(Photo: The Christian Post/ Sami K. Martin)
Bullying is more prominent than ever before, according to one church pastor, who has established a project to fight the spreading problem and to work with youth to generate a greater awareness of the causes of bullying in today's society.
"Bullying is more prominent than ever because of the presence of social media," Reverend Kymberley Clemons (KC) Jones, pastor at Valley Stream Presbyterian Church and the founder of the W.A.N.T.E.D., Project told The Christian Post. "Bullying no longer only takes place in the schoolyard or in gym class but can also be perpetrated for the entire world to see because of our new technology."
Pastor Jones explained to CP: "In the W.A.N.T.E.D. Project, a mentoring program for males 12-18 years old, we have discussed the affects of bullying from the perspectives of both the victim and the bully. Understanding that the bullies more than likely have been bullied themselves, we have to attack the problem from both angles, especially for young men who are susceptible to peer pressure."
The W.A.N.T.E.D. Project was birthed out of the assault of Jones' teenage son. He survived the attack and is now making plans to go to college, but Jones recognized that young men were being targeted by their peers, by leaders who saw them as a threat, and she wanted to do something to address those issues.
The program is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month and has seen two classes of young men graduate. There are still gatherings for alumni, who go on to be mentors to the new classes. Jones has received much recognition in the Valley Stream community for her work, even earning a citation from Mayor Ed Fare.
Jones told CP that the long-term vision and goal of the W.A.N.T.E.D. Project is "to provide young men with enough tools and positive information to be contributing members of society. Also, we want them to have enough self-esteem to be successful in life."
During a bullying workshop held by the project "the youth garnered a clear picture of how badly it hurts when you are called 'out of your name.' The boys were able to write down the various names they had been called and shared how it made them feel about themselves. One young man even shared that he had kept his cultural identity a secret because of being bullied on previous occasions," Jones said.
Fox news commentator Geraldo Rivera recently spoke about the harmful effects stereotyping and name-calling can have. He expressed, "Every time you see someone sticking up a 7-Eleven, the kid's wearing a hoodie. Every time you see a mugging on a surveillance camera or they get the old lady in the alcove, it's a kid wearing a hoodie."
Rivera was referring to the tragic case of Trayvon Martin, a teenager who was shot dead by a neighborhood watch representative while wearing a hoodie. Martin was unarmed and his death has recently caught the attention of the nation, with many claiming issues of racism and stereotyping played a central part.
The Martin case has led many commentators to highlight that this type of stereotyping is more widespread than many may like to believe, and leads to bullying and oppressive behavior towards groups and individuals throughout America.
Rivera has controversially said, "You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta - you're going to be a gangsta wannabe? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace."
Rivera went on to blame Trayvon's death on his wearing a hoodie, which sparked public backlash. He has since apologized for his words but says that he stands by his claim.
It's clear that there is a need for programs such as the W.A.N.T.E.D. project to help remind young men, and young women as well, that they are Worthy, Accountable, Named, Thankful, Empowered and Determined - the acronyms for the project.
"We are still addressing the issue of bullying," Pastor Jones has said. "Because it never gets old. It continues to be a relevant and deadly issue. Every day it seems that we hear about another young person who either took his/her own life or took another life because he or she had been bullied. It's got to stop now, and we all have a responsibility to our communities to address the issue as if our lives depend on it, and of course, they do."
A new movie is set to be launched this year called "Bully," which also looks to create awareness of and fight bullying.
BELOW IS THE TRAILER FOR MOVIE 'BULLY'
TO PURCHASE TICKETS FOR 'BULLY' PLEASE CLICK HERE