HCN News & Notes

Selfie Challenge Brings Attention to Issue of Bullying

EAST LONGMEADOW — An anti-bullying movement initially started in Western Mass. has spread across all 50 states and to more than 50 countries. Now celebrities are getting into the act.

“The social-media effort was started by the kids of Unify,” said Edward Zemba, president of Unify Against Bullying. “It was their way of bringing awareness to the silence of bullying. As parents, we all know that this issue is difficult enough to address when we talk about it. However, when children are left alone to deal with it in silence, things can get far worse.”

In January, the kids of Unify set a goal. By the end of the year, they wanted to have 50 celebrities participate in their challenge. “Bullying is about trying to look cool,” said 14-year-old Julianna Zemba, one of the organization’s founders. “If celebrities send a message that bullying isn’t OK to kids, they’ll listen differently than if it’s from their parents, or even friends.”

With well-known figures such as Chris Evans (Captain America), Zach Braff (Scrubs), and actors from series such as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things participating, they are well on their way. Even celebrities from NASCAR, the WWE, the Boston Bruins, the WNBA, and New England Patriots cheerleaders have posted selfies.

The kids of Unify have also launched a video challenging comedienne and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres. “She’s kind of the queen of selfies,” Julianna said. “Having her do the challenge would send a message loud and clear to children all over the world. It would be a rallying call to end the silence of bullying.”

No matter where things go from here, the Kids of Unify have definitely left their mark, she added. “Doing the #UnifySelfieChallenge is about bringing attention to the fact we are all important. To me, everyone who’s posted a Unify selfie is a celebrity.”

To see the video challenge to Ellen, or learn more about Unify, visit unifyagainstbullying.org or #UnifySelfieChallenge. The video was donated to Unify Against Bullying by Myers Video Productions and Robert Charles Photography.