Bladensburg Mayor Takisha James, Council Member Carletta Lundy, and First Gentleman Walter James led the walk portion of the Fifth Annual Walk and Rally for Bullying Prevention and Child Safety on Saturday, October 5, 2019. Participants started out from and returned to the Bladensburg Community Center, after walking on Route 450 and then through the Bladensburg Community. It was the first chilly morning after a long, hot summer, but as the temperatures warmed, it turned out to be a beautiful day for a long walk. The walkers returned to the center and enjoyed refreshments provided by Wegmans at Woodmore Town Centre in Lanham, Maryland.
The rally was led by Dr. Clifford Thomas, president of the host nonprofit We Lead By Example, Inc./Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self-Defense Systems. He spoke about bullying prevention and child safety and his students presented several skits. He thanked the town leaders who led the walk and the other special guests--Senator Malcolm Augustine, Delegate Julian Ivey, Jocelyn Route (candidate for Bladensburg council member for Ward I), and Jerry Mclaurin (People for Change Coalition) and Romuladus Azuine (Global Health and Education Projects), both representatives of We Lead By Example, Inc., partnership organizations. He also acknowledged Jeremy Weiss, Director, and Melanie Turpin, Activities Director, of the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission's Bladensburg Community Center.
Check out the photos slideshow on the News Photos page.
Saturday, November 10, featured cold temperatures and a brisk wind. Nonetheless, our many participants were undaunted as they followed the lead of stalwart and dedicated Walter James, former mayor and current First Gentleman of Bladensburg. We appreciate that he led the walk again this year! Those who participated in the walk were treated to hot drinks and doughnuts by the parishoners of a local church as they returned to Bladensburg Community Center, from where they had started.
When the shivering walkers returned to the center, they enjoyed more refreshments, followed by skits on bullying prevention and child sexual abuse performed by several students of Grandmaster Dr. Clifford Thomas, President and CEO of We Lead By Example, Inc./Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self-Defense Systems. Newly-elected Maryland senator Malcolm Augustine, a staunch supporter of our organization, dropped by to say a few words. Antoine Lunsford, teacher and author, brought copies of his Little Andy book series, Oh No! There's a Bully in Our School!!! and The Greatest Recess Monitor Ever!!!!.
Reporters from the Andrews Gazette (Bobby Jones, photojournalist) and the Washington Informer (Michael McCoy, freelance photographer) joined the more-than-a-mile walk on Annapolis Road and through neighborhoods in Bladensburg and covered the rally.
The event was reported by award-winning journalist Bobby Jones, Andrews Gazette, in a November 14 article entitled "Fourth Annual Walk and Rally for ‘Bullying Prevention’ and Child Safety engage community support" in SoMdNews (Southern Maryland Newspapers Online).
See the Capture the Moment photo by Michael A. McCoy on page 10 of the November 15 Washington Informer.
Share this exciting information with your friends, relatives, and social media! Dr. Thomas and youth students E. Hernandez, D. Jenifer, E. Martinez, and A. Seemangal taped a program about bullying prevention and basic self-defense for DCTV's "The Veronica Harris Show," based in Washington, DC. Go to this YouTube link and see them in this interesting and informative program. Regarding this program, the producer wrote to Dr. Thomas: "We were delighted in having your participation on the show and the crew you brought with you put the icing on the cake."
On Saturday, October 21, Dr. Thomas and youth students E. Hernandez, D. Jenifer, E. Martinez, and A. Seemangal taped a program about bullying prevention and basic self-defense for DCTV's "The Veronica Harris Show," based in Washington, DC. Dr. Thomas was interviewed at length and his students provided demonstrations and also provided comments about their experiences with We Lead By Example, Inc./Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self-Defense Systems. Dr. Thomas very much appreciates this opportunity to speak about his program and to highlight his students. He is proud of their maturity and poise as they lead by example and positively reflect the tenets of his program and what he has taught over the years they have been martial arts students.
It didn't rain this year! Our many participants enjoyed a pleasant walk led by newly-elected Bladensburg Mayor Takisha James and her husband, former mayor Walter James, as well as First Daughter, Imani James. Everyone enjoyed the walk and reportedly got a lot of exercise because of the brisk pace of the leaders of the pack!
Go to this link for a video of the James family leading the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers, their families, and the community in the walk, and for interviews with Dr. Thomas, Walter James, and Takisha James.
