NORMAN — A coalition of people, including ministers, public officials and health officials, are launching an anti-bullying awareness campaign in Norman, starting with an appearance by nationally recognized motivational speaker Wes Moore.
Moore will give a free talk at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Nancy O'Brian Center for the Performing Arts, 1801 Stubbeman Ave.
Bob Thomas, executive director of the Xenia Institute, hopes Moore's appearance will serve “as a call to action” to the community.
“We want people to stand up and say we won't tolerate that here,” he said.
The Xenia Institute is a nonprofit organization that promotes social justice through community dialogue.
For the past year, Thomas said, much of that dialogue has centered on the problem of bullying.
“Bullying happens on a daily basis in schools, businesses and neighborhoods around the country. It is a common thread that runs through communities. We decided here that we wanted to actively take a stand to better understand and address that challenge,” Thomas said.
When Thomas says “we,” he means Norman Ministerial Alliance, Norman School District, Norman Police Department, Norman Regional Healthplex, city officials and the staff at Xenia. Representatives of all those entities have been meeting off and on since 2012 to arrive at a proactive way of addressing the problem, Thomas said.
“It was overwhelmingly decided that we would kick off an awareness campaign by inviting Wes Moore to come speak,” he said.
Moore is the author of “The Other Wes Moore,” a compelling story about his life path and a path taken by another man with the same name, both from Baltimore, Md., growing up in similar, troubled circumstances.
In Moore's case, he found people who helped him make good choices, and he became a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow and business leader. The “other” Wes Moore is serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder as a consequence of a horribly botched armed robbery.
The book chronicles a correspondence between the two men that began when the author reached out to the “other” Wes Moore to try to discover why two kids who grew up in such similar circumstances could turn out so differently.
Moore will talk about his book and will address the issue of bullying, Thomas said.
A public forum on the issue of bullying, which was held two years ago, “gave us valuable insight,” said Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey.
Bullying involves more than a victim and a perpetrator, the police chief said. “It also involves silent bystanders whose nonactions enable the bully.”
Another growing concern, he said, is inappropriate behavior involving social media.
People with ethnic, cultural and religious differences are frequent targets of bullies, as are individuals with special needs, Norman school Superintendent Joe Siano said.
Moore's appearance “we believe, will have a very positive impact, jump-starting Norman to move forward as a community that is above bullying,” Siano said.