Bullying is a national issue and many experts have their own solutions on how to curb it, but none are likely as creative as Nikki Davis‘ approach. For the past few months, Davis has been touring New York City, singing at elementary, middle, and high schools to promote anti-bullying messages that she hopes young people can dance and learn from at the same time. And to Davis, her anti-bullying melodies strike an immediate cord with her young audiences:
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One boy came up to me and said, ‘I was a bully, but I don’t wanna do it anymore,'” Davis recalls. “So I was like, ‘Wow. If I can change lives now, then I know it can be bigger when I become more well-known.
Davis’ parents, Sabrina and Willy, serve as her managers, booking venues around the city. On a Wednesday night, Davis sang at the Knitting Factory, a popular club in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. None of her songs dealt with the subject of bullying on this night, but as soon as she finished her set, Davis and several of her family members sold CDs of her music to audience members with “Stop the Bullying” covers on them.
Watch “No More Bullies” below:
Davis has been singing since the age of 4, and her inspiration to combine the subject of bullying with song comes from her own experience of being bullied: as a sixth grader, she recalls being emotionally abused by her classmates often. According to Davis’ mother, Nikki came up with the idea of singing against bullying on her own:
She was just sitting around talking one day, trying to figure out exactly which route she wanted to go with her music,” Sabrina recalls. “And a lot of stories came out about kids killing themselves because they were being bullied. So she said to her dad, ‘You know, we should do a “Stop the Bullying School Tour.'” Everybody’s talking about stop the violence but in order to stop the violence, you got to stop the bulling first.
Nineteen percent of teens between the ninth and tenth grades report being bullied on school property and 25 percent of public schools report that bullying occurs on their grounds daily, according to statistics from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CNN aired a special on bullying earlier this month and has a site devoted to the subject.
Nikki’s road manager, Jemal Bradley, feels the escalation in youth violence is partly spearheaded by what teenagers are listening to:
Hip-Hop nowadays is all about sex and violence, and it takes its toll,” Bradley says. “When I was growing up, we had KRS-One. We had balance. Today, there’s no balance.
Willy worked as a correctional officer for nine years and says his daughter inspired him to speak to young people about the downfalls of bullying and using violence to resolve their conflicts. Willy says he has spoken with teenage inmates who have committed murder and were unable to explain their actions:
[They] don’t even know why [they] did that [murder].” They weren’t even thinking.
Willy, a tall and stocky man of more than six-foot-two, speaks at middle schools around the city to work with principals on anti-bullying initiatives. His most-surprising experience talking with young teens took place during a class talk when he asked the question,”Who in here is a bully?” He didn’t expect a response but five of the teens raised their hands.
You gotta have a set of balls to say that and not care,” Willy says. “I was very surprised to see those kids raise their hands.
After Nikki finished selling her CDs and small-talking with folks in the cramped neon-colored club, I asked her how realistic it is for her to hit it big by belting out easy-to-groove tunes while staying committed to her anti-bullying message. Nikki responded by saying:
I know that God is going to take me where I need to go,” Davis says. “My faith in God is so strong that just being around positive people, doing my music and loving what I do and not caring what people think. I know its going to go far and I am going to become famous and kids are going to look up to me and be like me and not want to fight anymore.