Soggy was the word for the day, but we valiantly weathered the storm and had a great day at our second annual Walk and Rally for National Bullying Prevention Month on Saturday, October 1. The walkers were led by the Town of Bladensburg Mayor Walter James, his wife Kisha, and their daughter Imani. They were accompanied through Bladensburg by Officer Audrey Hedgepesth-Calloway of the Bladensburg Police Department. Back at the Bladensburg Community Center gym, the weary walkers ate some sorely-needed snacks, provided by our community-supportive Wegmans store at Woodmore Town Centre, and we finished the event with a rally.
Go to this link to see a video of Mayor Walter James leading the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers, their families, and the community in the walk.
Special guests included several individuals presented with our Leading By Example Awards because their outstanding dedication and leadership provide a positive role model for our country and for today's youth.
--State's Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks (accepted on her behalf by Terry Bell)
--Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (accepted on her behalf by Ryan Middleton, Esq.)
--Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell, CEO, Prince George's County School System (acccepted on his behalf by Dr. Leon Washington)
--Senator Barbara Mikulski (accepted on her behalf by Isiah Horton)
--Purnell Hall and Eric Watson, Department of Public Works, Town of Bladensburg. They accepted awards on behalf of their colleagues, Ronald Alston Jr., Gary Turner, Awner Fuentes, and Gabino Cardozo)
Other attendees included Malcolm Augustine (WMATA Board), Delegate Diana Fennell (with staff Rick Bailey and Maliek Harding), Delegate Jimmy Tarlau, and Kendall Wade (Young Democrats of Maryland Public Safety Caucus). Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford sent "his best wishes for all and thanks everyone for their concerns and efforts in 'busting bullying'." Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III sent his regards and wished us "an enjoyable event and continued success."
Delegates Fennell and Tarlau surprised We Lead By Example, Inc./Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self-Defense Systems with a Maryland General Assembly Official Citation "in recognition of their 2nd Annual Walk and Rally for National Bullying Prevention Month," signed by Senator Victor Ramirez and Delegates Fennell and Tarlau. Dr. Clifford Thomas received their Official Citation "in recognition of his outstanding work and dedication in the community against bullying." Ms. Susan McCutchen received an Official Citation "in recognition of her outstanding and distinguished service with the Tae Kwon Do Ramblers." The Ramblers, Dr. Thomas, and Ms. McCutchen were overwhelmed with these honors and truly appreciate being recognized by Senator Ramirez and Delegates Fennell and Tarlau, past recipients of our Leading By Example Award. They have supported the community work of our organization for many years and can always be counted on when we need them.
Other awardees who could not attend were President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe and Second Lady Jill Biden, Delegate Darryl Barnes, Anthony Brown, Robert Burton (ABC-7 News Anchor), Curtis Crutchfield (Prince George's Community Television), Leon Harris (ABC-7 News Anchor), Congressman Steny Hoyer, Bobby Jones (Andrews Gazette), Glenn Ivey, Jimm Rhee, and Delegate Carlo Sanchez.
First Lady Michelle Obama sent her regards and said she would "keep your [our] invitation should we be able to schedule a visit in the future."
Congressman Steny Hoyer sent a video marking the Ramblers' second annual Walk and Rally for National Bullying Prevention Month on October 1, 2016. He thanked Dr. Thomas and We Lead By Example, Inc./Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self-Defense Systems for giving him the Leading By Example Award for his outstanding dedication and leadership and for being a role model for the country and for today's youth.
Dr. Thomas participated in Lewisdale Elementary School's 2016 Career Day on May 27. He very much enjoyed working with kindergarten, first grade, and third grade students who came to see him. They enjoyed his bullying prevention presentation and the opportunity to interact with him in the learning experience. There just wasn't enough time! He looks forward to returning to the school to do an in-depth seminar for more students at all grade levels at the school.
Rain didn't bother us! The Ramblers Bullying Busters, a group of Rambler students and their parents and several local area participants, led down the sidewalks by our highly motivated and stalwart Bladensburg Mayor Walter James and accompanied by Bladensburg police, braved the fine, cold mist that gave us a short break from a few days of constant downpours and marched down 57th Street to Annapolis Road, down several long blocks of Annapolis Road toward Bladensburg's Peace Cross, turned back toward the Bladensburg Community Center (57th Avenue) at Bladensburg Elementary School to go back down Annapolis Road, and then returned to their starting point at the center. They carried a number of signs--"Honk against Bullying," Let's Stop Bullying," "Be a Leader, Not a Follower," "We Lead by Example," "Don't Be a Bully," among others--and chanted, and they were greeted by honking shows of support from passing motorists.
