DJ Demp puts spotlight on bullying

Gerald Murphy and students from Dragon System Institute of Martial Arts perform during an anti-bully rally at The Moon.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
DJ Demp 

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

For a few hours during DJ Demp’s birthday celebration, inside The Moon felt a little sobering as a public display that put the focus on bullying took center stage.

Stories of how bullying could affect a victim’s life was presented on two big screens and in spoken words at the rally put on by Demp last Saturday afternoon. Even during a taekwondo demonstration, instructor Gerald Murphy made sure the audience got the message.

Murphy, instructor at Dragon System Institute of Martial Arts, called some of the smallest students to line the back of the stage. Before anyone could figure out what would come next, Murphy provided an answer with bullying at the core.

“These are precious jewels,” he said, pointing to the children. “We don’t want them to be intimidated.”

The topic is one that’s been studied for decades. The National Bullying Prevention Center found that one in every five students reports being bullied. The same report also said that programs in schools have reduced bullying by 25 percent.

Demp, a Washington D.C., native who grew up in Tallahassee attending high school at Godby and Leon, said he was a victim of bullying. That has inspired him to keep the problem in the forefront.

Saturday’s event marked the 24th year that Demp has had a public celebration of his birthday. Each year he’s brought awareness to a social issue, including homelessness. 

Bullying remains one of his most covered subjects, though.

His height at 5-foot-4 height often made him a target for bullying when he was in high school, he said. It finally stopped when he stood up his attacker.

“I took it upon myself to say ‘I’m not having it,’ ” he said.

Acknowledging that bullying doesn’t stop with young people, Demp said he’s seen it among adults. 

“It’s never off the radar,” he said. “We deal with bullying every day; 365. It’s always going to be a problem but we’ve got to tackle it. Somehow we have to make sure that the kids know how to deal with it; tell somebody about it or deal with it some type of way.

“My job is to use my platform to help teach and bring awareness and help better the future that can benefit everybody.”

In addition to the taekwondo demonstration and a dance performance, Demp had help from Verla Lawson-Grady to deliver the message about bullying Saturday afternoon. Children often don’t know where to find answers when they are confronted by a bully, said Lawson-Grady, Statewide outreach and engagement coordinator for the department of Juvenile Justice office of prevention service.

During her talk, she spoke directly to the young people in the audience. 

“Don’t let anyone intimidate you,” she said. “You can do whatever you want to do. Always have faith in yourself.”

After sharing a story about her personal experience with bullying, Lawson-Grady delivered one last message. Bullies, she said, “try to stop you from feeling good about yourself.”

Research has found that bullying is one of the leading causes of suicide among school-age children. For every successful suicide, there are 100 attempts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that victims of bullying also suffered mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

However, there are cases that turned out well. Lawson-Grady said she and the person who bullied her are best of friends now. Murphy, also said that he is friendly with a schoolmate who bullied him.

Bullies usually attack others to hide a weakness, Murphy said. In his case the bully couldn’t read. He managed to persuade him to accept his help.

It turned out to be a life-changing experience for the former bully that Murphy said went on to a military career.

“Bullies don’t want you to say anything,” he said. “They want you to listen while they’re fighting you. They (victims) just become prey for those guys who want to make a name for themselves or just be seen.”