October is Bullying Prevention Month in the U.S. Add your voice to The BULLY Project’s latest collective effort to raise awareness by sharing art and stories.
One of the hardest things about bullying, said filmmaker Lee Hirsch, is communicating about it. Lee, the founder of the The BULLY Project, which has sparked broad conversations about the bullying epidemic, has been working to build bullying prevention into a grassroots movement. His award-winning 2011 documentary, Bully, has the tagline: “When we come together, we can do anything.”
Recently, Lee set in motion a new initiative, The Adobe Bully Project Mural, a digital destination where people can share art, stories, and perspectives on bullying and its impact, and how communities can prevent it. Today, the mural has about 700 submissions from around the world. With the help of educators and students, the project can reach its goal of including 1 million pieces of art. We sat down with Lee to learn more.
Facing History and Ourselves: What inspired The Adobe Bully Project Mural?
Lee Hirsch: We were inspired most directly by the AIDS memorial quilt, which was such an extraordinary, living testimony to people without a voice, finding a way to express their story in a meaningful way that comes together to create a very powerful message. I brainstormed with the team at Adobe about how to amplify the storytelling that comes in all kinds of forms around bullying and feeling excluded. For people that connect to the issue of bullying, it’s so powerful. Consistently, the number of people who want to tell their story never seems to wane.
When we were dreaming this with Adobe, they shared this idea that a lot of people in the creative world really identify with bullying and feeling like they were outsiders. We took this as the mandate to create something extraordinary.
Photo from The Adobe Bully Project Mural
How can educators use the mural in their classrooms?
Student contributions to The Adobe Bully Project Mural can take many forms, and all student expressions are welcome—regardless of ability. We’ve created free online workshops, videos, and lessons to help teachers integrate the mural into the classroom.
Educators can use the mural as a project-based learning initiative and build some real thoughtfulness into what it means to add your voice. What does contributing to the mural represent? What are all the different ways you can take a stand? They can dive into what the mural is saying and allow their students to pick pieces of work and express why a certain piece moved them. For example, have your students pick a piece already posted on the mural and explain why it resonated with them from their personal experience.
There is also a great opportunity for learning as you pivot to the students' own contribution asking them what their contribution would look like and what it means to them.
What do you hope to see as the result of the mural?
I’ve been doing this work for quite a while, and the mural is giving me daily encouragement. Every time I re-load the site, there is something new up that has a huge amount of thoughtfulness and emotion behind it.
One of the other things that is so extraordinary is that it is so global. The mural is made up of voices, art, and stories from all over the world. As I am clicking through, it blows me away—I am taken to a piece in Spanish, or Czech. That is probably one of the greatest surprises and affirmations of the work.
There is a huge variety on the mural right now: video, art, spoken word, photography. I am really excited to see very basic art, line drawings, videos, or memes. That is where I want this project to go. When a school of 1,200 students submits and everyone finds a way to add their voice, then I think it will really be the project that I hope it will be.
Facing History has a teaching guide to accompany BULLY: A Guide to the Film BULLY: Fostering Empathy and Action in Schools.