Media Coverage: The September 25 Andrews Gazette online article is at this link and on the front page of the print edition at this link. The first video below was shot by Kabeer Burns, father of a Rambler student, and the second video was shot by Walter James, Mayor of Bladensburg and an adult Rambler student. Go to the News Photos page for more pictorial coverage.
This fine start for the day on Saturday, October 3, which culminated in a stirring rally at the center's gym, where refreshments awaited the hearty crew, made for a very successful first annual Walk and Rally for National Bullying Prevention Month. Dr. Thomas and a few of his students showed three skits to demonstrate suggested ways to address bullying encounters to start off the rally. The messages delivered by our guest speakers--Maryland Senators Joanne C. Benson (Prince George's County Education Coalition) and Victor Ramirez; Prince George's County Delegate Jimmy Tarlau; Bladensburg Council Members Trina Brown, Walter Ficklin, and Beverly Hall; local and regional activist Malcolm Augustine (who currently serves on the Metro Board); Novella Matthews (who has an adult bullying nonprofit); and Frederick Walton (a returning adult student who recently graduated from Morehouse College and is returning to earn his black belt)--made it clear that this community actively cares and acknowledges the work that needs to be done to mitigate bullying behavior. Bladensburg COPS officers David Calloway and Maria Ramirez were in the house and distributed information. Let's stop the bullying! Bullying is a behavior that affects people of all ages and is painful for everyone concerned. This event was endorsed by the Prince George's County Education Coalition and was held in conjunction with events across the country promoted by the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center. We Lead By Example, Inc./Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self-Defense Systems is a leader in bullying prevention and supports efforts against bullying throughout the year.
On Thursday morning, October 1, Dr. Thomas was interviewed for a segment on that evening's Prince George's County Television (PGCTV) news. He spoke about We Lead By Example, Inc.'s October 3 Walk and Rally for National Bullying Prevention Month. See the September 25 news article below for more information about the pre-event coverage of this walk and rally event.
On Friday morning, September 25, Dr. Thomas was interviewed by Robert Gatewood on Radio One's Marketing Pulpit. He spoke about We Lead By Example, Inc.'s Walk and Rally for National Bullying Prevention Month and received several calls after the show aired. The September 25 Andrews Gazette also published an online article (at this link) that appeared on the front page of its print edition (at this link). The PACER organization (at this link) also posted our event as one of the national partners in its October Walk, Run, Roll Against Bullying events.
On Saturday, May 23, Dr. Thomas worked with 10 teen girls ages 12 -17 at My Girlfriend's House, Inc. (MGH). This program mentors at-risk girls and this workshop was convened for them to learn not only about bullying and how to prevent it, but focused on the bully within. The teen participants had an open dialogue with Dr. Thomas and MGH's dedicated staff about their experiences being bullied and their own approaches to relationships with others in which they are aggressive or quick to respond without thinking. Cyberbullying was also discussed and the teens shared their experiences in that area. Dr. Thomas demonstrated several simple self-defense methods the teens can use to defend themselves should they be grabbed or attacked, whether by a bully or in other situations, and they broke into pairs to practice these moves. Bullying is a real problem in today's world and it can escalate into violence, including sexual, and it can lead to severe problems, even suicide, for the victims and the perpetrators. The MGH staff showed foresight in trying to tackle the issue of targeting the bully within. The teens indicated at the end of the workshop that they had a variety of takeaway messages and it was clear that they left with a food for thought about themselves and their actions related to the complex issue of bullying. In addition, they learned some potentially life-saving self-defense methods should an adverse situation arise. Dr. Thomas urged the teens to think before they act, to try to act in ways that have good effects on their lives, to create goals for themselves to stay on a positive path, and to seek help and advice from trusted/qualified adults if they find they are troubled or they are encountering situations in which they feel powerless, threatened, or angry.
Dr. Thomas participated for a second year in Career Day at Judge Sylvania W. Woods Sr. Elementary School on Friday, April 17. He was pleased to talk with about 300 students (children from kindergarten through fifth grade) and to engage them interactively in skits related to safety and bullying prevention (including cyberbullying). During the 12 20-minute sessions, geared to each grade level, the children learned nonviolent ways to avert bullying behavior and some simple self-defense methods they can use to escape from child snatchers, whether known to them or strangers. They participated in entertaining skits that underscored the need for families to have a secret code word that members can use to confirm who has been authorized to pick them up outside of the school building or in other locations. The students were shown the value of working as a team and supporting one another, celebrating their differences instead of allowing them to cause division among themselves. April marks Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Accordingly, Dr. Thomas also addressed behaviors about which children should be aware to not allow themselves to be preyed on by child molesters. These children will be leaders and not followers!
