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Back to school without the bullies: Keenan West encourages kids to 'never e
Keenan West is a local Cincinnati hip pop artist on a mission: make it big as a singer, and make a difference along the way. His name has been buzzing through school hallways as he takes on the bullying epidemic with his popular music video, Never Ever. The video has a strong message and is also a great song to rock out with.
The video was released on iTunes and YouTube last March as part of a national anti-bullying campaign. It shows scenes of bullying and celebrates the kids who stand up to the bullies.
The most exciting part, however, is that it was filmed at the middle school which I attended in Cincinnati, and starred students from our drama department.
The director of the music video, Dawn Biershwal, chose the my school because of their strong and talented drama department. Furthermore, the makers of the music video were impressed with their established anti-bullying program.
The cast of the music video, which was also the cast of the spring musical "13," were very involved in the making of the video. They came up with ideas for certain scenes, recorded the song at a studio with West, and dedicated hours of their time to blocking and filming the video.
More than anything, the students loved spending time with both West and Bierschwal. Both have great rapport with the kids and were thrilled to watch the students put on their musical.
With over 36,000 YouTube views, the Never Ever video is influencing not just Sycamore students, but also teens nationwide. Fifty cents from every digital purchase of the song or music video go to PACER's National Bullying Prevention Centers.
PACER's main goal is to provide help to those who have been bullied and give everyone resources to conquer and prevent bullying. The organization holds many events during October to celebrate National Bullying Prevention month. As you head back to school, you can find out what events are happening near you by going to www.pacer.org/bullying
Never Ever is also paired up with the movie Bully. The song is one of the official #BullyList's top 20 empowering songs. Anyone can support the cause with just a few simple steps. It is as easy as enjoying good music on iTunes, signing PACER's digital petition, or purchasing Never Ever merchandise on West's website.
Interview With Keenan West
Q. Where are you from originally?
A. I am from Cincinnati, OH. I grew up in the Colerain Township area. I went to Pleasant Run Elementary, Pleasant Run Jr. High and Northwest High School.
Q. At what point did you decide to make music for a living?
A. Actually, it wasn't until about 6 or 7 years ago. I worked at a retail men's clothing store and I… transitioned out of that into music.
Q. Is it hard to have a music career in Cincinnati?
A. I would say it is what you make it. A lot of people say “you should get up and you should get out of Cincinnati.” Although there are other opportunities and other places, there are still a lot of opportunities in Cincinnati to go after your dreams, record music, and use your music to encourage other people. I mean, I stay pretty busy in Cincinnati.
Q. How do you decide which charities to support?
A. It just kind of depends on what I'm thinking about charity-wise at the time. For instance, in my church we have a program called Game-Change, so then it just hit me one day: "why don't we let some of the proceeds from my music go to the Game-Change initiative?" And then with the song Never Ever, we decided to kind of redo it this way.
Q. Is there one cause that you feel a closer connection with?
A. I am really passionate about my city¬- I really love Cincinnati. And though there may be a time when I have to move away, I am passionate about where I grew up. So anything that has to do with school, kids, poverty [catches my attention].
Q. Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
A. Well, since I can't tell you how old I am (laughs) I see myself married with a couple of kids, still doing music in some fashion or form. Definitely still making music to inspire to people.
Q. When you are not making music what do you do in your spare time?
A. I just recently fell in love with watching movies. I love going to the movies and I do love Netflix. I love spending time with my family so I'm at my mom and dad's house a lot. I recently fell back in love with playing video games (laughs). And I have a really cool church and I love spending time singing there.