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March 6, 2013

Speaker teaches about the damage of discrimination

He challenges students to smile and greet those they normally would not

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Dr. Michael Fowlin assumes the role of a Chaldean-Korean girl during a Feb. 25 assembly at Royal Oak High School. Many students said the role stood out as something to which they could relate.
A fraction remains here, but more than 50 Royal Oak High School students stuck around after a Feb. 25 assembly to speak with Fowlin, far right.
 

ROYAL OAK — “Relatable” and “realistic” were two words used by Royal Oak High School students to describe an assembly last week.

Dr. Michael “Mykee” Fowlin spoke to both ROHS and middle school students during two separate assemblies Feb. 25. Mixing his psychology and acting backgrounds together, Fowlin played students who have been discriminated against, bullied or who behaved as a bully, concluding each role with the lessons learned.

“When I was 9 years old, I realized I had the ability to make voices,” Fowlin told a packed gym of high school students. “We have far better powers than flying or invisibility. We have the ability to kill and heal with words.

“I do this show because I believe every one of you is beautiful. This show will fade as quickly as you leave your seats, so I’m asking you to go out and make others’ lives beautiful.”

Fowlin said the most important lesson he learned was from a past football coach of his.

“If you know the difference between what you are supposed to do and what you need to do, you’ll be successful,” Fowlin said as he recalled the lesson. “The wisest people in the world are not the elderly; it’s the 5-, 6-, 7-year-olds who realize Superman is not supposed to kill people.”

Throughout the assembly, Fowlin assumed roles ranging from a sixth-grader making prank phone calls to nursing homes, a football player at Rutgers University, a boy restricted to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy and a biracial Chaldean-Korean girl who was bulimic and beaten, to name a few. Many of Fowlin’s characters stemmed from personal experience, whether they were from himself or from someone he had met.

“I came in here expecting to be bored for two hours and to be offended, and that’s definitely not what happened,” said junior Paige Bradley, 15.

“It was all across the board,” sophomore Bobby Daratony, 16, said of the presentation. “It was teaching to not bully, as opposed to teaching you to not be a bully. It was more prominent and got the message across.”

Principal Jim Moll said it was his sixth time seeing Fowlin speak, including Moll’s time with Birmingham Public Schools. He said it’s important to space out the visits so all grade levels get to see Fowlin at least once. It was the first time for the current four grades of ROHS students, Moll said.

“Every time, he hits it out of the park. He connects really well with disenfranchised kids,” Moll said. “There’s very few speakers that can be a go-to speaker. He’s kicking off our anti-bullying week.”

Junior Meaghan Lynch, 16, said the bits of humor throughout the presentation helped keep the crowd’s attention, such as defining “confusion” as Father’s Day in Detroit during one skit.

“It hit home. You identified,” Lynch said. “It held your attention. It was realistic.”

Touching on racism, sexism, sexuality, religion, weight management and other forms of discrimination and abuse, as well as suicide, the various personalities Fowlin played aimed to strike chords with various student demographics.

“People hated me because I was different, but why did they hate me, because we’re all different?” Fowlin said.

Fowlin closed out the assembly by challenging students to smile and greet 100 people they don’t normally talk to.

“You never know whose day you’ll be making or life you’ll be saving,” Fowlin said.

After the assembly ended, more than 50 students lined up to speak with Fowlin one-on-one to either thank him or share a personal experience.

For more information on Fowlin, visit www.michaelfowlin.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.