A BULLYING SURVIVOR SHARES WHY WE CAN’T, AND WON’T, STOP CELEBRATING WHO WE ARE.
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to listen to music. I still try to catch up with what my friends are listening to – mostly through the playlists they kindly curate for me. But even that was forced after they discovered I only listen to two artists: Adele and Pitbull on the weekends (I know, I’m sorry, but not really).
Cut to my first year helping our team plan our biggest event of the year: “Broadway Against Bullying.” Keyword: Broadway. Suddenly, I wished I had tuned in for any of the “Wicked” or “Hamilton” craze, or really any production other than “High School Musical.” I already avoided concerts with musicians I didn’t know – again anyone who wasn’t Adele or Pitbull – because I would just stand there awkwardly. I would have no idea how to move my arms. I never felt or enjoyed the music the way others did. So, despite all the planning we put into the show, part of me feared this would be no exception.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
From the first rehearsal, I knew “Broadway Against Bullying” would be unlike any musical experience for me because it was something more than just a craze I was trying to follow. It was an act of community solidarity through music.
Amidst our lives as hyper-engaged community leaders,150 of us gathered to hold space and bear witness to our performers’ talent and life experiences. We listened in earnest to their stories of how they stood up against others being bullied or overcame bullying themselves. Some made us cry, but mostly I was overcome with pride.
When your formative years are colonized by social interactions intended to make you feel small or excluded, our young and impressionable minds often can’t help but believe as we are told. Wrongfully hurt, lonely, and marginalized from society, more of us than we like to admit struggle to thrive and love ourselves for who we are. Some of us still struggle well into adulthood. Simply waking up, taking a breath, or allowing ourselves to smile are all incredibly taxing acts of courage. I couldn’t tell you where I find the strength to correct my internal dialogue in a world where we lack adequate space and resources to identify, cope and eventually heal from trauma. Yet somehow, despite all odds, I do. And every single one of the people on stage was calling on that same strength fearlessly working towards their version of peace. It was beautiful.
On stage, together with everyone who ever cheered for or showed kindness to our performers, we created a brave space where they felt comfortable sharing their incredible talents. We consider ourselves incredibly lucky to work with Broadway stars – shout out to Emmy and Tony award-winning producer, Michael J. Moritz for giving our show life – “Broadway Against Bullying” is not only about the music, the names, or even bullies really; it is also our night to celebrate every breath we have taken and sunrise we have seen in spite of those moments when we thought we had nothing left to give.