Dr. Thomas was invited by Girl Scout Troop 4733 to give a self-defense and anti-bullying awareness presentation at the troop's open November 18 meeting, kindly hosted this month at the local Knights of Columbus building in District Heights. About 40 girls and their mothers attended this event although it was the coldest night of the year. The girls learned a few simple self-defense techniques to employ should someone try to grab them on the street and other street-smarts tips, including how to speak forcefully and the use of a family code word if approached by an acquaintance or even a family member in an unusual or potentially dangerous kidnapping situation. They acted out a school scene skit about leaders and followers in a situation in which they would have to make choices involving peer pressure to be a bully, even to the extent of assaulting an innocent person. Would they choose to be followers and do something wrong because they would want to fit in? What would be the consequences of their actions? The interactional discussion was eye-opening for them because they thought through the effects of their choices and actions. Dr. Thomas also offered safety tips for the adults of particular importance around the holiday season. He looks forward to being invited back in the near future to share more of his simple self-defense techniques and skits, and to have more in-depth discussions based on the experiences and thoughts of the girls themselves about bullying and other situations they face in school, on the street, and at home. Photos will be posted at this link.
On Friday, November 7, Dr. Thomas participated in a youth and family event at New Chapel Baptist Church in Camp Springs. Organized by Ms. Belinda Queen-Howard, the head of the District III Coffee Circle that meets at Wegmans each month and a member of the Prince George's County Democratic Committee staff, as well as new board member of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, she organized this session of the church's monthly Celebrate Recovery program. Recognizing that bullying does not just happen in the schools, but also in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, and, yes, churches, a group of about 50 youth and adults came out on a cold night to learn how to recognize bullying, to talk about it frankly, and to get some ideas about how to handle it and other conflicts using a proactive approach to obtain a positive outcome. Dr. Thomas spoke about bullying and involved the youth in discussion and in a skit about being a leader, not a follower, underscoring that it is important for an individual to have the confidence to turn away from actions he or she knows to be wrong, no matter the amount of peer pressure. He also showed a few simple self-defense techniques in the event someone tries to grab a victim on the street. Dr. Thomas was invited back to provide in-depth workshops, not only for the children, but also for adults, about bullying prevention, date violence, domestic violence, and senior citizen safety.
Young ghosts, goblins, ghouls, ballerinas, and superheroes gathered at Hunter Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church on Friday, October 31, to enjoy games, crafts, face painting, music, dancing, and CANDY! But they did a good time even better because children ages 3-7 also had a session about "Fun with Reading and Learning," while those ages 13-18 had a "Trick or Treat? Play and Domestic Violence Discussion." Dr. Thomas and the revelers ages 8-12 had perhaps one of the best times, though, as they learned a few simple self-defense methods to use should someone grab their wrists, try to choke them, or come behind them and pin their arms. They related their stories about bullying, particularly on the bus, and then acted out a skit that showed the consequences of being a follower, not a leader, when a person succumbs to peer pressure and gets in trouble. Dr. Thomas thanks Rev. Tikeisha Harris, the director of IMPACT Youth Ministry, for inviting him and looks forward to partnering with the organization and returning to Hunter Memorial for more in-depth workshops in bullying prevention and other programs.
Photo Slideshow:Go to our News Photos page for a slideshow of pictures taken by Michael Hornberger.
Dr. Thomas thanks the Rambler students, their families, and friends who came out to support the Rambler organization in hosting its free National Bullying Prevention Month Workshop. This free workshop was convened in partnership with Hyper Bully Defense, a martial arts organization based in California, which has formed an international consortium of professional martial arts organizations with a goal to empower 1 million people to end bullying (Hyper 1 Million). These organizations took part in three webinars to prepare to hold workshops worldwide, on either October 11 or October 25, 2014. The Ramblers are proud to have participated in this effort, in our case also showing unity with October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities and one of its Bladensburg-based partner organizations, the Seniors against Stalking and Domestic Violence Support Group, for which nonperishable food items were collected at the workshop to be donated for its monthly free food distribution to the community at the Bladensburg Community Center. About 150 people attended the Rambler event, which was held at the Bladensburg Community Center, as part of the instructional curriculum for Rambler students.
