Father-Daughter Tandem Team up with State House Rep. Jewell Jones in the “Bully-Free Safe Zone Summit”
Goal: Make all schools a “Bully Free Safe Zone”
By Ricardo Ferrell
VOD Field Editor
Interview with LeRoy “Saalih” Washington & ABC Founder Lauren Washington.
In this report we bring you an exclusive interview with, one of our very own, LeRoy “Saalih” Washington and his daughter Lauren Washington, founder of the Anti-Bully Crusaders (ABC) Nonprofit Organization. This dynamic duo has been doing commendable work in the community changing and saving lives of our youth!
Lauren, is a Michigan native, Texas University graduate, entrepreneur, criminal justice reform advocate. She now adds, director of the Anti-Bullying Crusaders Organization to her successful career.
Her father, LeRoy, an inmate with the Michigan Department of Corrections, has spent the last 25 years of his life behind bars. Since his incarceration, he has earned an MBA in Business Administration-Management, currently working on a Doctorate’s in Education, and has an extensive resume of accomplishments.
Together, this unusual tandem has created an unique approach to address one of the most pressing and fundamentally important issues involving young people today -Bullying.
In a program they call the Anti-Bully Crusaders Project, together, they dynamically and effortlessly impart the most thought-provoking and profound truths of the human bullying experience.
Prepare to be inspired, entertained, and transformed by this close encounter interview:
Q – RICARDO: WHAT IS BULLYING?
A – LAUREN: Bullying is defined as an unwanted, aggressive behavior towards another that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time and includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
Q – RICARDO: HOW DO YOU DO IT?
A – LAUREN: This groundbreaking interactive program equips young people with the personal life skills and tools necessary to develop positive thinking, attitude, and behavior towards peace, acceptance and tolerance. Our hope is to provide educational opportunities and support systems that enhance the future and impact the lives of our young people.
Q – RICARDO: SINCE LAST YEAR, WHAT ELSE HAS BEEN A REWARDING PART OF ABC AND ITS PROCESS?
A – LEROY: For me, I’ve received two rewards from this project. One, seeing my work in action making a meaningful difference, helping change young people’s lives; and two, working with my daughter on such an impactful program. She’s my shero (female super hero)! And mere words cannot express how very proud I am of her.
A – LAUREN: I would agree with my dad. Just seeing his (our) work help so many young people has been the most rewarding for me too. And, I love working with my dad, he’s awesome. Not many young people have been blessed as I, when it comes to having a relationship with an incarcerated parent.
Q – RICARDO: WHAT’S NEW HAPPENING WITH ABC:
A – LAUREN: Pre-Covid-19, we were scheduled to host the largest Anti-Bullying conference in the country for National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month of October, in Detroit. Unfortunately, our plans were hindered by the pandemic.
So, this year we decided to host a virtual “Bully Free Safe Zone” Summit and Free Concert on Facebook Live. The event was held on Saturday, October 24th at 3:00pm.
We had a great line up for the panel and entertainment, such as Brenda High and Kevin Epling of the Bully Police USA, shared tragic stories of losing their young sons Jared & Matthew who took their own lives as a result of bullying. We had Jadyn Gomberg,18, Founder of Keep It Kind gave a testimonial of just how bad the problem really is in High School.
William Riley, Inkster’s Chief of Police defined what constitutes a criminal act of bullying. Civic Leader Darryl Woods Sr. expressed concerns about jailing our youth. He promotes more of a proactive v. reactive programming like ABC’s curriculum that helps change the thinking and behavior of our youth. Keisha Shaw, ABC’s Event Planner, says, “The streets are mean, full of destruction and death, if we don’t teach our kids, someone less qualified certainly will.” Entrepreneurs Terry Flenory and Ignacio Zambrano agreed with the proactive approach and plan to use their platforms to build youth centers.
Michigan State Board of Education Member Tiffany Tilley stated she would support mandating Anti-Bullying Programming in all Michigan schools; however, legislators would have to make it law and allocate funding. We were privileged to have Shawn T. Blanchard, New York bestselling author as our moderator, he did a phenomenal job with the summit. We had performances by two talented artists: Jessenia Vice and Mama Sole. They provided more flavor to the event and entertained the panelists with songs and spoken words. For more on the event go to: www.antibullycrusaders.org, and click on watch event.
Joining the conversation is Rep. Jewell Jones. In this exclusive, questions are asked by Ricardo Ferrell and Guest Writer LeRoy Washington.
Amid this crisis, the Honorable Jewell Jones (D-Inkster) is working equally hard from home, as he does in his office. He loves to lead. A skill he learned and cultivated at an early age, but didn’t realize just how much he loved to build teams and motivate people until elected to Inkster’s City Council as the youngest member in Michigan’s history.
