While ‘Kindness Rocks,’ a concert that encourages students to treat each other and themselves with respect, is a bullying- and violence-prevention event, one organizer said that she knows “good people can do bad things sometimes.”
About 3,000 students, from grades 2 to 12, attended the three shows at the Bell Performing Arts Centre Tuesday (Feb. 26) which included speakers and musical performances telling stories of overcoming adversity and bullying.
Addressing the room of hundreds of elementary students Jeanette O’Keeffe, one of the organizers of Kindness Rocks, said she herself was bullied in school. When she moved to a new school, she befriended another girl, but O’Keeffe said she soon realized her new friend was being bullied as well.
“Because I didn’t want to get bullied, I didn’t want to associate myself with her, so I just started ignoring her. I stopped eating lunch with her, I stopped talking to her. I just ghosted her,” said O’Keeffe, adding that she “didn’t want to be connected to that.”
Then one day on the school bus, O’Keeffe said, two “popular” girls came up to the girl and started bullying her “really badly.”
“They grabbed her backpack and took all of her stuff out of it and threw it all over the place, and then one of them had a bottle of makeup, liquid makeup, and they just poured it all over her head,” said O’Keeffe, adding that everyone on the bus was laughing and calling the girl “horrible names.”
“I was right there doing the same thing even though I had been bullied for so long, you would think that I wouldn’t want to bully somebody, but it’s amazing what we do as human beings to feel powerful and to feel significant.”
O’Keeffe said people try to have power over others to have power, but “it doesn’t actually work.”
“But if there’s anyone in the room today that’s ever bullied someone or been unkind, first and foremost, forgive yourself and know that good people can do bad things sometimes. Good people can lose their way but it’s never too late to start over.”
Kindness Rocks began about 10 years ago, said Jeanette O’Keeffe, who created the concert with her husband Jonas Falle and Brock Tully, a co-founder of the Kindness Foundation of Canada.
O’Keeffe said it was Tully who gave the suggestion for an event “that was focused around kids to inspire them to be a little kinder, share some stories of struggles that some of (the students) might be able to relate to, and do that in a way they can really digest it through music.”
Kindness Rocks is “Surrey’s largest bullying and violence prevention concert,” according to a press release from Moon Coin Productions, which produced the concert.
Kindness Rocks uses music, artists and speakers to share personal stories about adversity. The goal of Kindness Rocks, according to Moon Coin Productions’ website, is “to help stop violence and bullying in schools and community throughout the world by inspiring youth to take kind and positive action on a daily basis and to let them know how important their words, actions and individual contributions are to the world.”
Performers and speakers included Destineak (a husband-and-wife-duo by Bobby James and Christina Sing), singer-songwriter Antionette, O’Keeffe, Tully and Mark Olexson.
O’Keeffe said bring people together for Kindness Rocks “happened organically.”
“Everyone had just a really compelling story, and we like to weave the music and the story together,” she said.
By having the performers tell their stories, O’Keeffe said, it can help the students realize they’re not the only ones going through hardships and adversity.
“They think they’re the only ones going through this, they think, ‘I’m the only one who has a parent that’s abusive, or that’s abusing substances,’ or ‘I’m the only one that’s going through this,’” O’Keeffe said. “For them to know that we’ve all gone through adversities and we’ve pushed through them and we’re stronger and better than ever and hopefully that message will resonate with their little hearts.”
She said that evening if a few of the kids leave the concert “feeling a little more empowered, a little more conscious of their actions and their words toward themselves and others, then we’ve done our job.”
O’Keeffe said that over the years, the reaction to Kindness Rocks has been “amazing.”
“In fact, there’s a lot of times that the teachers or the parents will feel impacted by it because one of our stories is their story too. It’s not just for kids, it’s for people, to know that we’re all in this together.”
For more information on Kindness Rocks, visit kindnessrocks.net.