Students at Citizens Memorial Elementary School, including Yadriel Rodriguez, 11, march through the corridors with signs and chanting "Be Nice, Think Twice" following an anti-bullying rally in the school's cafeteria Thursday morning. (PHOTO/ERNEST A. BROWN)
WOONSOCKET â Sometimes it takes a little bit of fun to learn an important lesson, and the students at Citizens Elementary School found that out on Thursday when Mr. Deep Positivity took on the problem of bullying during a rally in their school auditorium.
The rapping educator from Providence, a.k.a. James McBride and 2003 Rhode Island Big Brother of the Year, used his songs and supportive and optimistic outlook to encourage the students to take a stand against bullying.
The rally gave the 425 children and school staff attending a chance dance to Mr. Deep Positivityâs songs and also to march around the corridors of their school with signs promising to put an end to bullying as the program ended.
Citizens Principal Raphael Diaz said the program was part of the schoolâs efforts to develop a respectful and caring school community.
âEveryone is involved. The children, the staff, the parents, the PTO, we are all doing this together,â Mr. Diaz said.
âWe want people to be nice to each other and especially the children, we want them to be nice to each other so that they can learn even more in their school,â he said.
Mr. Deep Positivity has seen the problems and tragedies that can result from people treating each other with disrespect while he was growing up in the Roger Williams housing complex in Providence. A cousin of his was wounded in a shooting in the neighborhood, and another cousin murdered by gun violence, he said.
McBride himself faced bullying as a young man until he learned to stay with a larger group of people and avoid those who would bully him.
He began to help others see a path away from bullying when he became involved with the Big Brothers of Rhode Island 12 years ago and was asked to come up with a rap song for the organizationâs efforts to stop violence in Providence.
He created the song, and one thing led to another, McBride said. âIt inspired all the songs that I do, and today I have over 600.â
The songs encourage young people to think about how they treat others and encourage them to treat others in the way that they would want to be treated.
âI teach with my songs, and I am basically a teacher with a microphone,â the certified non-violence instructor said.
He now visits schools around the state performing his songs of respect and getting kids to consider what happens when they say mean things to fellow students, criticize their personal appearance or mannerisms, or most important of all â resort to violence, pushing, hitting, kicking or fighting.
As he did on Thursday, McBride will ask a student body to raise their hands if they have seen an incident of bullying in their school, and most in an audience will raise their hand in the affirmative.
The rare school where only few students raise their hands are the schools that can serve as role models for all the other schools, he said.
Noting how many hands went up in the Citizens auditorium, McBride said, it âbreaks my heartâ to see them at all.
âYou know why? Because when kids say mean things to other kids it hurts. When kids hit other kids, it hurts. When you boys and girls see bullying on that level that means there is a lot of disrespect going on in your school. and it breaks my heart,â McBride said.
It was even more heartbreaking to know that he had visited the school before, and yet some students still didnât know the message, McBride said.
âThat means kids heard what I said but they didnât do what I said. I can only tell you what to do when it comes to bullying, but itâs up to you guys, right! Say âItâs up to me,â â McBride said while getting shouts of âItâs up to meâ from the crowd.
âSo when weâre saying stop bullying, stopping bullying starts with you, say stopping bullying starts with me,â he said.
âStopping bullying starts with me,â the students chimed in.
McBride offered the kids some tools to help in their anti-bullying efforts, the first being a way of putting a hand on their lips to stop themselves from saying something bad about another student.
âSo from now on, before you say something that is mean and hurtful, I want you to go like this and put a hand on your lips,â he said. âThis my secret power to stop you from saying something mean,â he said as he showed the kids how to stop the bad words from being said.
âSo donât say mean things, be nice and think twice,â he said. McBride also encouraged the children to block bullying comments from âgetting into your heart,â where they can be so hurtful. Showing them how to block negativity with a shield, McBride said if bullying âgets into your heart, it can hurt you on inside. It can make you feel bad, mad and sad. But if you block it, if it never gets inside of you, you wonât get mad,â he said.
McBride concluded the rally by creating a pledge for the students to take and even sign their names to when it is posted on a wall of the school in the near future.
âI pledge not to bully anyone.
Not to pick on them or say mean things for fun.
To never hit or hurt with my hands or my feet.
To treat others how I want them to treat me.
To be nice and think twice and use respect.
To be helpful not hurtful and to try my best.
To speak up and speak out against bullying.
To help others in need and to be a good friend.
I pledge to stop bullying, to never ever bully,â McBride said.
âNow give yourselves a round of applause,â he said to the assembly which everyone, enthusiastically, did.