Participants engaged in floor exercises on the gym mats and learned or reinforced safety tips and basic escape methods. They also engaged in interactive skits using props (a school, houses, a car, and a school bus) showing how to deal with untenable or threatening situations. They learned how being a bully is not something positive in either their lives or in the lives of other people, and how much better it is to become friends with schoolmates and work together. The theme of being leaders, not followers, was demonstrated by the participants in one of the interactive skits, and it was exemplified by the featured performances of two talented and creative local youth, D'Aira Sweeney (a college student who graduated from Bladensburg High School) and Juwan Blocker (a sophomore in high school). Ms. Sweeney, who was honored to be chosen to sing the national anthem for President Barack Obama when he visited Bladensburg High School in 2014, performed the patriotic song not only professionally, but rendered it with exceptional meaning. Mr. Blocker performed a moving and thought-provoking original composition on bullying and the personal responsibility of youth to be passionate and to speak up and be heard.
Community activists William Murry (motivational speaker, The Murry Group) and Sandra Pruitt and Sylvester Jones (People for Change Coalition) encouraged self-motivation to excel in life and the need for involvement by individuals and organizations in addressing issues of concern to the wider community, respectively. PFC David Calloway (Bladensburg Community Oriented Policing Services or C.O.P.S.) interacted with the participants about their ideas and views of bullying, including cyberbullying, and explained the consequences of bullying in the eyes of the law. Mr. Jones, who was a Democratic candidate for Prince George's County sheriff in 2014, also touched on some of his insights from a long career in law enforcement. Several local and county officials were in attendance as well and briefly addressed their bullying experiences: Diana Fennell and Jimmy Tarlau (Democratic candidates for Legislative District 47A House of Delegates in the midterm election), Walter Ficklin (Bladensburg Town Councilmember), and Belinda Queen-Howard (founder of the Legislative District III Coffee Circle, recently elected to a position on the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee). After the interactional bus scene was performed by the youth, they shared their personal stories of being bullied on the bus or elsewhere, or of having seen bullying done to others. Dr. Thomas encouraged them to think retrospectively, about what actions they took at the time of the events, and speak about the actions they might take today in the same situation. The workshop ended with awarding $10 each to the five winners of the Rambler poster contest: S. Albert, G. Bravo, A. Davidson, D. Jenifer (older brother), and M. Smith. The posters were creative and eye-catching, and it was clear that these Ramblers had put a great deal of thought into the theme of bullying. In addition to the acknowledgments below, Dr. Thomas appreciates the extraordinary assistance rendered by the following Rambler parents and families, who helped run errands for and set up and clean up on the day of the event: Kabeer Burns, Michael Hornberger, the Jenifers, the Seemangals, and Yulanda Swindell. Without their help, he and Ms. McCutchen would have had a much more difficult task.
We are grateful to Kabeer Burns, Harry Jenifer, Susan McCutchen, Edward and Lois Sanders, and Yulanda Swindell, and to the Town of Bladensburg and Wegmans for making financial contributions toward defraying the cost of this event.
We acknowledge Hyper Bully Defense (Roland Osborne) for the opportunity to join the international martial arts Hyper 1 Million bullying prevention initiative and PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center (Bailey Lindgren) for its programmatic support, and thank both organizations for their extensive informational resources.
We thank the Bladensburg Community Center (Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning) for hosting and assisting with the workshop arrangements (Christy Irving and staff). We appreciate the kind participation in and/or promotional support of Bladensburg’s mayor, council, town administrator, and staff; the District III Coffee Circle (Belinda Queen-Howard); the Greater Route 202 Coalition (Senator Joanne Benson and staff); the Greenbelt Aquatic and Fitness Center (Danielle Celdran); Lette’s Chat Blog Talk Radio/Washington, DC (Carlette Norwood); local area talented young people Juwan Blocker and D’Aira Sweeney; The Murry Group (William Murry); the People for Change Coalition (Sandra Pruitt and Sylvester Jones); the Prince George’s County Police Department and Triad/SALT (PFC David Calloway, Cpl. Tanya Smith, Cpl. James Woody); the Seniors against Stalking and Domestic Violence Support Group (Deacon Barbara Givens); and Walmart
Dr. Thomas was interviewed about bullying prevention during a live 4:30 p.m. news segment on Prince George's Community Television on Monday, August 25. With the start of the new school year, he emphasized the importance of awareness on the part of parents and other concerned family members about what goes on in school and urged them to go to their children's schools to make themselves known to their teachers and other school staff, both to understand the social situation and to support the achievement of successful academics. Dr. Thomas spoke about how circumstances in a child's home or school life might turn that child into a bully, and noted that nonviolent solutions need to be sought, such as making the effort to counteract antagonistic behavior with a confident, unexpected friendly gesture that could possibly defuse the aggression and create a more supportive atmosphere among the students. The most important thing is to teach and encourage children to be leaders, not followers who are drawn into negative behaviors to try to get along with a bully. He added that although children do not want to be considered "snitches," they need to be encouraged to tell the teacher or other school officials and their parents if they are being bullied rather than allow the situation to intensify and lead to dire consequences.
