Choreographer and modeling instructor Erica Davis drills each student on the moves.
BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer
PETERSBURG – APM Images, Inc. will present the third annual “Stay Woke Anti-Bullying Prevention” production next Wednesday, Oct. 24 at Lakewood High School from 6 to 8 p.m.
“Stay Woke!” takes on topics of peer pressure, school bullying, the need for acceptance, community influences and the effects of social media.
Writer and producer Audrey “Pat” McGhee’s desire to increase awareness about the dangers of bullying inspired her to address the topic of beyond her role as a prevention specialist doing community outreach for the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“Almost four years ago, I had this idea of doing something about bullying…but didn’t know how to pull it all together because you have verbal, you have physical, you have cyber, social aggression. I was like, how am I going to put that all in a production?”
Knowing she wanted young people to be involved, her artistic flair and talent as a fashion designer and founder of APM Images, Inc. unlocked the key to tying it all together when she decided to incorporate dancing, singing and monologues into the production.
Through doing the production over the years, McGhee realized it could become a kind of therapy for the youth involved, who have often been bullied themselves, or know others who have experienced that trauma.
“When I was a child, I was bullied, but unfortunately there were no resources like there are today,” McGhee acknowledged. “You just took it. There was no place to be able to use as an outlet.”
McGhee takes a personal interest in the youth, delving deeper as she works with them.
“I want to know how they’re doing, how they’re coping. It’s just amazing, the strength of these young people. There are a lot of things that aren’t being reported, a lot of sexual harassment that goes on…they won’t say anything because they want to fit in.”
APM is presenting the production in partnership with Pinellas County Schools, Department of Juvenile Justice, Personal Agenda LLC and Metro Wellness Community Centers.
At a rehearsal for the upcoming show, Lakewood High student Lauryn Latimer said when she and her classmates realized the production was about bullying, they talked it over and agreed that they could use their talents and support people who have been bullied.
“I think it’s going to be a good event; I’m sure people who will be in the audience will love it,” she predicted.
Peyton Graham, a student at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School, is in her second year of the production and said she was more prepared this year.
“Last year was kind of nerve-wracking because I didn’t know what to expect, but towards the middle of the rehearsal process, I felt really comfortable, and the whole group of people doing it became really close,” she said, admitting that she’s had a great time this year.
Sean Carter of Lakewood said it was his music and rapping skills that led people to recommend that he audition for the project.
“It’s a topic that should be talked about. Bullying is bad; everybody’s probably been bullied at least once in their life, whether they know it or not.”
McGhee said the event has garnered support from the community, including parents who come out to volunteer backstage — some of whom have children who have experienced bullying. Most importantly, McGhee hopes people will come out to support the young performers who are doing something positive.
“The kids are here because they want to be here; they’re not being forced or volun-told. So that’s what makes the production so successful,” McGhee asserted. “They want to do it; they want to get the message out, they understand the importance of it. They’re here…and they want to be here.”
“Stay Woke! Stop the Bullying” will be presented at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, Oct. 24 at Lakewood High School, 1400 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. For more information call (727) 601-8348.
To reach J.A. Jones, email email@example.com