An image can be more impactful than hundreds of words – especially when it is used to raise awareness of an important issue. Tifara Brown and her peers used photography to deliver a message about bullying prevention.
Classmates bullied Tifara from elementary school until high school. Tifara is an African-American whose parents raised her in a religiously observant and conservative household. She had to deal with negative stereotypes of African-Americans as being less competent than people of other races. In addition, she was often teased for her religious beliefs and choices.
“I was raised in church, and my faith is a huge part of my life and who I am. I was negatively labeled as a ‘church girl’ for years and bullied about my modest clothing. As an African-American in advanced classes, I was often made to feel weird or unwanted whenever I participated in class. Once I was deemed intelligent enough to be on my classmates’ level, I was then subjected to hear jokes about other African-Americans who were characterized as ‘ignorant.’ In hindsight, I should have defended myself and my peers so much more than I did.”
Tifara is now a first year college student. She has been an active member of the 4-H youth development organization since she was in the 8th grade. Her current bullying prevention work was prompted by her participation in a bullying prevention roundtable at the April 2013 National 4-H Conference.
“At the National 4-H Conference, we were asked to design promotional photo prototypes for a prospective anti-bullying Tumblr page. We took and edited photos, with quotes or themes that were important to us and then presented them to a team at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We wanted the photos to be transparent enough so that they could see our hearts when looking at the photos.”
While working together, Tifara and her peers realized that each of them had personal experiences with bullying. This included instances where they bullied others. Tifara realized that, regardless of the roles that one plays, bullying is linked to negative outcomes and people should not label those involved.
The photo project at the 2013 National 4-H Conference was the motivation for a photo campaign Tifara is currently working on called Not Them, But Me: Georgia 4-H No Bullying Campaign. The importance of not labeling others is the focus of and the inspiration for the campaign.
“I want the campaign to be an outlet for young people to speak out against bullying in a creative and beautiful way. People being open, transparent, and real about their struggles – through an outlet as beautiful as photography, for the world to see – is my vision for the campaign.”
Tifara plans to unveil the campaign at a Georgia 4-H state conference. She plans to develop a website and use social media to help spread her message and will expand this effort later this year.
“People are real and their stories are just as real as they are. Just as my peers and I hoped the passion and the heart we put behind our photos was evident, I want those who contribute to the campaign to have the same desired impact. Bullying is a war against which we must fight daily, but I believe a successful campaign will be a huge battle won.”