© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
UPEI student Emily Sewuster's emotions show on her face as she recites a poem she wrote when in high school to express her feelings about being bullied. She was one of the participants gathered in front of of Province House Tuesday night to take part in the pink shifrt anti bullying campaign.
Close to 100 people braved bitter winds to rally on the steps of Province House in Charlottetown Tuesday in support of people suffering from bullying.
Wednesday is Pink Shirt Day, presenting an anti-bullying message around the world with the rally being part of the Island’s participation in that campaign.
“There are many that can’t be with us here today because of the effects of bullying,” said Pink Shirt committee spokesman Joe Killorn. “They thought there was no way out and they took their own lives.
“We remember those we have lost and those that continue to suffer,” said Killorn, leading a moment of silence.
At the end of the cold-shortened rally, the Pink Shirt Day P.E.I. committee presented pink t-shirts to the Birchwood and Queen Charlotte school basketball teams for their work in offering a chance for Cameron Gordon, who lives with Down Syndrome, to play a game with them.
“He was surrounded by a bunch of very wonderful young people who brought him in and included him in their sport lives and in their school life and that was something that Cameron really wanted,” said Killorn.
“(That is) exactly what Pink Shirt Day stands for,” he said. “It stands for inclusiveness. It stands for acceptance. It stands for standing up for other people.”
University of Prince Edward Island student Emily Sewuster presented a powerful, emotional poem she created as a grade 11 student at Bluefield high school.
She told the rally that it was assigned as a creative writing exercise about war after the class had read All Quiet on the Western Front. Her poem is titled World War Three.
“How is an innocent little girl like me supposed to know the first thing about war?” she said during the presentation of her poem at the rally.
Far too much, her poem said. She compared personal defence strategies against bullying to warfare trenches. Her poem pleaded with people to be active in supporting everyone, regardless of differences and to “not be numb,” from the media messages of what normal should be.
As a laser light show flickered across the rally event, guest speakers talked of awareness, education, support and hope.
“When you walk in any school across Prince Edward Island (today) and you will see children wearing pink, and (see) the power of where we have gone in such short time in respect to the awareness and education, particularly youth taking responsibility and being aware of the issues,” said Doug Currie, minister of health and wellness.
He spoke on behalf of politicians joining the rally such as Robert Mitchell, James Aylward, Richard Brown, Mike Redmond, Stu MacFadyen, and Olive Crane.
“We are all here for the same reason, bullying, and it cannot be allowed to continue,” said Zak Court of the UPEI Rainbow Alliance.
“Many people think bullying is a thing of the past and I am here to say it is not, and it must stop,” said Court.
He urged people to realize that there are resources to help those suffering from bullying.
Not only youth but also bullying in the workplace, said Killorn.
“It is a very large problem in society,” he said. “One in six people are bullied at work. Eighty percent of workplace bullying takes place with one’s own boss but it’s a huge hidden cost in terms of employee well-being and productivity.”
“You fell less confident, you feel bad about yourself, you feel like you can’t do anything and that no one is there for you,” said Phillip Udaloy, a 17-year-old student from Russia now living on P.E.I.
He urged those suffering from bullying to learn how to be kind and supportive to themselves first and foremost.
“If you take charge of your life, you become strong,” said Udaloy. “If you seek help for yourself, that is being strong for yourself.”
The rally ended with a dance performance to pulsing music, moving the audience to cheer and dance in support.