Hundreds of teens and tweens packed a DeKalb County community center to hear from comedian and actor Chris Tucker, recording artist and "Real Housewives of Atlanta" personality Kandi Burruss, V-103 host Darian “Big Tigger” Morgan and other notables. During the Q&A many of the kids asked questions about breaking into the entertainment business and such.
Then one 10-year-old approached the microphone and, her voice breaking a little, asked for the celebrities' help in handling bullies. What happened next was heartwarming.
Held at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts & Community Center, the 2016 Dream Symposium hosted by DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May focused on setting goals, excelling at school, making good choices and otherwise preparing for a great future.
"Whatever you love, work hard at it," Tucker said. "This is the time for you guys to get serious."
Panelists including Karmetria Burton, director of supplier diversity for Delta Air Lines; Shanti Das, founder/CEO of Press Reset Entertainment and Byron Wright, senior director of writer-publisher relations at Broadcast Music Inc., shared insight and inspiration and revealed some of their personal stories.
"I didn't let the bad things that happened in my life hold me back," said Das, who has struggled with depression.
When Jamison asked her question, the whole room got quiet for a minute - then loud, as Tucker invited the rising fifth grader at Nickajack Elementary School in Cobb County to come onto the stage. Everyone gave her a hug and Big Tigger invited her to sit with them for the duration of the program.
"There is nothing wrong with you," Wright told Jamison.
"Most of the people bullying you," Das added, "they're just jealous."
Tigger said it's everyone's responsibility to prevent bullying.
"It's your obligation," he said. "This is your sister, whether you know it or not. Stand up for your sister."
Here's a video clip:
Jamison's mom, Sybil Elie, said her daughter a tough time in fourth grade.
"She’s a very gentle spirit," she said. "She wants everybody to be happy and get along. She’s sensitive. I was really surprised at just what we went through last year with people she thought were her friends."
The bullying took the form of taunting and teasing, not physical harm. She talked with school administrators and said they didn't seem able to do much.
"I think the schools have their hands tied," she said, noting that it can be hard for administrators to suss out the cause of verbal bullying. She takes issue with anyone taking it lightly, though.
"When someone is calling you names that are derogatory, that is not lighthearted teasing," she said."It’s hateful."
This summer, they're spending time talking about how to respond to bullies. Jamison is enrolled in A Lady Named Pearl's Leadership Academy, which aims to instill confidence and poise.
Attending the DeKalb event turned out to be a powerful moment for her, too. Bullies at school, Jamison said, "push me around and tell me I can't do things I know I can do. It makes me disappointed. This event made me feel different. It made me feel like I can accomplish my goals."