Keenan West's message is all about speaking up for others
Keenan West found his voice at age 9—and he’s been using it ever since. In 2012, concerned by the growing accounts of bullying in schools, the aspiring hip hop singer wrote “Never Ever,” an anthem that showed the power of standing up for others. He then enlisted junior high and high school students in his hometown of Cincinnati to create a video for the anti-bullying song.[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Hj_-kcX3q8 width:525 height:394 align:center autoplay:0]
That video has been viewed more than 325,000 times on YouTube, and Keenan has partnered with the 'Secret' Mean Stinks anti-bullying program to take his message to school assemblies across the country. His one-hour show combines music, dance and videos to deliver a powerful message that he performed at more than 100 schools last year. Live Happy caught up with Keenan to learn more about his initiatives and what’s next.
Live Happy: What inspired you to create an anti-bullying campaign?
Keenan: That campaign evolved after I made the video for “Never Ever.” I saw firsthand how students responded not only to the music but, more importantly, how they responded to the message. My anti-bullying campaign is based around getting students to make the promise to each other that when rain does come, they will have each other’s backs.
LH: Why is that such a major theme for you?
Keenan: The focus needs to be placed on the students who sit back and choose not to use their courage to … speak up or stand up for the victims. Studies show that 57 percent of the times when bullying takes place, if someone would have the courage to speak up or stand up, the problem usually stops in less than 10 seconds.
LH: Why did you choose videos as a way to share your message?
Keenan: The videos make this message more relatable to a younger demographic. For students, the delivery of a message is just as important as the message itself. I’ve wrapped [it] up in a package that resembles their favorite rapper or favorite pop artist. There is no better way to reach kids than to get on their level and meet them right where they are.
LH: There are many anti-bullying initiatives out there–why is yours resonating so well?
Keenan: Our pop-culture, anti-bullying music videos and assemblies resonate with students because we are taking the responsibility to make sure schools are safe, bully-free zones out of the hands of the teachers, principals and counselors and putting it into the hands of the students. When young people see themselves and their peers standing up and doing what’s right, they respond much better than when it’s just adults leading the way and telling them what to do.
LH: What’s next for you?
Keenan: To continue to reach as many students as I possibly can, [and] to continue in a healthy space of growth and gratitude. I’m proud to have the calling to teach and instill this into the next generation.
To learn more about Keenan and his work, visit his website and YouTube page.
Paula Felps is the Science Editor for Live Happy.