By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
ESSEX, Md.––”Enough is enough,” the crowd, mostly wearing blue shirts, chanted at a “B3 Code Blue” rally on the front lawn of First Baptist Church (FBC) of Essex. The anti-bullying rally, Sept. 13, was in response to the recent shooting at Perry Hall High School about ten miles away from the church, and a gun incident at Stemmers Run Middle School about a mile away. Both gunmen had been repeatedly bullied.
“The B3 stands for ‘Before Bullying Begins,’” explained John Smith, pastor of FBC of Essex. “‘Code Blue’ represents responding to an emergency and this is an emergency.”
Teens stood alongside Mace Avenue, in front of the church, waving anti-bullying signs as drivers shouted out encouragement and beeped their horns in support. About 100 people attended. Most heard about the event through word of mouth, others saw flyers at their schools. Church leaders worked round the clock contacting potential speakers, alerting the media and getting the word out to host the rally just 48 hours after the gun incident at Stemmers Run. Speakers were John Smith, Gordon Webb, principal of Stemmers Run Middle School and Tally Wilgis, pastor of Captivate Church. Several other Stemmers Run school officials and local politicians attended and local television stations and local papers covered the event.
“Tragedy pulls us together,” Webb said. The principal said the school is partnering with FBC Essex, and with the community to find ways to stop bullying and make the community a safer place.
Smith told listeners the rally is just the beginning.
“We are going to take action steps. This is not a ‘flash in the pan,’ but a marathon. This will be an ongoing ministry of First Baptist Church, Essex. We won’t quit until bullying stops,” he said.
Smith called for “blue Thursdays.” “We have purple Fridays, why not blue Thursdays?” In addition to showing solidarity against bullying, Smith said it will be a lot harder for a bully to pick on someone if a group of students, all in blue, come together to defend the victim.
The church also started a B3CodeBlue Facebook page, which will act as a forum and offer a place to share resources, activities, and events. The page got 40 “likes” in two days. There will be a tip line, where students can share about bullying anonymously and school officials will be alerted. A B3CodeBlue website is being developed and non-profit organization status is already underway.
Smith also called for “safe houses,” places kids can go to escape and be in a safe, nurturing environment.
Bullying has been going on as long as we can remember, Smith said. But it’s different now. They’re bullied at school, then instead of coming home to welcoming safe environments, they’re often bullied at home. When they try to escape online, they find they’re bulled there as well.
“Bullying isn’t about prejudice,” Smith told listeners at the rally. “It’s about respect.“
Smith said Jesus was bullied, but he conquered it. He rose from the dead.