Speak up. Speak out.
According to Terry and Kim Davis, and their daughter Symone Cantey, this is the best way for students to defend themselves against bullies.
On Wednesday the family staged a production of their play, titled “Don’t Be A Bully! Speak Up! Speak Out!” at the Atlanta-Fulton Central Library to a large crowd of elementary- and middle school-aged children. The interactive play tells the stories of three students as they learn how to handle the bullies who harass them.
The Davises have been staging the play for about four years, and while their focus is within the state of Georgia, they have traveled out of state to school districts in Arkansas and South Carolina. The play is the main part of their anti-bullying presentation, however sometimes kids in the audience have the chance to share their own experiences with bullying at the end.
Terry and Kim Davis say that their family was inspired to do something about the issue of bullying after their daughter was bullied in the 9th grade.
“It’s something that was heartfelt to us, and we realized that it’s much needed to talk about,” said Kim Davis. “There are so many parents that come up to us, or children, or people who have experienced not saying anything, but are encouraged now to go speak up and speak out. So that encourages us to keep going.”
Cantey, the Davis’s daughter and the play’s director, said that her bullying experience was the result of a difficult transition from private to public school.
“When I got there it was just different, I didn’t know anybody, a lot of people were just rude, and it took me a while to get thick skin to brush it off and be confident within myself,” she said.
A recent graduate of Georgia State University, Cantey works at LearningRx in Buckhead, where she helps children with Autism and ADD learn to succeed in school. She said that it’s common for kids to approach her after the play and disclose their own bully troubles, and that as a result there are several students who she has taken on as mentees.
“I try to be a good example and I try to keep up with them, because it matters that somebody else is thinking about them,” she said.
Gloria Umanah, who starts her freshman year at Liberty University in the fall, has been acting in “Don’t be a Bully” for close to four years.
“Don’t be afraid,” were her words to students who may be experiencing bullying.
“You’ve got your parents, you have a whole bunch of support,” she said. “Have them back you up and it’ll be okay.”
Meredith McNeil, a rising 8th grader who acts in the play with her sister Melody McNeil, a rising 6th grader, also had some advice to share.
“Just speak up and speak out. We say it a lot, but it seriously means something,” she said. “If you keep telling, something’s gonna happen.”
Both Terry and Kim Davis said that they feel their play has made a strong impact on audiences over the years.
“We know we have a great product, we just have to do it more and more,” said Terry Davis.
“We’re very passionate about what we’re doing,” said Kim Davis. “It’s about educating our youth.”
(Photo: Don’t Be a Bully campaign logo, courtesy DontBeaBully.com)