At first glance, an international artistic director and a eighth grade girl from Lynn may not seem to have much in common.
However, choreographer Jimmy Locust, who has worked with superstars such as Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Paula Abdul, and Pickering Middle School student Maria Miranda have both had their lives affected by bullying.
They shared their stories Saturday afternoon at the Harmony Nation Anti-bullying Seminar and Dance Performance at Breed Middle School. Local students, who had worked with Locust on dance routines the previous day at the Lynn YMCA, showed off the moves they had learned for a crowd of family and community members.
“I am so impressed by these young adults that yesterday I met for the first time,” Locust said.
Locust was born with an acute case of jaundice, a liver condition which causes yellowing of a newborn baby’s skin and eyes, that stunted his growth. He shared stories of how he was bullied as a youth for his smaller size.
“There was times I would come home from school and I remember clearly sitting in the bathtub and wondering, ‘why do I want to live,'” he said. “That was probably the lowest time in my life.”
Through dance Locust eventually found success and founded Harmony Nation, an anti-bullying forum that has been present in Connecticut and Florida communities helping youth.
After Locust shared his story he passed the microphone to Miranda who he said inspired him when they met the day before. Miranda was once expelled from Breed Middle School but since attending Pickering has been on the right path.
“I’ve been bullied too and sometimes I would do it back because I felt bad, but I stopped because I have faced the consequences,” she said. “I’m really trying to make a change because my parents expect more from me.”
Along with the YMCA, the event was also put on in partnership with Salem State University and the 100 Males to College Initiative, which looks to increase enrollment and retention among low income African-American and Latino students.
“We know that one in three children say they have been bullied,” said Dr. Lisa McBride, who is on the YMCA of Metro North’s Board of Directors. “The key is bystander intervention. I challenge you to make a difference in your communities.”
Lynn Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Patrick Tutwiler was impressed with the students’ performance and message.
“You’ve used dance and performance in a way to communicate our values,” he said. “I can’t think of a better picture.”
For Locust, the YMCA, and 100 Males to College, this is just the first step in what will become a bigger relationship on a mission to inspire youth and combat bullying.
“Jimmy, I will be seeing you soon, we’re getting ready to make more changes and you can see the change starting here right now,” McBride said.