By Amanda Valentovic Staff Writer
Students in the tri-state area are being inspired to stop bullying after seeing Hofstra student Jamel Hudson’s one man show, Jamel Hudson Presents Taking Down Bullying. The show, which incorporates Hudson’s talents as a singer, dancer, and instrumentalist, teaches students as young as third grade and as old as high school the dangers and effects of bullying. “I incorporate the idea of confidence in young people, and to better themselves and better school environments,” said the junior rhetoric major. The goal of the show is to educate students, but also to entertain them. “Attention spans dwindle by just speaking,” Hudson said.
When Hudson travels to a school in the area, he starts his performance by explaining why he is there. “I touch on the different forms of bullying, the concept of intent and impact, self-esteem, and I do all of it through not just speaking, but music,” he said. Hudson believes that the musical aspect impacts the students because it is more memorable than just listening to a speech. “I think it grabs their attention, they’re lectured all day at school,” he said. “They’re songs that they can dance and listen to that still have uplifting messages.” Hudson, who is minoring in drama, writes all of his own songs, creating and performing the whole show by himself. “I bring my guitar, my piano, and my tap shoes, and I do it,” he said. He also records the music in a studio.
Hudson was inspired to use his talents to work with students by his parents – his mother is a middle school principal and his father is a physical education teacher. “I wanted to use my performing skills, so we sat down and made a plan, and I’ve had a great experience dealing with young people.” When he started to perform, Hudson brought his show to the schools that he already had a relationship with. “I started with my schools,” he said. Hudson went to school in Brentwood, so he started there and the word spread. Teachers wrote reviews and talked to each other, and Hudson started performing at other schools. The areas he performs in have grown to include different schools on Long Island, in the Bronx, upstate, and in New Jersey. “Teachers love it,” said Hudson. “The teachers see the message and speak in their circles. It’s a grass roots, word of mouth organization.”
The response from kids varies on their age. “It depends,” said Hudson. “I’ve had people come up to me crying.” When he is performing for high school students, the reaction is sometimes different. “High school students aren’t kids,” he said. “And they can really express their opinions, if they were bored or entertained.” The performance itself also varies on the audience’s age group. “When I’m talking to third and fourth graders, I have to be careful of the words [I use], but in high school I can be more thorough.” Hudson talks about how bullying becomes part of a person’s “unofficial resume”, and how it can affect someone’s college and job applications. “I try to focus on as many topics as I can,” he said.
Hudson’s own experiences are a big part of his performances. He explained that he has played all three roles in bullying – he has been a victim, a bystander, and he has played the aggressor. He believes himself to be an example to people who identify with these experiences. “And I make the declaration that I would no longer subject myself to the cycle.” Hudson also uses his experiences as a member of the wrestling team to fuel his performance. “That teaches self-determination, and being able to build confidence, because it’s just you and that other young man on the mat,” said Hudson. He believes that wrestling helps to give him the mental preparation for performing.
In the future, Hudson plans to keep spreading his message and bringing his show to students all over the area. “I try to tweak and build it every day,” he said. “This year’s show is different than last year’s.” To build on to the performance, Hudson keeps up with stories in the media that he can potentially use as examples. “I’m hoping to continue this. I don’t think it’s going to ever stop growing.”