Dr. Thomas' Interview Segment: The video is at this link and below.
Francis Scott Key Elementary School held its Career Day on June 12, the last full day of the 2013-2014 school year. Nineteen guests speakers were on hand for the event, including policemen and a K-9 team. Dr. Thomas addressed a group of about 60 kindergarten and first-grade students and engaged them in interactive skits to show them how to escape from a child snatcher and how to get help. The children were excited to participate in a skit about bullying and they learned the importance of being a leader and not a follower, even when tempted by peer pressure. He emphasized the need for a secret code word for each family to identify safe situations. Administrators, teachers, and students said they were anxious to have Dr. Thomas visit them during the next school year.
Prince George's County Schools are finishing the school year the week of June 9. Some of the schools are using the opportunity to host fun and interesting career days to give children something to think about as they go into the summer break. On June 10, Dr. Thomas was a guest at Cora L. Rice Elementary School's Career Day along with several other guests--including Park Police (with a horse), Metro bus drivers (with a bus), and representatives from police groups (including K-9 with dogs)--for a busy and exciting day. He spoke with about 80 students in four classes (third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students) about working as a team and supporting each other rather than succumbing to bullying behavior and making fun of each other in destructive ways. He urged the students to be leaders, not followers, and to study and work hard at school. Dr. Thomas also showed in interactive demonstrations several simple self-defense moves that children can do to get away from a child snatcher, as well as what to do after getting away in order to get to safety and have the proper authorities alerted. He emphasized the need for a secret code word for each family to identify safe situations.
On May 9, Dr. Thomas was pleased to participate in Career Day at Judge Sylvania W. Woods Sr. Elementary School. He talked with and engaged about 150 students, ranging from kindergarteners to sixth-graders, in interactive activities related to safety and bullying prevention (including cyberbullying). During the seven half-hour sessions, geared to each grade level, the children learned some simple self-defense methods they can use to escape from child snatchers, whether known to them or strangers, and also where to go and what to say after they get away from the pursuer and seek help. They participated in entertaining skits that underscored the need for families to have a secret code word that members can use to confirm who has been authorized to pick them up outside of the school building or in other locations. Another important skit was acting out a peer-pressure situation in which the students had to decide whether to be a leader who does the right thing or a follower who becomes a bully to be accepted in a group. Dr. Thomas thoroughly enjoyed Career Day and looks forward to going back to the school to work more with the children so they will be "street smart" and know how to protect themselves should there be a need.
On April 12, Dr. Thomas discussed verbal and physical bullying and other significant issues with a number of youth who participate in Teen Night at the Bladensburg Community Center. Other speakers included (in alphabetical order) Keith Dickerson (Founder and CEO of A-1 Transmission, who focuses on educating reentry persons who want to learn vehicle repair and on preparing people to become business owners); Brother Joe Gibson (a dedicated educator); Brother Larry Powell (a baptized, born-again Christian who has rededicated his life after having faced painful adversity largely of his own making for many years); and Reverend Annie Varner (a life educator who has created the "Under Wings of Eagles" program directed at helping young people). The final presentation was a short film that addressed teen pregnancy and its effect on the lives of the girls and the boys involved from the standpoint of young people who have found themselves in this difficult situation. This event was sponsored by the Seniors against Stalking and Domestic Violence Support Group, and was the brainchild of the moderator, Deacon Barbara Givens, who is the grandmother of a Rambler student and the support group's founder and president. The focus of the program was on promoting dialogue among senior citizens and young people in an effort to "eliminate crime and negative consequences while making better choices for a happier and more prosperous journey through life." The program was a great success and served as a first step to start bridging the gap between seniors and young people and to eventually lead to mutual respect and understanding. Dr. Thomas looks forward to reprising his role in this kind of positive dialogue.
