Nearly 30 percent of U.S. children in grades 6-12 have experienced bullying, according to the website stopbullying.gov. Bullying can fall under the direct or indirect category and includes physical, verbal, relational, and damage to property. A child who has experienced bullying can exhibit non-treatable physical and emotional detriments that will have lasting health implications.
Malika Nicole Market, better known in her Belzthoover community as Mz. Nik, is on a mission to bring attention to bullying and stop it from occurring. She held the second annual Teens Talk Against Bullying event, Sept. 30, along Saber Way in Beltzhoover, near the field that’s home to the South Side Bears youth football team. Mz. Nik said about 20 students from Beltzhoover and neighboring communities attended.
“I hold the event to let them (students) know that someone cares about them. When it comes to kids killing themselves, there’s not help in this community or in any community without events like this,” says Mz. Nik.
Activities during the afternoon event included “Get To Know Your Neighbor,” where a youth member spends three minutes with another youth member from another area, trying to understand the life of another person in order to promote solidarity and bolster the importance of understanding different perspectives. Mz. Nik maintains that multi-cultural interaction can make everyone feel comfortable, a key component in students opening up to their experiences with bullying.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. While researchers have yet to identify the most effective bullying prevention method, research has shown that bullies are often repeating behavior that they themselves have experienced. In other words, bullied children have the potential to become bullies themselves. By identifying bullied students, educators and parents can help them to end the cycle of bullying. Warning signs for bullying can include the following: unexplainable injuries, frequent headaches or stomachaches, feeling sick or faking illness, changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping, declining grades, not wanting to go to school, feelings of helplessness, or self-destructive behaviors (running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide). When a bullied child is identified, the next step is to report the bullying to school officials, such as a counselor or principal.
Pertaining to the African American community, research from stopbullying.gov notes that Black and Hispanic youth who are bullied are more likely to suffer academically than their White peers.
Mz. Nik told the New Pittsburgh Courier she’s critical of how some school districts deal with bullying. “They made it a zero-tolerance, so as to not deal with it,” she said. “Bullying is an issue everywhere, and that’s even online. There’s a lot of kids in Beltzhoover that have had issues with bullying. But it’s everywhere. North Side, Mt. Oliver, the East End,” Mz. Nik said, which is why she tries to hold events that bring certain issues like bullying to light. She’s also trying to bring more unification of Beltzhoover youth with Mt. Washington youth.
A follow-up event will take place in December at the Beltzhoover Community Center on Warrington Avenue.
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