Omari Hardwick’s mouth was agape with shock. And Morris Chestnut simply lowered his eyes and shook his head as Jowharah Sanders detailed how she somehow found beauty in the aftermath of absolute horror and heartbreak.
Sanders’ terrifyingly brutal victimization from bullying led her to found the National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment (NVEEE). On Sunday, Kevin E. Hooks hosted the Weber Shandwick-sponsored gala, “Art of Libe
ration Fundraiser and Art Auction” at the W Hotel in Washington, D.C. Comcast and the W Hotel also served as partners of the event where representatives from Congress and the White House made appearances.
As part of the upscale soiree, Hooks commissioned the breathtaking artwork of John Holyfield to raise money for NVEEE’s campaign, while a saxophonist ministered to hurt souls with his rendition of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”
“This [NVEEE] organization is the first line of defense against bullying,” said Hooks. “We are holding this event today to raise money to continue this fight.”
Sanders chilled her crowd to the core with the tale of how inhumane bullies changed her life forever. One day, she was kidnapped by a group of boys, taken to a home, and raped repeatedly. She somehow escaped and ran through the neighborhood naked, frantic for help, yet no one came to her aid.
But now Sanders has a powerful platform to come to others’ aid, particularly for teenage girls like Josie Lou Ratley. In a story that riveted the entire nation, Josie was pummeled with barbaric ferocity by a boy who wore steel-toe shoes and repeatedly stomped her head as teachers and classmates watched. It was so brutal that many children who were watching got blood splattered on them. After coming within inches of death and enduring permanent brain injuries, Josie has now emerged back to semi-regular routine in life after many months in intensive care.
Hooks provided statistics that prove that instances of bullying has intensified and has gotten much more sinister in the new millennium:
Seventy percent of all kids report being bullied;
Nine out of 10 homosexual boys and girls are bullied;
Kids who are bullied are four times more likely to commit suicide;
One-hundred thousand kids carry guns to school every day in America, many do so for protection against rampant and unchecked bullying from their peers.
As you can clearly see, if bullying is not addressed honestly in America’s schools, another teenage bloodbath may revisit America. The toxic ingredients for another Columbine massacre is brewing with the potential to ruin many lives and families. That’s why the “Art of Liberation” fundraiser and auction meant so much to Sanders as well as Hooks, Hardwick and Chestnut and the rest of the teen victims in attendance. The money raised will help arm the NVEEE with the tools to go to war against rampant bullying — and win.
“Oh my God. I can’t even express how much it means so much to me,” says Sanders, her eyes damp and red from the flow of joyful tears. “The celebs, the sponsors and the kids who all came out — because it’s all about the kids. I am overwhelmed with joy about tonight’s event.”