Note: It's been over a week since I met Annette, but here's the interview I started that day.
I met an amazing person on the bus today. She's an activist of sorts. Well, I'm not sure exactly how to describe her job title, but she works at educating people about the ugly effects of bullying. Bully Prevention.
We had an amazing conversation (I mean, she listened to my crazing rantings all the way into Seattle... *innocent look*)! I asked her to come and be interviewed on my blog, so here we are.
Her business card says she's with the I-Force Program, Self-Awareness Guidance & Education (SAGE). That's a very cool group to be with, by the name. She was also sweetly religious, which stands out as unusual to me. Being in her presence was more like being near a rainbow than feeling the flickers of hellfire seeking out one's toes.
Did I mention she's joining us today? Bullying is something that can tarnish adult lives, not just kids' lives. Even very cool writers and artists can find themselves at either end of the bully spectrum. That's one of those things like you can die from obesity or anorexia, neither of them are fun or recommended.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Hi Nix. It was a pleasure chatting with you on the ride to Seattle. Thank you for this opportunity to share a bit about who I am and what I do.
Since 1994 I've worked in the field of non-violence. Peace, abundant joy and Self-actualization is my quest - no room for cruelty and violence on this journey. For years I've advocated for victims of domestic violence and educated abusers as to their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. My goal was to help them unlearn false beliefs, heal past hurts, and learn new ways of being. For many, there were positive breakthroughs, growth and empowerment. Others remained trapped in the illusion of being entitled to enforcing power and control over others.
For the past seven year's I've focused my attention on our youth and the adults who make up their community - parents, teachers, administrators and youth serving organizations. In a two-day training, I meet with 40 highly influential students from diverse cliques, gangs, and groups and build community with them. They become agents of change as Safe School Ambassadors. Starting with themselves, they learn to stand up and speak out against cruelty and violence. They are empowered to use new skills and character to influence their friends and peers to be friendly and respectful. The adults are trained to collaborate with the students, being supportive of their needs (emotionally and academically) and coaching them to strengthen various skills learned in the two-day training.
I, as a mother and grandmother revel in the reality that our youth are more influential in each others life's than adults, often times. Having young ambassadors keeping the peace greatly eases my mind. There is hope.
Nix: Young ambassadors. I think for those individuals who learn skills to give them self esteem and equilibrium that keeps them out off the bully/victim scale - that they'd take those skills throughout life to be more successful. As writers, what kind of characters would you like to see in young adult or children's books?
I would like to see the type of "stand-up" characters that aren't afraid to speak up and do it respectfully so as not to be confrontational. You know, sort of like communication ninjas. They come out of nowhere and gracefully keep moving on. They just say what they mean without pulling punches. We need communication heroes. The ones who can stop and/or prevent wrongdoers from feeling like they have permission to do and/or say unacceptable things and hurtful things.
Nix: I think books might be a good way for readers to pick up skills that will help them. For someone contemplating writing young adult or children's literature, what kind of skills would you like to see seeded for a reader to pick up?
Annette: Books that illustrate how each individual is special in their own right and examples that show how our unique qualities complement each other; while, also mapping out the importance of our commonalities and how both create the momentum that drives human progress, individually, socially and spiritually.
Nix: I think it's very important for us to take responsibility for our own feelings and actions. In writing romance, I find a lot of the fantasy is in being rescued. Now in the course of our lives, we all need other people. We all need help from time to time. I worry that investing a lot of emotional energy into the moment of rescue, moment of loving commitment between persons who attracted to each other, well, that... well, maybe we become like an actor who prepares endlessly for one scene, but neglects the rest of the play. If, as romance writers, what are some of the ways that a character could display empowerment?
Annette: Show how the link in relating expands who we are, even if our experiences are bad or painful. We become our own heros in acknowledging this process in our life. We have the power to choose how we react or respond to our experiences. We can choose our own follow-through.
Nix: How important is being empowered and comfortable with one's self to one's long term health?
Annette: Very. In short, awareness of self means we are free from the judgement and expectations of others. Being true to self and conscious of the benefits of self-care frees us up to experience more joy more often. Joy and love are major ingredients of longevity and good health.
Nix: What's your favorite movie, book, or music artist? How are you inspired by it?
Annette: Books - the Holy Bible. For its guidance and comfort. Music Artist - Michael Jackson. For his love, joy, artistry and spiritual innocence Movie - Avatar for now. For it's beauty and message.
Nix: Tell us about a world where everyone is educated about bullying and empowerment? How is that world good for everyone?
Annette: Everyone stands in the light of their own strengths, not needing to bring another down to feel important. People will not be threatened by each other's strengths as they know their own. We would celebrate lifting each other as we know we all gain as we all grow.
Nix: I totally loved Avatar! I think that would be a fantastic way for our species to evolve. There seemed to be a lot of respect between species and individuals within the Navi group. That's not to say that they always agreed or were in perfect harmony, but they respected some healthy boundaries within their friction, I think.
So to close, I think bullying is like porn. everyone thinks they know it when they see it. And maybe also like porn, maybe there's a tendency to say something we don't like is offensive or poor behavior, when it might just be we don't like it. Fine line there, but still. Can you give us a description of bullying? How do we know when we see it, are the target of it, or even... displaying bullying behaviors?
Then any closing comments?
Annette: Bullying looks like being left outbid invites - being disregarded, being berated or belittled - sometimes disguised as joking around, gossip and spreading of rumors, made fun of for looks, dress, race, heritage, religion or lack there of, all for the purpose of causing divisiveness, emotional, positional or physical threats, physical pushing around or touched in an uncomfortable way... If you practice these things - you are an aggressor - one who does hurting of others or self. Should this be happening to you - you are a target.
Bullying can be deadly. People kill while hurting, for revenge and/or commit suicide as they feel worthless and that no
one cares. Many people practice self destructive behaviors and self mutilate in an attempt to express a desperate cry for help or relief. Where is the peace? Where is the respect for differences and boundaries, even in the face of conflict and disagreements? Can we make a change? I say YES!! What do you say?
Nix: I think we'll have to start one at a time... with ourselves, and just keep moving forward! I'm grateful to you for the work you do making the world better, helping people have better lives, better relationships!
If someone is having problems being a bullied, or even acting out in bullying behaviors, where should they reach out for help?
They can start with the Community-matters website@ community-matters.org. There are many anti-bullying advocates and companies in every community. It is important to get support from someone you can trust. My number is available for those needing support and guidance.
Bully Prevention Specialist
Thank you so much for joining us!