AHOSKIE – It’s tough to respect others when you stare long and hard into a mirror and become upset with the reflected image.
Shelia Moses did her absolute best to reverse that trend here Friday morning.
Moses, a renowned author and native of Northampton County, spoke to an assembly of fourth, fifth and sixth grade girls at Ahoskie Elementary School….touching on a wide range of topics to include the proper use of social media, bullying, lifestyle choices and, most importantly, how to act and behave like a young woman.
“It’s all about being comfortable and confident in the way that God made you,” Moses told the room full of female students during a one-hour session entitled Diva Talk. “God made us different – light skin, dark skin, tall, short – however we look, that’s how God made us and we all need to respect each other in the image that God made us.”
She asked if anyone in the room had ever teased their classmates over the way they looked.
“Are there any bullies in this school,” Moses asked, to a chorus of “yes.”
“You are responsible for the way you treat people; you are responsible for the negative energy you put out on God’s earth that allows people to mistreat other people over something you said,” Moses stressed. “If you are talking negatively about someone’s hair, the clothes they’re wearing; if you are on social media talking about that then you are creating bad energy. You are a bully and no one likes a bully. If you are doing those things, I would encourage you to stop today being a bully.
“Bullies are people who do not like themselves,” she continued. “They have very low self esteem. So when you talk negatively about someone else, you are really just talking about yourself. Perhaps you need to carry a mirror and talk to the person you see reflected in that mirror.”
The subject then shifted to cell phones and their various uses, to include using it for Kik, a social media platform that serves as an instant messaging application.
“Why do you need a cell phone at your age,” Moses asked her young audience. “How many of you are on Facebook? How many of you have used social media to say something bad about someone? If you have done so, then you are guilty of cyberbullying. Do you know there are young people, some your age, who have gone home and committed suicide because of negative comments about them on social media.”
Moses posed another question, saying, “How does social media prepare you to finish your studies here at this elementary school; go to middle school; go to high school; then to college and then become a professor, a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher? The answer is nothing. It doesn’t serve a major purpose in your life. If you do use it, use it in a positive light.”
Moses reminded the young ladies that if they “liked” a message posted by a friend on Facebook and that message contained hurtful language about another person, then they need to consider themselves as an accomplice to cyberbullying.
“If you are helping someone hurt someone, you are a bully,” she remarked.
She spoke about the use of foul language, asking the students do they hear that at school (again hearing a positive response).
“If I used such language when I was a child, my mother would have no problem giving me a good, old-fashioned spanking,” Moses recalled, as her young audience giggled in amazement.
She encouraged the girls to open their minds and read.
“Shine on,” she said. “Go home tonight and read a book. Learn something new. Learn how to shine. Go home and turn your light on and stop trying to put someone else’s light out. The book you read today, and what you learn from that book, will save you tomorrow.”
Moses was invited to the school by a childhood friend, Kim Scott, currently the assistant principal at Ahoskie Elementary. The Rich Square native told her young audience that she had always dreamed of being a writer, from the young age of seven.
“I love to tell stories, especially those living in North Carolina,” she said.
She shared an excerpt from her latest book – “Dark Girls.”
Moses is perhaps best known for her work – “The Legend of Buddy Bush” – from which she read two pages to the AES students. That fictional character is from Northampton County.
Her other work includes Joseph’s Grace; I, Dred Scott; Joseph; The Baptism; and The Return of Buddy Bush.
The Legend of Buddy Bush was nominated for the 2004 National Book Award and received the prestigious Coretta Scott King Award. In 2005 she was awarded the Mary Frances Hobson Lecture and Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Letters from Chowan University.