Blustery winds and mid-40-degree temperatures neither dampened the spirits or voices of more than 50 children and concerned parents chanting anti-bullying affirmations, waving signs with “Honk if you’re against bullying” and “Stop the bullying” during the fourth annual Walk and Rally for Bullying Prevention and Child Safety in Bladensburg on Nov. 10.

Sponsored by We Lead By Example Inc./Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self-Defense Systems in partnership with Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission’s Department of Parks and Recreation Northern Area, the event held from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. included a 3-mile round-trip walk down main street Annapolis Road through residential areas with a rest and refreshment stop at the Bladensburg Town Hall before returning back to the Bladensburg Community Center.

Clifford Thomas, president and CEO of We Lead By Example Inc./Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self Defense Systems, said, “We’re walking because of the bullying in the schools against the children, child sexual abuse, child safety; we’re trying to bring greater attention to that by our kids walking from the community center to town hall and throughout the residential areas. Every year we’re going to bring more attention to it because things are happening. Children are our leaders, our future and if we don’t do that now, the rate of child molesting, rapists, more bullying will continue to grow. We need leaders, not followers. I don’t think the leader of this country is setting an example for everybody to be a leader. We as parents got to grab ahold of this and be the leader for our children by going to the schools, PTA meetings, etc. Don’t send a message through your child; go down there and see what’s going with their children, especially if the child says someone is bullying them. These parents need to go up there and find out what the problem is.”

In relationship to child safety, Thomas said, “Your child says, somebody touched me the wrong way. These things must be addressed. We got to take that step. Just like voting, you got to take that step to make sure there’s equal rights for everybody, and that’s what this walk is about today. Anybody, whether seniors or children, there’s needs to be a stop to bullying. It doesn’t matter how many people show up today, but we need to continue to build on this effort and not throw it under the rug.”

Former Bladensburg Mayor Walter Lee James Jr. served as the guest lead walker and addressed the participants on behalf of his wife and current Bladensburg Mayor Takisha James, who was out of town attending a National League of Cities Summit.

“I’ve been supporting this effort from the very beginning of the anti-bullying rally and march, because it’s so important. I would like to thank Dr. Thomas and his whole organization because they do a great job, not just with training and teaching the kids discipline, but he looks beyond the martial arts aspect,” James said. “He looks at getting into the community and the impact his school can have in relationship to whole conversation around bullying and safety for children and seniors as well. Bullying does nothing but cause negativity in our community. I came here to continue to support Dr. Thomas, because it’s about supporting our community whether in or out of office. I believe it’s important to instill this knowledge in our young people. That’s what real sustainability is about in the community. If our young people can have a certain mindset as they grow up, they can be productive citizens that can really make a difference in their community. That’s one of the aspects of this program I really love.”

After the walk, Thomas led his students in putting on self-defense anti-bullying skits to teach children how to deal with bullying and safety tactics against child molesters when confronted.

“We’re teaching them to deal with the matter without violence,” Thomas said. “They need to know who to tell when someone puts their hands on them. A lot of these kids don’t tell, because they don’t want that child molester to lose their friendship. When Chrysler built a new car and said it was theft proof, thieves went to school too. Child molesters learn new ways to manipulate your child and the thing is with a child, the molester becomes their best friend and the child doesn’t want to lose that friendship. They don’t want to lose the gifts they get from the molester. So, they won’t tell on them. So, we got to make sure to tell them that these things are wrong. It’s wrong for someone to put their hands on a child and get away with it. It happens every day. You can have a policeman outside or living next door, a child molester is not going grab your child when one’s around. They’re going to wait. They’re going to wait until the moment is right. So, these are some of things we train our young students for daily with this in mind. We’re going to continue to grow and gather momentum for this effort and we look forward to the community’s support.”