Becoming the voice of the people, representing newly innovative ideas and his relentless drive, catapulted his career to the next level. Jones won a seat at the table of Legislators, as a Michigan State Representative. Since then he has had an extensive and successful career in politics. Now seeking his third and final term, he plans to add to his legacy by changing the bullying narrative, not just in his district, but in all Michigan Schools.
LeRoy: Its on a Sunday morning, and I reach out to Rep. Jones. He’s in traffic, on his way to praise the Lord. Handling his business via two cellphones, he accepts my call, I hear him say, “Hey, I gotta take this other call. Let me put some thought to it and I’ll get back with you… Peace.” He turn his attention in to me, we chop it up with a few subtleties then get right down to it. I pull out my pen and pad of questions and fire away.
Q – LEROY: Why Politics?
A – Jewell: I wanted to make a difference in my community. The age gap was creating a distinct difference in forward thinking and this was preventing new ideas and younger voices from being heard. First, I wanted to bridge that gap. Then I realized, I can really make a significant difference. And bringing about change has become my primary mission.
Q – RICARDO: Speaking of change. Bullying transcends: race, culture, gender, status, geography, age, religion -we see it everywhere. What made you take on this issue as part of your mission for this term?
A – Jewell: In recent years we’ve seen an influx of bullying activities and the level of bullying related to suicides amplifies the problem. Speaking with parents of victims, educators, and my colleagues, we decided that acts of bullying must be taken more seriously to help prevent violence and suicides. Create meaningful and effective policies that would force school’s to be held more accountable, not only report incidents but become proactive by implementing programming and support preventative measures. If we’re going to change the bullying culture and narrative, then we have to reshape thinking, attitudes, and behaviors.
Q – RICARDO: This issue is something that’s so much more compelling than a lot of issues we’ve seen over the years. How big is the problem?
A – Jewell: To put it in perspective and to contextualize the issue. No child should have to face bullying in our learning institutions. One death, as the result of bullying, is too many. For us to stand by and do nothing would be a social injustice in and of itself. As legislators we have a grave responsibility to our constituency, community, and especially to our young people.
Q – RICARDO: Amid the Covid-19 crisis what’s the plan now?
A – Jewell: Well, that’s a good question. Pre-Covid, my team and I, had partnered with ABC to host the largest Anti-bullying conference in the country during National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month of bullying October, right here in Detroit. However, our plans were thwarted due to the unforeseen pandemic.
Q – RICARDO: Will you give us one last thought?
A – Jewell: Everyday, we must work a little bit harder to become better. The one thing we all should have learned from this crisis is that we must MOBILIZE, UNIFY, AND UTILIZE OUR RESOURCES.
As a legislator, I have a powerful tool at hand. I can and will continue to use my platform to spearhead change, speak out and inform the people. The more people learn about why it happens and how it can be prevented, the better! The more the public is aware of, the more support goes into legislation to create preventative measures.
LEROY: Well said. We salute you young Prince for your selflessness and for continuing to spread light during these tumultuous times. It’s extraordinary men of your character and caliber, at times like these that can help change the world.
On behalf of the VOICE OF DETROIT Family, We thank you and look forward to working with you in the future, changing and saving young lives! #HOLLA
Q – RICARDO: WE NEED ONE LAST THOUGHT FROM YOU BOTH.
LAUREN: Getting bullied is not always an easy conversation for a child or young adult to have with a parent, teacher, person of authority, or anyone. Sometimes it takes an expert to shed light on the subject. That’s where we come in. ABC is the solution.
Our aim is to challenge young people to change by giving them the tools and resources necessary to do so.
Our goal, like we’ve said before, is to create “Bully Free Safe Zones” in all schools. No child should go to school and be bullied. This culture has to change and it’s up to us (the people) to do something, and also change the narrative in the process.
LeRoy: All Praises be to God! Through Him all things are possible. Thanks to VOD and MLMT for having us. I leave you with this, “Our parenting is literally a fight for the lives of our children. It is a noble battle that must be fought hard and relentlessly. It’s not always easy, I agree with my daughter, but when you can touch the lives of a few in a positive way, it is so rewarding. If we can help just a few of these young people realize their potential and give them tools to become change agents, then we would have made a difference. Prevention is the key, because damage control is far more costly.”
VOD – RICARDO: We love your father-daughter relationship and respect for one another. One can only imagine the obstacles you’ve faced during this journey. What you two have been able to create and accomplish is absolutely AMAZING!
There you have it! The ABC project is an objective-based program geared towards eliminating senseless violence, and reducing teen suicides due to bullying. This life changing program is definitely, in three words, “a game-changer” when it comes to addressing the issues of -Bullying.
LEROY WASHINGTON, DAUGHTER CO-FOUND NATL. ANTI-BULLYING PROJECT TO CHANGE, SAVE LIVES
VOD Interviews Women Who Rock! FOUNDERS OF THE NATIONAL ANTI-BULLY CRUSADERS ORGANIZATION