BY TRONE DOWD
Over 100 children and parents gathered at the EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care Center in Cambria Heights to watch fellow classmates and teenagers sing, dance, perform and share experiences to combat bullying and violence in the community through the arts at the Dear Diary Open Mic.
Organized by Delicia Davis, author of the book Dear Diary, The Bullying Won’t Stop, and the Dear Diary book series. This marked the second year that the now annual event took place.
“This inspiration for the Dear Diary Open Mic was to first of all share the message against bullying with the young people in the community,” Davis said. “It also gives them an opportunity to give their feedback, give their own creative work and share that with their colleagues and community.”
Choosing to spread the anti-bullying message through the arts was a conscious decision made by Davis.
“I always encourage young people to express themselves through the arts,” Davis said. “I think it’s a fun and creative way, and it’s the way young people communicate with each other. Through writing, through art, through poetry and through music.”
Through the open mic, Davis hopes to provide a tangible solution for younger people who may not think there’s a way to deal with the hardships many face growing up.
“This is our way of giving people a resource of anti-violence, anti-bullying resources in the book,” Davis said. “We talk about how to deal with bullying and to reach out for support, what are some of the community resources that young people can reach out to when needed. Even if it’s just knowing how to handle very difficult situations. Things with boys, things with friends, things about their sexuality, who and where they can go to find the support they need.”
The idea of using the arts to combat bullying is something outlined in the Dear Diary book series.
“There is a series of poetry throughout the book. I gave the girl in the book poetry as her outlet and it really helps her build and grow through her challenges. I really want to showcase that poetry and simple things can really change the outlook of a situation.”
Performers included a saxophone player named Ashley Chambers who played a moving solo, a young man no older than 6-years-old named Tyree Hall who sang an adorable rendition of Ne-Yo’s “Go On Girl,” and a poet named Austén Harrison from Monroe College, and the local middle school dance group Generation Fierce, who impressed the crowd with their topical and bombastic choreography.
Many younger members of the audience were allowed to quietly work on different forms of art, including painting, sculpting and 3D art on tablets, as they listened to the performances. Food was served as performers were called onstage to share whatever they would like. Performers could also choose to be judged, entering them in a chance to win a $250 cash prize. The open mic featured a star studded panel of judges from the community, including Kevin Livingston of 100 Suits for 100 Men, Kenya Bryan from York College and former youth director of Life Camp and Embrace Ya Kids, John Kennedy from Essense and Ebony Magazine and current BET.com contributing editor, Lakia Echols of the Salvation Army and Franck Joseph from Councilman Donovan Richards’ (D-Laurelton) office. In addition to the judges, Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) was there to present the winner with their cash prize.
Copies of Davis’ book as well as journals were given to every child who showed up to support their peers. Davis’ said that the event was a great way to spread a positive message and hopes to continue doing it for years to come.
“Giving myself as an example because this is how I dealt with stuff during my childhood and as an adolescent,” Davis said. “I want to show them proof that we can all do this and overcome.”
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly.