From victim to victorious, Shacara McLaurin walks like a champion, and has a telling backstory. McLaurin is an 18-year-old who has had to endure the harsh experience of being bullied.
It was an assault that made the news. On April 1, she was attacked and beaten by a large group of students from the Brooklyn Academy and Bedford-Stuyvesant Preparatory School. McLaurin recalls the day before the beating.
“We all attended the same school; it was two schools in one. During rehearsal for our talent show, I noticed that [the accused ringleader Aaliyah Smith, 17] began to say things that were not nice,” said McLaurin. “I asked for a mediation, which did not happen.
“On Friday, I saw a gang of girls following me and I heard Aaliyah describe me,” she recalls. “Aaliyah hit me in my face and shoulder with a padlock,” which resulted in six stitches on the left side of her face near her ear, along with strangulation marks around her neck and a bruised jaw.
One witness stated that they saw at least 15 girls standing near the attack. Five were charged, four pled guilty and received five years probation.
On Oct. 6, Smith stepped into the courtroom with her court-appointed attorney and stood still with her hands behind her back as she listened to the prosecutor and her attorney speak before the judge. The judge issued a new court date for Dec. 2. McLaurin told the AmNews, “It is hard coming here today [to court], seeing her face to face since the assault. I was very, very, very nervous. I don’t know why.
“She [Smith] looked at me once. I just dropped my head because I could not lock eyes,” she said. “Everything flashed before my eyes. I did not want to show any emotions, but when I got home, I was emotionally bothered.”
It has been an uplifting growth period for McLaurin since her attack, as she has pursued her passion for singing by penning a yet-to-be named song aimed at anti-bullying, with musical help from Sauce Money. In addition, she has a book written for children titled, “Not You Sarah.”
McLaurin explains the issues involved with going through the ordeal of a bullying attack. “I was depressed. I begin to think my face was a complete mess. I said, ‘God, please get me through this. God, please help my story become a testimony.’”
When asked about how she feels about her attackers, McLaurin’s response is a mature one. She pauses before answering, then says, “I do forgive them with my whole heart, each and every last one of them. I thank God for the heart that he has given me. I pray that they can succeed, and I mean that wholeheartedly.
“I am satisfied. I would not be happy if they went to jail. I feel like they got their punishment. I think it was all an action of following behind the main girl, but I do not think they know the seriousness of what they did.”
The progress of McLaurin as she grows beyond her ordeal has led to her being named the New York Youth Ambassador for the national organization STOMP Out Bullying. She has already been booked for speaking engagements in three Harlem schools. During the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series this summer in Brooklyn, McLaurin wowed the crowd with her version of the “Black National Anthem.”
The former “American Idol” contestant and singer in Harlem’s “Mama, I Want to Sing” admits with pride that her story has garnered support from people all over the country, receiving words of encouragement and well-wishes, along with messages from those who are dealing with being bullied.
One such story was that of Jaylin Strange, a 14-year-old from Maryland who would eat her lunch in the girls bathroom to stay away from her bully and was contemplating suicide because of the bullying. McLaurin said that when Strange’s mother reached out to her for help with her daughter’s seven-page letter, she states, “I told her to stay focused on schoolwork. I was basically encouraging her and she was concerned with what other people thought about her, and I told her to be concerned about what you think about yourself.”
On the topic of the bully, McLaurin declares, “It is not just to punish the bully, but to find out what is wrong with the bully. I was watching ‘Regis and Kelly,’ and Kelly said, ‘In my daughter’s class, her teacher gave them a blank sheet of paper and told them to crumble it up, throw it on the floor. “Now pick up that piece of paper off the floor. You cannot undo what you have done to that paper.” That is how bullying is-that piece of paper.’ You cannot undo what you did. Calling a person a name, it sticks with a person. Be mindful of what you say. Practice kindness.”
McLaurin has continued to find strength in her first year of college at Boricua College, guiding her inner ambitions of becoming a teacher. Elaborating on her future, she said, “I have such a passion for teaching and for children. When I was young, I used to line my dolls and teddy bears up and prepare them for class. I was Miss McLaurin then.”
McLaurin intends to keep up her anti-bullying campaign and address the whole anti-bullying agenda. “I went from victim to victorious, and I want to stay that way.”