On August 12-16, Dr. Thomas held his second Bullying Prevention and Self-Defense Summer Camp at Bladensburg Community Center. This year, he was honored to receive both a certificate of special recognition from Maryland U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin and a State of Maryland citation from the governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state for holding his bullying prevention camps. The number of campers was double that of the inaugural camp! The children who attended, including several with special needs, learned about bullying prevention, child snatching and child molesting, anger management, peer pressure, and street smarts and self defense. To underscore the importance of inclusion, Mr. Ray from Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning, visited to talk with the campers about his experience as a man who lost his sight as an adult. He encouraged them to try to understand others' limitations, to accommodate them appropriately (e.g., verbally giving directions to blind individuals to orient them to their physical location), and to show them proper respect. He showed few limitations, however, as he accepted the challenge to make a basket (which he did) with the campers' helpful instructions about where to aim and participated in a game of dodge ball. The campers also enjoyed learning about the basic structure of Braille. Mr. Greg Parker of The Brighter Future Anti-Bullying Foundation, stopped by to talk with the campers. They had a good conversation about what they already know, learned some new things, and highlighted some of their personal experiences. Several Ramblers worked as youth counselors and were of great help to Dr. Thomas throughout the week. He is exploring the possibility of holding two weeklong camps next summer to accommodate more students and help them become more confident and be safer in school and on the street.
Dr. Thomas partnered with Take Charge Juvenile Diversion Program, Inc., a co-member of the People for Change Coalition, and gave a seminar on bullying prevention and safety to youth attending the Take Charge Basketball and Life Skill Camp being held at the Eisenhower Middle School. He feels it is important to become involved in the community through these types of partnerships, not only to bring his experience and teach/mentor, but also to enhance his own work.
Dr. Thomas was invited by Girl Scout Troop 4092 to give an anti-bullying awareness presentation at the troop's open May 17 meeting at J. C. Parks Elementary School in Indian Head, Maryland. The girls performed anti-bullying skits that effectively portrayed the detrimental effects of bullying and offered measured responses that can be used to let bullies know that their behavior is unacceptable and encourage them to be more respectful and kinder to others. Ms. Anita Fendall (Founder, Tease Free Kids) spoke to the group and guests about the characteristics of bullying and showed by a hands-on art activity how destructive such behavior can be and how it causes permanent damage to individuals. In a sobering presentation, a video revealed a series of pictures of young people of all ages and races who have committed suicide (called bullycide), underscoring the negative effect of this widespread problem. The evening ended with the collected audience of girl scouts, their families, the invited guests, and other members of the audience reciting the anti-bullying pledge. In his presentation, Dr. Thomas had several of the scouts act out a skit about what it means to lead and what it means to follow in a situation with a high degree of peer pressure that undoubtedly will lead to doing something harmful to an unsuspecting bystander. He also demonstrated the importance of having family code words and ways to get an adult's attention should a child find himself or herself facing a potential predator, along with some simple self defense moves to get out of harm's way. As always, he welcomes opportunities such as this to bring his potentially life-saving programs to the community.
On Tuesday, April 2, five Rambler students (four gold belts, including two captains, and one white belt) gave up part of their spring breaks to provide anti-bullying and martial arts demonstrations at the YouthPowerment and What Will You Bring to the Table organizations' community breakfast at Kentland Community Center. This event was organized to allow local Kentland/Landover children to address issues of child hunger in the United States. Youth and their families were offered healthy food choices for their breakfasts and learned about proper nutrition and healthy living through presentations about proper dental care and more safe, effective, and affordable dental care products, a simple stress management activity, and a few social etiquette suggestions to make people aware that social presence matters in how a person may be judged by others. Dr. Thomas and his Ramblers were the culmination of the activities, and their demonstrations included audience participation by a number of young people who were anxious to join in the fun that provided several important safety tips for both children and their families and showed why it is better to be a leader instead of a follower.
