NBA star Magic Johnson shares anti-bullying message at We Day Vancouver
Thousands of B.C. students heard a strong anti-bullying message during a celebrity-studded We Day Vancouver event at Rogers Arena today (October 18).
The annual rock concert-like rallies, hosted by the Canadian charity group Free the Children, are focused on empowering youth to make positive change in the world.
High-profile figures including NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu addressed the crowd. There were also musical performances from pop acts like OneRepublic and Shawn Desman.
Speakers at We Day Vancouver tackled pressing global issues including poverty, education, and access to clean water. However, they also delivered a strong anti-bullying message.
The topic is making headlines across Canada because of the case of Amanda Todd, a Metro Vancouver teenager who recently took her own life after being bullied for years.
Johnson told the We Day crowd about his fight against discrimination after he announced in the early 1990s that he had contracted HIV.
The five-time NBA champion and former LA Lakers player said other professional athletes were afraid to play with him.
“Instead of getting upset, I decided to educate them about that you could play against a player with HIV and not worry about it,” he told the crowd.
Johnson encouraged the stadium full of cheering students to step in and defend people who are being bullied.
“That’s important that you take this away today: Let’s stop the bullying and let’s hug and support people and high-five them instead of bringing them down,” he said.
Cody Simpson, a 15-year-old Australian pop singer and YouTube star, also performed at We Day Vancouver and spoke briefly about bullying.
“As you know, when I decided that I wanted to sing, I got teased by people who didn’t think it was cool,” Simpson told the crowd.
“But you know what? I held onto my dream and that’s why I cannot stand bullying. Never let anyone stand in your way. Everyone should be allowed to follow their dreams,” he said.
Tutu, a human-rights advocate who fought against apartheid in South Africa, spoke about why he believes positive change is possible.
“There is no problem that is insoluble, we’ve discovered,” Tutu told reporters at the event. “There was a time when people told us apartheid would never end, or if it was going to end, it was going to end with a racial bloodbath—It’s ended.”
He continued: “There was a time when people thought Nazism would not end—It’s ended. The people who thought that all of the oppression in the Soviet Union would never end—It’s ended.”
“And so, why shouldn’t we say, ‘Ah, this is a world that is made ultimately for goodness, that each one of us is in fact made of goodness,” he said.
A previous We Day 2012 event was held in Toronto in late September. Seven more events are scheduled in cities across Canada between now and April and one takes place in Seattle in March.
Free the Children, founded by Canadian activist Craig Kielburger in 1995, encourages students to participate in programs focused on social change at the local and international levels.