Evanston musicians teach kids to stand up to bullying

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Kelly Gonsalves/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston musician Yemi Marie, 16, hands a microphone to a boy to sing along to a remixed Drake song Friday evening at an anti-bullying concert at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center. The show featured two other musicians.

Kelly Gonsalves, Reporter

Evanston musicians teamed up with a community center Friday evening to preach an anti-bullying message to young children through song and chant.

In celebration of National Bullying Prevention Month in October, the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center hosted the free concert, which featured three teenage performers who have all been victims of bullying. R&B and hip-hop artists Yemi Marie, T.L. Williams and Zophia played for about 75 children throughout the night.

Frankie Robinson, a Power 92.3 Chicago radio host, emceed the event, leading the audience in anti-bullying cheers. She talked with the artists after their performances about their personal bullying experiences, as well as her own story of being abused by peers over a beauty mark on her face.

“Remember this: Everybody is different,” Robinson said. “It doesn’t make you less than anybody else. It doesn’t make you funny-looking. It doesn’t make you ugly. It doesn’t make you this. It doesn’t make you that. It makes you special.”

With Robinson’s guidance, kids shouted lines such as “no bullying” and “everyone is special” throughout the night.

The event was the brainchild of Betsy Jenkins, manager of the community center, and Gus Redmond, vice president and talent producer of national music promotion company Music Quest. The two met over the summer when Redmond invited Jenkins to a series of concerts in the Chicago area, one of which featured Yemi Marie, 16, who is promoting her own national anti-bullying campaign. Jenkins decided to bring the show to Evanston.

“We felt there was a need in the community for kids to realize that bullying is not popular and what are some of the things that they can do to stay away from it, and if they are doing it, they stop it,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said she believed the event hit home with the kids because the performers are all teens and can relate more to a young audience. She and Redmond also credited the music with making the message more accessible.

“I think kids really look up to artists, and if they see them doing good, they’re going to do the same thing,” Yemi Marie said. “But if they look at people doing bad things … they’re going to follow them, too, because those are their idols. If I set myself as a good role model for them, then they’ll try to follow my footsteps.”

Yemi Marie, who headlined the concert, has so far brought her anti-bullying musical campaign to Illinois, Indiana and Georgia, playing for adults and children. During the show, the kids came to the front of the stage to dance and sing along during Yemi Marie’s act.

Jenkins said she wants to host more events with similar anti-bullying themes and hopes the city will do the same.

“I’m hoping that we’re at the forefront, and we will continue to put the message out there,” she said.

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Twitter: @kellyagonsalves

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