Dellwood students plead for end to violence

  • Spreading the word: Dellwood Middle School students take their campaign to the grounds of the Cabinet Office yesterday (Photograph supplied by Dellwood Middle School)
  • Save Our Sons: Dellwood Middle School M3 drama team pupils Makai Furbert, left, teacher Nishanthi Bailey, Nyindae Berry-Hollis, Njeri Thomas and Te’syah-Mahle Astwood (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Dellwood Middle School M3 drama team (Photograph supplied)

Dellwood Middle School pupils have a simple message to stop gang violence and prevent others from following the same path.

The school's M3 drama students created a five-minute video to share their award-winning plea as part of their Save Our Sons anti-violence campaign.

The production, praised in Parliament yesterday, has already been viewed more than 5,000 times on YouTube and Facebook since its launch on Thursday.

Njeri Thomas, 13, said: “Our message is to Save Our Sons and stop all the violence that is going on and to help empower all the people who have lost their fathers to not follow in that path.”

She added: “When people hear from children, it's a completely different feel because they realise how important it is and they realise how it affects us.”

Te'syah-Mahlé Astwood, 13, said: “This was important to me because we wanted to motivate others and get a message out to stop gang violence.”

She said some of her friends had been directly affected and added: “It's devastating seeing others and family members go through a difficult time.”

Nyindae Berry-Hollis, 14, said he had been affected by gang violence, as his sister's father was stabbed and his good friend's father was shot.

He added: “It is important to us because in Bermuda there is a lot of gang violence, a lot of shootings, and we wanted to help our community to stop the gang violence.”

Nyindae explained the group decided to make the video after they won the Live, Love, Life youth talent competition, which was organised by the Ministry of National Security last November.

Wayne Caines, the minister, told Parliament yesterday that the number of views the video had attracted in an island with a small population was a tribute to the power of the youngsters' “message of hope”.

Theatre and drama teacher Nishanthi Bailey said the pupils decided to take part in the talent competition at short notice.

Ms Bailey said she was “totally shocked” by what they came up with.

She said: “They had no rubric or anything to write and just spoke from their heart.

“Our young people have an opinion, they have feelings and a lot of them are directly connected to the issue of non-violence, whether it's a family member, their neighbourhood or its someone else they know because Bermuda is a small community.”

Ms Bailey added: “This generation is completely different from when I started teaching 11 years ago because they actually speak about it.

“It may not always be directly to adults but they have conversations among themselves.

“So it's so important that we, as the adults, are modelling the examples and the behaviours we want for our young people.”

Five students were picked to perform at the Live, Love, Life anti-violence event at the Ruth Seaton James Centre for the Performing Arts.

Ms Bailey said: “The rest is kind of history. They have been busy ever since, receiving several invitations to perform and we've been out to support as many causes as we could.”

She added that they decided to make the video, recorded on Sunday, so that the message would be accessible to all.

“When we talk about the SOS campaign, it's about us as a community coming together in unity. How do we do that? With love. And what's the end result we want? Peace.”

Ms Bailey said it would be good if the campaign diverted young people already involved away from the gang lifestyle.

But she added the main goal was to “save the young people we have now and how we prevent the continuation of it”.

She added: “I hope that this campaign that the students have come up with is an inspiration to other people to take some initiative to buy into something.”

The school also has T-shirts and hats with the SOS logo for sale and Ms Bailey said part of the proceeds would go towards upgrades to the school auditorium.

Pupils also plan to donate part of the proceeds to charity to help those affected by violence.

Ms Bailey arranged and directed the video and the script was written and performed by M3 pupils Te'syah-Mahlé Astwood, Keanu Ball Severin, Zanai'A Bascome, Nyindae Berry-Hollis, Jahni Darrell, Camajé Easton-Smith, Makai Furbert, Nanami Ingram, Elijah Samuels, Kimahja Smith, Anthony Sousa, Njeri Thomas and Nyoaki Williams.

Lamone Woods, of Channel 82/Crimson Multimedia, filmed the video and said the pupils were “incredible”.

He added: “They were so professional, they were so respectful and they were so appreciative.

“The drama students at Dellwood Middle School inspired me that day to really match that quality, to match that heart, the energy they brought to the video.”

Mr Woods highlighted that some of the pupils had been affected personally by gang violence “gave this so much more power”.

The video was officially launched on Thursday and Diallo Rabain, the education minister, told the House of Assembly yesterday that there was “not a dry eye in the house. It is a very powerful video,” he said.

He added it was an “anti-violence video on the scourge of gun violence, and how it is affecting our young men”.

Mr Caines added: “I was walking around talking to the students at Dellwood and I saw two crying.

“One of them said he had lost his father; another had lost an older brother.”

He pointed out that the students “could have done anything” with their prize money from the talent competition.

Mr Caines added: “Instead they ploughed it into this first-class production.”