bullying Day. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.
So, here’s to calling all bullies – current and reformed. We want to hear from you!
Stand Up to Bullying is a place to start. It’s sponsored by the Wake Collaborative to Stop Bullying and Youth Violence, a task force of Mary Magdalene Ministries, the NC Black Leadership Caucus and other nonprofits, churches, faith-based organizations, businesses, agencies and schools.
The forum will open Saturday with a free community breakfast, followed by discussion sessions with guest speakers and panelists, including Tiffany Morones-Suttle, a Wake County mother whose 11-year-old son was bullied into attempted suicide earlier this year.
I’m glad the forum will address bullying as an epidemic that extends beyond kids and teens, school yards and the Internet. I’m enthralled speakers and panelists explore various types of bullying, from home and school to the judicial system and our General Assembly.
And we’ll search for root causes, stemming from cultural, institutional and social triggers to issues of family, personal insecurity, recycled abuse and mental illness.
I’m also paying close attention to the intersection between the goals of the task force and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane’s charge to address bullying as part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ The Bully Project.
“There are no policies, rules or regulations that can stop bullying,” said Geraldine Alshamy, who heads Mary Magdalene Ministries. “Bullying is an individual and community problem, and it must be resolved by its people.”
Russell Wilson, quarterback for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and a former N.C. State standout, recently spoke out against domestic violence plaguing the league, calling himself a “recovering bully.”
“I used to beat people up … a lot,” Wilson wrote as senior editor of The Player’s Tribune, a new website that gives voice to professional athletes. “I threw kids against the wall. I rubbed their heads in the dirt at recess. I bit them. I even knocked teeth out.
“I had a lot of anger that I didn’t know what to do with,” he said, adding he was saved by his faith at 14.
Others are speaking out, too: An Oregon Teacher of the Year reports being bullied by the district because he’s gay; a New Jersey school superintendent canceled a high school’s football season amid a team bullying investigation; and Internet sensation Matty B defends his little sister, who has Down Syndrome, singing, “I don’t think anybody should be bullied because of what they have.”
Alshamy knows similar stories. Groff does, as well – of her father being bullied by his own brother; of one of her two grown sons being bullied at a Raleigh private school; and of friends with similar battles.
Yes, let’s encourage bullies to speak up just as much as we encourage the bullied and their witnesses to stand up. Perhaps, therein lies our solution and resolution.
Yes, Joye Groff challenged me and I believe in sharing.
Tag! You’re it – too.