This story started a couple of months ago. I received an email from a choral director who was planning a performance by her youth choir for December 2014 . The youth choir had chosen Amanda’s Legacy as their benefactor to the donations they would receive on the night of the performance. I would like to say a huge THANK YOU for this!
Every semester the members of both the children’s choir and the youth choir decide which cause they would like to support. This semester they want to raise awareness about bullying, diversity, mental health and inclusiveness in our society. We would like to offer the proceeds of our concert to the Amanda Todd Legacy.
Upon careful planning, the theme of the concert was DIVERSITY. The songs would reflect the key issues of bullying, cyberbullying, mental health and positive relationships. Some of the songs perform that evening included “Mean” by Taylor Swift, “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers, “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, and others. All the songs had meanings in their own special way and between the pieces, the choral director talked about the meaning of the songs and why they were chosen. There were also words written and spoken by the young people about how they were feeling about the concerns affecting their generation.
Midway through the concert, I was introduced to speak. The 5 minutes turned into 10 minutes. As I was speaking, I saw tears in the audience. The adults were listening and nodding. The young people were listening also. If I could sum it all up, the main messages would be ‘to be true to yourself’, ‘if you have a problem, go find a trusted adult to talk to’ and ‘be the best you can be’. Remembering that earlier in the day, I was speaking at an elementary school to grade one’s, two’s and sixes that day (another blog post to come).
It was an emotional moment at the end of the concert when families and choir members came up to say hello or good-bye. It was bittersweet for me as Amanda was a singer. It was one of the things she loved to do. And right before she died, she wanted to sing again. Her first lesson being planned for October 17, 2012. Sadly, it never happened.
With permission, I am able to post here the words from the youth who spoke ‘words from their heart’.
Hi, my name’s ____________, and I want to welcome you to our concert today. We are a community choir, and each year we pick an organization to raise money for during our semester concert. This year, we decided to center around the theme of “diversity”. We are all different in many ways, and sometimes we are discriminated against and put down because of this. The goal of this concert is to show everyone that it doesn’t matter what’s different about you – your skin colour, country of origin, sexual or romantic orientation, gender identity, mental health, any of it – it’s okay to be different and no one should put you down because of it, not even you. As you will see throughout our performance, we are a pretty diverse group, and unfortunately some of us have experience some discrimination because of our differences. We’ve been bullied, rejected, and stereotyped because some people simply don’t understand that no matter how different we are, we’re all people, and we all deserve respect.
Hello, my name is ________ and I would like to talk about the stigma of mental health. Mental health issues are always in the dark and a lot of people are not educated about them. The song we just sang said you’ve got a friend in me, but since not everyone knows what it is like to have mental health issues, we feel like we are going to be judged for something that we have no control over. Do you think I want to be sad all the time for no reason? That I want to worry about things that aren’t there? The list goes on. It is a subject not talked about. I know someone who I talked to everyday for a month but it took that long for me to know that they had depression and anxiety. It took the same amount of time for them to learn that about me. I believe that we are the best actors in the world as we can hide it so well. But that is a problem. It takes a lot of energy to hide that very large fact. 20% of Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”). But few people really know this due to the fact that no one will talk about these problems that are rather common. Thank you.
Hi, my name is ____________ and I am going to speak about mental health. Mental Health challenges can include Anxiety, Depression and Eating disorders among others. I myself have Anxiety and Depression and I have dealt with it in many ways. Depression can happen at any age to anyone. I have found that letting myself tell my parents without them interrupting helps a lot because teens with Depression mostly want to just feel excepted for who they are. Anxiety expresses itself in many forms and can come from many places. I encourage you to speak with the adults in your life and get the support you need.
Hi. My name is _________. This concert, as you know, is about bullying and diversity. I’m going to talk about the bully you may not have even realized was there; yourself. In my experience no one will ever bully you more than you do. Others can say nasty things, but you are the one with the power to believe what they’re saying, and make it worse for yourself. Never underestimate the human mind’s ability to tear itself apart. Please remember that you have the power to believe what others are saying, whether it be good or bad. And when all that stuff your brain is saying is too much, tell it to shut up. Believe me, it will not be easy, but you can do it. You have the power. You are the one in control.
The above words were the spoken with such strength, wisdom and understanding. It filled me with emotion. It made me cry. I wish I could turn back my own time but …
I will never forget this evening of music. It is definitely one of the top five most memorable experiences in the past two years since Amanda left us. I hope she is watching us carefully down here on earth.
Love you baby girl!!