“I got these scars from words I try to hide,” Stef Lang signs in a song that she wrote for Amanda Todd.
And the Ladysmith-raised singer is helping encourage students in Chemainus and Ladysmith to bring those words out into the open by teaming up with Vancouver Island Insurance Centres Inc. (VIIC) and PINKwall.ca to spread anti-bullying messages.
After hearing about Todd, a 15-year-old from Port Coquitlam who committed suicide in October after suffering two years of cyberstalking, harassment and bullying, Lang wrote a song for Todd called Can You See Me Now?
“I didn’t know her personally, and I don’t know her family personally, but I was moved by what had happened, and I felt I needed to create something for what she might have gone through, for kids who might be going through the same thing,” said Lang. “I wrote it from the perspective of feeling like you’re not being seen or heard properly and longing for that.”
After writing the song, Lang decided she wanted to reach out to anti-bullying campaigns. As she was researching campaigns, VIIC and PINKwall.ca contacted her and asked if she would be interested in being their youth spokesperson.
“What moves me the most about [anti-bullying campaigns] is the effects of bullying,” she said. “I relate to it because I have a history of depression. I was a teen in school and saw things, but bullying has changed so much since I was in high school. There is social media and Facebook and Twitter — I’m aware that it’s a totally different ball game. I just want to let kids know there are other options for dealing with it. They can talk to someone, and there are tons of resources online. I just want to help them get out of the dark places because I’ve been there.”
Lang is in Chemainus and Ladysmith this week to share her anti-bullying message and to give out pink T-shirts to build awareness for Pink Shirt Day, which takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
She is at Chemainus Elementary School and Chemainus Secondary School today (Feb. 19) and will visit Ladysmith Secondary School Wednesday, Feb. 20. She will also be at the VIIC office in Coronation Mall on Thursday, Feb. 21. On Thursday, Lang will be performing and signing pink anti-bullying T-shirts from 2-4 p.m.
“I will be talking to the students about what bullying is, what the effects are and what tools and resources are available, and I will be giving them insight and inspiration on how to improve their social lives every day,” she said. “I’ll be bringing awareness that it’s their choice to be good to each other.”
Lang was really looking forward to getting into the schools and sharing more than her songs with students.
“It’s a really cool experience for me because I don’t just play music for them,” she said. “I get to communicate about an important message. I feel like a lot of kids have their own voice that needs to be heard, and they don’t know how to do that, and hopefully I can show them things that worked for me that helped me get out of my dark places.”
Lang says talking to people about what she was going through and playing music were the biggest tools for her.
“In school, for immediate relief, I would talk to somebody; I would either talk to my closest teacher or to the counsellor,” she said. “And music was always, always my pull-through. I was always journaling and writing. When you take something negative you’re going through in your life and make it something positive, it makes you feel better. Music was my main therapy.”
VIIC is actively involved in the anti-bullying campaign and Pink Shirt Day and is the creator of PinkWall.ca. For 2013, VIIC has designed and ordered approximately 20,000 pink T-shirts that will be distributed free of charge to school-aged children on the Island.
The main goal of PINKwall.ca is to make bullying an open topic of conversation in every classroom and around every family dinner table on Vancouver Island. PinkWall.ca is an online resource for students, parents, teachers and concerned communities. The site features the UPstanding Virtual Wall, a virtual Facebook wall where UPstanding visitors of all ages can either “like” PinkWall.ca, sign their name, share a post with their Facebook friends or even leave a message of hope or support on the virtual wall to show their support for this worthwhile initiative.
After visiting her hometown, Lang will be preparing for a spring anti-bullying tour, where she will perform and speak in high schools in B.C. and Alberta. Lang is calling the tour, which will run from mid-March to mid-April, The Conscious Self Tour. It’s a play on the title of her latest album, Self, and it’s a play on words.
“It’s kind of cool because it’s the reverse of self-conscious,” said Lang. “The record’s all about coming into yourself, and conscious self means being aware of who you are and how you affect others. It ties into the whole anti-bullying message.”