Parents Against Bullying CEO Shant’a Miller Reflects on Past Efforts
“Advocate for your children, because they are looking for us to stand for them when they can’t stand for themselves. We can’t be quiet any longer. We have to reach out – speak out. But, we have to take a stand for these children and let them know they do have the support to move forward. Policy makers need to help the bullies as well. Suspending them is not the answer. Together, we need to take a stand to help those who need help.”Shant’a Miller, Founder and CEO
The previous quote contains the words spoken nearly some seven years ago when Shant’a Miller launched, Parents Against Bullying-Virginia, to address the national issue of Bullying. She soon came to the realization that it’s a worldwide problem that affects adults and children alike. Whether verbal, physical or online, bullying is an aggressive, unwanted behavior towards others that involves an overall perceived power imbalance; one that we see abused daily by some politicians and certain people in key leadership roles.
We’ve seen bullying used when people address issues like climate change, gun violence and more. According to stopbullying.gov, students ages 12-18 report being bullied at school. 15% report being bullied online or by text. Visit the link for additional info. The challenge for Miller is that she is a small part of the citizenry that continues to elevate awareness and discussion. But this does not happen without creating some degree of strain on her personal life and her daughters.
It was because of them that this journey began. It was her firsthand knowledge of the trauma caused by bullying and personally dealing with the challenges faced by her then 11 year-old twin daughters, Iyana and Keyana, that resulted in her taking action and forming P.A.B.
Asked about the challenges of 2019 Miller said: “last year was busy, I was focusing on getting the girls out of school and prepare them for college. It was their senior year and it was challenging keeping things afloat financially. As we enter our eighth year promoting anti bullying strategies and awareness, I was doing a lot of school tours, mentoring, working with families and meeting with various school divisions trying to figure out ways to get compensated in order to better utilize our programs in the public school system.
The past six years have taken a physical, emotional, and financial toll on me and my daughters. Volunteering all those years and doing various activities in the community was a full time endeavor. Meanwhile, others were being paid to do far less. I still struggle with figuring out the right balance of helping those in need while staving off financial hardship for my family. I don’t regret helping anyone. I just wish the funding was available to better assist myself and others involved in this battle to help the children of Virginia and elsewhere.
I also had to revisit court to deal with the initial cause of our journey which was the assault on my daughter on the school bus. This brought back traumaticmemories which remain associated with past and current legal issues and frustrations. So, the girls and I had to relive that episode of our lives all over again during their senior year of high school. Factor in trying to prepare them for college, and secure college financial aid and scholarships and it becomes a lot to juggle.
I became ill in the middle of that. I went into the hospital in May of 2019, for what I thought was a simple procedure to remove my tonsils, and found myself instead being diagnosed with throat cancer. I tried to hide that fact from my kids and the public because, at the time, I had released my book and was doing book signings, news interviews, and speaking engagements on top of everything else. I found myself literally choking to death at night because my tonsils had swollen, and I fought with the doctors for several weeks until they finally listened and took them out. It was a week later after that surgery that I was diagnosed with throat cancer.
But despite that, none of the suffering could stop me from running Parents Against Bullying business from my hospital bed; still trying to help others. It was only after I was told I needed a second surgery that I shared the information with my daughters and friends. Hiding that fact was overwhelming because of the other children, parents and friends that rely on me regularly.
After getting my daughters off to college I underwent a seven-and-a-half-hour surgery and remained in ICU for three days before I was able to speak again. This was one of the few times my girls and I had been separated. Emotionally, this event proved to be a lot to think about. Even on my fourth day in the hospital I was advocating for children who were going through a horrible situation, and provided counseling to a mom on what to do. The crisis with children and their families never stops and I was grateful to God that I was able to keep going.
Add to this the incident of my eldest daughter Shantray. She was walking our therapy Yorkie with her stepson one afternoon when the neighbors’ two chow dogs attacked and snatched the Yorkie out of his arms and tore it apart. The neighbors proceeded to repeatedly call them the “N” word and other vulgarities. Miller’s daughter suffered a serious bite to the hand which has prevented her from working.
Miller went on to add, “In court, the son of the owner of the dogs pushed me in my back and told me he was going to kill me. They taunted us on Facebook with derogatory comments and hangman nooses. So, a protective order was issued, and I was routinely escorted by police to and from my car while attending court.”
Turning Adversity Into Greatness
Miller recalled, “During all of this my girls were remarkable… they continued to excel!” Her daughter Iyana, who was attacked by bullies, overcame personal challenges to rise above her assault history and pursued her interests in cooking. She and several other students took part in the NASA HUNCH (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware), competition and won. NASA HUNCH highlights student talents in order to contribute to NASA’s missions in space. Students get hands-on experience working with the space agency by building NASA designed parts for agency personnel and unique culinary dishes for astronauts. Their culinary dish was selected to join astronauts in space. Miller said, “My daughter loves cooking and is really pursuing it as a career. She’s on the Dean’s list at her culinary school and I’m very excited at what lays ahead for her future. Keyana is taking after mom as she prepares for a career in cosmetology and is doing well.”
Miller mentioned a number of benchmarks she is pursuing during 2020. She added, “Iyana is looking to continue her culinary studies oversees, and Keyana aims to get her cosmetology license. My goal is produce a Podcast, release another book, and elevate Parents Against Bullying to a level that provides us with broad sponsorships and economic stability to continue the fight.
Thankful for the Continued Support and Encouragement
Miller added, “P.A.B. would not have made it this far if not for the continued donations and support from various businesses, groups and friends. A number of collaborative efforts are underway in an attempt to help us find that “sweet spot” financially. Support remains strong from organizations like NOIR, a private upscale social club for business professionals. NOIR has pledged to support fundraising efforts on our behalf, and P.A.B. Ambassador Coko Gamble of SWV (Sisters With Voices) fame, has helped tremendously conducting activities in the schools and with inspiring young girls. Their support keeps me encouraged. I appreciate their time, the relationships, and for their commitment to stick with P.A.B. for the right reasons.”