'Mama Kim' Sims-Battiste may not be the most traditional weapon in the battle to help teenagers understand each others' insecurities and put an end to intimidation – but she may well be one of the most effective.
"I'm all about family. I'm all about love. I'm all about relationships," Sims-Battiste, a hip-hop choreographer and motivational speaker from Oakland, CA, to a group of assembled Lindsay Place High School Grade 10 students in the school's upper gym Friday afternoon, "so, what I want to see is people moving around and sitting next to someone they don't already know," she said.
She knows where she's coming from, too. Sims-Battiste shared a very personal story from when she was growing up in Oakland. A friend's little sister had started acting more and more erratically – and taking more and more abuse from classmates about her behaviour before finally, one day, committing suicide by shooting herself on the 50-yard line of the school's football field.
"She felt she was all alone and that no one cared about her. I never want antone to feel like that, ever," she said.
The essence of 'Mama Kim's' presentation involved creating small subgroups of students designed to help them get to know one another better – referencing the famous case of B.C. teen Amada Todd, who committed suicide after being tormented online
"I want y'all to know that you're not alone. You have to know it. That's why we're doing what we're doing," she said.
Eventually, the icebreaker aspect of the presentation morphed into a large love-in with students being encouraged to get up off the floor and dance, free of the constraints of self-consciousness.
Lindsay Place student Matthew Vincelli said the presentation has helped bring down barriers between students.
"It’s been really impressive, and I think students will be able to better relate to each other after this," he said.
Lindsay Place High School principal Dona Bianchi echoed the sentiment, saying the school has put in place a number of different programs designed to curb bullying and put a stop to intimidation.
"It's a major priority of ours, and it's for that reason we have presenters like (Sims-Battiste) come in on a regular basis. We are very, very concerned about our students and their self-esteem and comfort levels at school. It’s a major priority for us to have a n empathetic school environment," she said.