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For Good

Local musician uses his music to fuel anti-bullying initiative



Keenan West's life trajectory changed four years ago when he released a song titled "Never Ever." Without even knowing it, the Cincinnati musician started a wave of change.

A friend of West's wanted to take the lyrics to his song and make a music video to help raise awareness about bullying. He agreed and partnered with local high school students to release the video, and the rest was history. 

After an outpouring of support from the community and thousands of views on YouTube, West began his motivational speaking career and launched an anti-bullying campaign. Since then, he has had many different partnerships — with P&G, Warren County Violence Free Coalition, Pacer’s National Bully Prevention Center and Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Every year, schools across the country request for West to speak to their students about bullying. He started out visiting about 100 schools each year, and now plans to visit more than 300 schools during the 2016-17 academic year. 

His latest partnership resulted in a card game, Exposed, which challenges opinions on bullying by asking questions about the five main types of bullying: classroom, workplace, cyber, domestic and disabled. 

"It's a great opportunity to bring families together and create a dialogue," West says. 

Another of West's products is a school safety app, NoXclusion, which allows students to anonymously report bullying or safety issues.

"There is a great need for our young people to have the courage to speak up and stand up," West says. "Sometimes they feel like they need to do it in an anonymous way."

West also recently partnered with FTS Works, which started an anti-bullying initiative by reaching out to more than 6,000 schools across the country. The schools that are chosen will receive $2,000 to use toward an anti-bullying campaign in their school. 

Most people assume West was either a bully or the bullied. But he was neither. 

"I was what most students are — a bystander," West says. "Most students see bullying or someone being mistreated and look the other way. When you act like that, you're just as bad as the person doing the bad behavior."

West thinks most students have the power to fix the problem, and he's dedicating his life to showing them how. 

"No one is standing up and saying anything," West says. "It's their responsibility to do something. Instead of breaking up fights, they are recording them and posting them to YouTube. Kids have lost their lives, and some have been bullied bad enough that they committed suicide. This isn't about putting guilt on the kids, but to celebrate the kids who are getting involved."

Do Good:

• Bring Keenan West to your school to speak about how to combat bullying by contacting 513-486-6320 or by emailing info@keenanwest.com.

• Connect with Keenan on Twitter

• Learn more about FTS Works.
 

Read more articles by Jayna Morris.

Jayna Morris is a contributing writer and editor for Soapbox. Learn more about her at www.jaynabarker.weebly.com.
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