PITTSFIELD -- Tevonne Hemmans is 20 years old, but he knows what it feels like to be a high school freshman.
Like many youngsters in that age group, Hemmans was bullied, too.
"A lot," the performer from Brooklyn, N.Y., said. "Elementary and junior high ... I felt like I didn't have anyone to talk to."
Today, Hemmans is known as "T.E.V.," which stands for "The Educated Voice." He leads an organization known as "Creative Boys Culture," a group from Brooklyn that promotes youth empowerment, entrepreneurialism and social awareness. The group's message is "Get Busy, Get Creative!"
On Friday, his group gave two performances in Pittsfield -- at Pittsfield High School and the KidZone on Lyman Street -- and provided a fresh approach to anti-bullying efforts in a manner to which youngsters could relate.
The bullying awareness event was sponsored by the National Give Back for Kids Campaign Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based organization charged with the responsibility of inspiring adults and youth to give back by helping children.
Performing before the ninth-grade class at Pittsfield High School, Creative Boys Culture tackled bullying and obesity issues with a mixture of hip-hop, rap, dance moves and games that had the youngsters on their feet in the high school auditorium through virtually the entire performance.
Several performances were interactive, as Hemmans frequently invited youngsters on stage to participate.
After the show, Hemmans hugged several youngsters, and signed all sorts of material, from slips of paper to cellphone cases, to ball caps.
"Really interesting" was PHS freshman Molly McGuigan's take on the show. "We see a lot of bullying presentations and they're very boring. This was hip hop and rap. It appealed to us more than a speech would."
"It was a learning experience," said ninth-grader Nicholas Bailey. "Turning a negative into a positive."
Hemmans said he was bullied as a youngster by people who made fun of his rapping ability. He said it took him a while to find adults that he could confide in. Due to his talent, Hemmans said he had received offers to perform other forms of rap music, but turned them down. He formed Creative Boys Culture in his dorm room two years ago as a means of passing on what he had learned.
"I thought it would be cool to [bring together] a group of guys from the urban community that were in gangs, were bullies themselves, or had been bullied, too," Hemmans said. "They changed their lives, and they also had talent. We share our stories and show kids that they can do the same thing."
Hemmans was looking for a way to impart a positive message with a vibe that youngsters could relate to.
"We noticed that in our generation, we listen to music and watch videos a lot," Hemmans said.
"We brought that cool factor to something positive," Hemmans said. "At the same time, they're getting entertainment, they're getting a lesson.
"We wanted to leave a footprint in Pittsfield," he said.
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