Gregory Parker, Executive Director of The Brighter Future Anti-Bullying Foundation, asked Dr. Thomas to present an anti-bullying demonstration to the students of Oaklands Elementary School in a morning workshop on Friday, March 22. Along with Dr. Michael Garrant, President and CEO of Smart Coach TKD Center, Inc., he addressed bullying issues relevant to elementary school students and encouraged them to think about their personal actions toward others and about the actions of others in bullying situations they may observe in their school. In an impromptu skit that included the participation of several students, Ms. Audrey Briscoe (the principal), and other school staff members, Dr. Thomas showed the difference between leaders and followers. Leaders think independently about doing the right thing and leading by example through their appropriate actions. Followers, on the other hand, if they are weak in their convictions about the difference between right and wrong and decide to bow to social pressure, may allow others to lead them into situations where other people can be hurt and they themselves may end up suffering serious consequences. It was clear that these well-behaved students wanted to be leaders! In addition to the presentations by the invited guests, a student read a poem about the need for all students to stand up against bullying wherever they see it happen because it is wrong; a group of students performed a musical skit that takes place in a classroom and underscored the message that bullying is not acceptable and that all students should speak out against it; and, finally, the third-grade chorus sang an inspirational song encouraging each person to appreciate himself or herself and recognize that he or she is worthwhile, a sentiment that can become lost when a child is bullied and loses self confidence. For photos of the event, see the slideshow on the News Photos page.
Facebook Photos Albums for This Event: The photos are at this link.
Dr. Thomas shared his experience and thoughts on bullying on this radio show hosted by Greg Parker, Jr., and Greg Parker, Sr. He also spoke about his upcoming Bullying Prevention and Self-Defense Summer Camp to be held at Bladensburg Community Center, and how important it is for children to learn how to defend themselves and not become victims.
Dr. Thomas was invited to partner with It Takes Two, Inc., and I-Tellkid, Inc., to address bullying prevention strategies in Part II of the Fear is No Fun Anti-Bullying Workshop. He closed out the event talking about some of the issues involved in bullying behavior, from both the victim's and the bully's perspectives, and he demonstrated several practical self-defense techniques.
The inaugural Bullying Prevention and Self-Defense Summer Camp at Bladensburg Community Center was a great success. The children who attended, including several with special needs, learned about child snatching and child molesting prevention, anger management, coping with peer pressure, and dealing with bullies and other conflict situations. Mr. C. Ray Spires III, Chairman/CEO of The Safe Web Inc., a company that focuses on Internet safety for children, highlighted the realities of using social media, including the dangers associated with bullying, sexual predators, and gangs. Other guests were two representatives from the Mt. Rainier Nature Center, who spoke about amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, and brought a turtle, a snake, and a rabbit for the children to observe and touch. A park ranger engaged the children in a competitive game of Jeopardy to test their knowledge about natural phenomena. Two news station reporters and camera people came to the center to report on and film this unique camp--News Channel 7 (WJLA) for Leon Harris' program, Harris' Heroes, and Prince George's Community Television (CTV). A representative from Senator Barbara Mikulski's office observed the camp and offered the Senator's strong support of Dr. Thomas' efforts to help children in the community. To cap off the week, Dr. Thomas was surprised by three Bladensburg Town Councilmembers who came to visit on the last day of the camp. Mayor Walter James and Councilmembers Walter George and Trina Brown presented a Senate of Maryland citation to Dr. Thomas on behalf of Senator Victor R. Ramirez to recognize and congratulate him for his commitment to Prince George’s County and his willingness to establish and teach the first Bullying Prevention and Self-Defense Summer Camp at Bladensburg Community Center. Dr. Thomas thanks the hardworking Rambler youth counselors who assisted him with the camp and, as noted by WJLA anchor Leon Harris, he looks forward to planning other such activities in the future and working with the Prince George's County school system.
WJLA (ABC) News Story: The August 22 Harris' Heroes segment is featured below.
The segment about Dr. Thomas' bullying prevention and self-defense summer camp is at this link.
Dr. Thomas was interviewed during a live 4:30 p.m. news segment on Prince George's Community Television on Monday, August 6. He spoke about his upcoming Bullying Prevention and Self-Defense Summer Camp to be held at Bladensburg Community Center, and how important it is for children to learn how to defend themselves and not become victims.
Dr. Thomas gave a bullying prevention and self-defense demonstration for the Lamont Elementary School Parent Teacher Association meeting on Wednesday, April 18. He showed the children ways to avoid being snatched or molested and tips about being cautious when they are on the street, including the need to have a family code word, and if they are approached by a stranger or even a person familiar to them who may mean to harm them. These self-defense methods take time to become ingrained, especially for young children, and Dr. Thomas encourages parents to work with their children to understand what they are taught and to enroll them in interactive programs so that they will better understand the mechanisms for being careful in situations when they are away from their parents.