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The Teen Central Anti-Bullying Movement: Talking to Shacara McLaurin
"Most schools have no idea what to do," says Ross Ellis, founder of Stomp Out Bullying.
The Teen Central DigiCommunication Arts Projects and Workshop, in partnership with Yianni Stamas and Lights Camera Read @ Grand Central Library has been growing and developing since last fall. Aiming to provide a space for youth to engage in public service while highlighting their talents and efforts — in essence promote yourself by helping others, our anti-bullying digital project began in the spring and gained a life of its own. Several teens produced and are producing work around this issue, which is in some way close to us all.
Bullying is a problem, we have learned, that is often downplayed, hard to manage and one that people generally are ignorant and confused about — even sometimes those who are supposed to help. We hope to raise consciousness about this daunting matter that exists in our schools, cyber space and even in the workplace. Our group agreed that talking about it and sharing information is an important step to take.
This initial post features an interview with an invited guest who inspired us — with her story, her perseverance and her support.
THE NEWS HIT THE AIRWAVES ON APRIL 15, 2011: Administrators at Brooklyn Academy High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant canceled Friday's talent show in the wake of an all-girl gang assault on a female high school student who was one of the contestants. Jacky Alcine told a Channel 11 news reporter, "she has a great voice. It fills the room." The gang attacked her friend, Shacara McLaurin, the girl who was most likely going to be the contest winner.
Fifteen girls left Shacara bleeding profusely in several places. After the beat-down, Shacara lost some hearing in her left ear. The gang leader, the girl who provoked the attack, broke Shacara's jaw with a concealed weapon — a padlock wrapped in a sock.
"My name is Shacara McLaurin. I'm 18 years old," she began. "Yesterday made a year [since the incident occurred]. This time last year I was in the hospital. I have a lot of mixed emotions, a lot of anger and hurt. I know at one point I even had thoughts about taking my own life. — but the experience made me stronger as a person. It made me grow. — I'm slowly but surely recovering mentally."
"With the attention my story had gotten from the media I knew something had to be done. — I was approached by Ross Ellis to be a teen ambassador for an organization called Stomp Out Bullying and I accepted."
Part of what Shacara now does is talk to youth and adults about the issue of bullying, how toxic it is and how important it is for all of us to try to do something about it.
At the anti-bullying movement meeting the Teen Central Digi Communication Arts group had some questions for her:
What consequences did the girls that attacked you face?
"Five were arrested. Four pled guilty. They got five years of probation and they had to attend a program. The main defendant spent ten days in jail. She's also doing a community service program that she has to complete and if she doesn't do it successfully, she's facing two years. I personally think that two years, even a year was reasonable but ten days — that kind of bothered me."
What did you do to get this girl to the point to where she wanted to fight?
"I have no clue as to why somebody would have been jealous of somebody's talent — I didn't know this girl and had only met her five days earlier. I didn't do anything personally to offend her."
The group asked Shacara if she has or could forgive any of her attackers.
"As a Christian I would say, yes I do. I received a letter of apology from one girl. A few others I think showed real remorse, but not the girl who hit me with the padlock."
At the Teen Central meeting Luke Grant made the point that the gang mentality stems from peer pressure — and thus in a strange way, some of those participating in the attack may have been victims of bullying themselves.
Shacara agreed: "If you didn't follow your friend you wouldn't be where you are now. I've been in that position myself."
The meeting became emotional at several points as Shacara shared details of the attack and her recovery.
"I really admire you," said Teen Central anti-bullying member James Hull. "I think I'd still hold a grudge. I don't think I could forgive them — You showed real courage to come here and talk to us today."
Please feel free to listen to Shacara talk about her experience.
In addition to being articulate, a survivor, talented and beautiful, Shacara is working on a song about bullying that we can't wait to hear and hope to help her promote.
Shacara expressed the belief that if more people show concern and get involved things can get better. Her advice to us was to host more events and to try to get more people to join our anti-bullying movement.
We all wish Shacara the best, thank her for the visit and her willingness to keep in touch.
We invite you to visit our site to see what has been done so far by the young people participating on a totally voluntary basis in Teen Central's anti-bullying movement — and ask you to understand there are a few more anti-bullying projects coming — to help get the word out!
Please look at our companion blog Books on Bullying, and check out our anti-bullying fact sheet [PDF]. Don't hesitate to get involved and in touch at Teen Central 212-621-0676, and stay tuned for our next installment.