Former bully becomes child advocate

Former bully becomes child advocate
Courtesy of Keba Cairo
By Naeisha Rose

Jamaica resident Keba Cairo wasn’t always an author or child advocate. In fact, she was a self-professed former bully growing up.

After having two children of her own, seeing what happened with Sandy Hook and having her son almost abducted, she went on a mission to help empower kids to speak up when they see others in danger or being bullied through her “Don’t Snooze on Clues” book and virtual pop-up workshops.

“I had three brothers and they didn’t want to hear me cry or be girly, so I had to be tough and I started having aggressive behavior and being intimidating to get my way,” Cairo said. “As an adult having kids, I was like wow. This is really not cool.”

Her son was afraid to go to school after learning of the Sandy Hook shooting on Dec. 14, 2012 and three years ago he was almost abducted. But rather than shy away from those issues with her child, Cairo decided to help inspire him and other children to deal with those type of problems through her book.

“Kids have the power to alert an adult or alert someone of something happening,” Cairo said. “We have a culture of kids that pull out phones [to record videos] and everybody just stands by and does nothing. This is my way of teaching kids to not be a bystander.”

In her 2014 book “Don’t Snooze on Clues” there are scenarios for kids about how to respond if they see a fellow child being abducted, bullied, or what to do if they see an unattended item.

“If you see a bag sitting around, what do you do with that clue?” Cairo said. “Tell a parent, teacher, or police officer.”

In her workshops she uses her firsthand knowledge of bullying others to help parents, teachers and students spot the signs of bullying.

“There are different forms of bullying and it is repetitive negative behavior towards someone else,” Cairo said. “There’s things like teasing, spreading rumors…and I also tell kids that bullies like to try to find the things that separate us, like what makes us different. I’m teaching these kids how to put out the fire.”

The purpose of her book was to help kids become “change agents” instead of onlookers when they see trouble.

“There are five different people in a bullying scenario. There is a bully, a target, a cheerleader, and a bystander or there can be a change agent. A change agent is the person who can change the situation by providing help to the person being targeted even with an anonymous note,” Cairo said.

Cairo, a recent master’s graduate from the University of Phoenix, wants to further develop her brand by tackling more issues that kids face in her second book in the “Don’t Snooze on Clues” series.

Since 2015 she has been doing research and workshops on the impact of cyberbullying and recently she attended City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s (D-Jackson Heights) cyberbullying town hall on Nov. 1, her 38th birthday, to become more informed.

“Cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent and kids have access to all this social media and all these different things,” Cairo said. “I’ve been doing the research and now I’m going to put it all together and present it.”

“I want kids to know what are the social and emotional sides of [bullying]. How do you feel? How do you see yourself? What can you do? Also, are you a change agent?”

Her virtual workshops on bullying, and cyberbullying are on www.dontsnoozeonclues.com. Her second book, which is untitled at the moment, will incorporate aspects of cyberbullying. It is due out in the summer of 2018.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.