VIPP Special Report: How 10-year-old Seven Bridges death is now bringing awareness to so many who don’t understand the consequences that bullying brings

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The heartbreak a community is feeling because a child dies a tragic death because he was suffering in silence

Special Report by Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 Television, ABC Affiliate in Louisville, KY (Original story posted: January 22, 2019/Updated: January 23, 2019)

Shanklin, an assignment editor with more than 25 years in the broadcast field for the station took the mother’s call in September 2018 while heading into work.  In a rare and raw account which is hardly done she reflects on when she took both calls about Seven Bridges.   

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The story of Seven Bridges is making headlines not only in Louisville but nationwide after the 10-year-old committed suicide on Saturday for alleged bullying. I have to use alleged because this will likely be determined in the court of law.

I spoke to the mother Tami Charles Saturday evening after returning from out of town. I had received numerous texts wanting to know what happened to Charles’ son. I had no idea because I was traveling and could not be distracted due to extremely heavy rain.

When I got back to Louisville, I reached out to her because I knew the backstory. I didn’t expect for her to answer my text message for weeks but later that evening she responded. We texted a couple of times and then my phone rang it was Charles. She told me what happened all we could do was cry together over the phone. I got off wondering, “What else could I have done?” “What can I do now?” “Why didn’t someone say something?”

50739415_1000508566810691_3647677009657593856_nTo hear the hurt but strength of a mother on the same day she lost her child made my heart drop into my stomach. What do you say? It’s not about getting the story. I didn’t move into this community. I grew up in this community. I know the names, the faces, the unsung heroes, and the sacrifices many do day in and day out and never get a day of media coverage. I chose to stay to help and support those who needed a voice but all I could do was listen to this mother.  What could I say to comfort a grieving mother who knew something was going on but couldn’t stop it?

I walked and cried and cried and walked, all night until my family had to ask if there was anything they could do. They know I keep my work close to the vest and private and I never include them to keep my journalistic integrity. Frankly, if I told them some things, they could not erase the image from their minds. Some stories develop while others do not, but I still assist and work for an answer with as many as I can even on my off days.

My main job is to get the story out of people. Whether they are yelling at me because of their situation, their frustration and/or confusion on how to express what they are thinking and/or feeling. My task is to translate their thoughts and get to the core of the situation.

A mentor taught me a long time ago that you need to listen to the details they are in there just listen. Then, ask follow up questions to make sure I’m understanding them correctly. If I can’t understand the story, I can’t get our team to understand the importance.

With this burden on my heart and mind, I did reach out to the reporter that helped with the story in September 2018. We talked about it. We agreed not to talk to Charles about doing an interview. There was no rush since we were the only ones who did the initial story on Seven. When she along with her husband were ready they would let us know.

Then when Charles mentioned that insurance would not pay for her son’s funeral we decided that we needed to do something. That’s when we asked them to do the interview.

Reporter Heather Fountaine and I also said we wanted her to talk to anyone who could help her get the needed funds to bury her only child. Actually, her miracle child because Charles thought she was not able to have children, but she was blessed to have Seven.

Because Seven’s death was a suicide we did not think she would get a lot of coverage. Fountaine and I had to move faster than any of us wanted too, but thinking we spoke to the family during the trying time we needed to see it through and worked all weekend on our days off.

Let me take you back to September 2018 when the mother was trying to help her child when no one else thought it was anything until the untimely death of Seven on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

Charles reached out to me in September and explained to me what her child was going through and as a mother she needed to find a way to help her son. They loved the school but felt like the process might have been broken when it came to the notification process.

What the mother didn’t know that I was having a bad day, running late for work and was literally stuck in traffic at 2:30 p.m. in the middle of the day. But when I saw Charles’ name on my caller ID I knew I needed to answer. She said she was having a problem and wanted to get the word out. I explained to her that I was in traffic and as soon as I got to work I would begin looking into it. As soon as we hung up, I went to work. I called my newsroom and asked them to pull the video, so we could review it as soon as I walked in and asked others to listen as well, so we could make a decision. (Our evening meetings are at 3:00 pm, so if i wanted them to try and get all of the elements before the end of business we didn’t have much time or I would have to hold the story for consideration the next day.)

In Charles’ video, which has 38,000 views and more than 1,100 shares. She expressed sincere concern for her child’s well-being. Charles alleged her son was choked and verbally abused racially and no action was taken nor was she told of the incident even though her child was elementary school age. She used the words bullied. She also said several times that they loved the school, but it needed to change its procedure of alerting parents when situations like this occur. I went into the meeting and explained the situation and that the mother wanted to address the procedure and the time frame in which a parent is notified so that the child does not continue to go through a situation alone but with a support team.

The Kentucky Dept of Education defines “bullying” as any unwanted verbal, physical, or social behavior among students that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated or has the potential to be repeated: 1. That occurs on school premises, on school-sponsored transportation, or at a school-sponsored event; or 2. That disrupts the education process.

This incident met the criteria. We sat down with Charles and her 10-year-old son Seven Bridges. The reporter was very sensitive to the situation but asked the hard questions and the mother and child answered freely.

When the team came back to the station, they were so surprised of the maturity of the fifth grader and his level of forgiveness.

In our September 2018 interview Bridges said, “I know that I can get it out of my mind, and tomorrow is like a better day, so I can still make friends with him.”

Charles also in that interview said she would like to see the school’s administration held accountable and more racial sensitivity training within the school system.

The school system said in September 2018 that the incident was under official investigation.

Presently, the district is opening a full investigation. The parents of Seven Bridges say they will file a lawsuit.

Now, the grieving parents have to find a way to bury their child. Again, they have insurance but when a person commits suicide it is not covered under the policy.  So, they have started a Go Fund Me page entitled: Rest in Paradise Seven Bridges if you would like to donate, go to https://www.gofundme.com/rest-in-paradise-seven-bridges.

The community is rallying around the family be using the words “Seven Strong” – this is to bring awareness of bullying of any kind so that no other family has to go through this traumatic situation because unfortunately Seven was suffering in silence.

There’s a phrase that’s commonly used: “If I can just save one person, then I did my job.”

I will never use that phrase again because the one person I thought I helped I could not save but I hope my efforts and Seven’s memory will not go in vain.

If you know someone who may not be able to talk to you. Have them talk to someone. Give them this number 800-273-8255. Let’s not let anyone suffer in silence.

If you have a story idea, send it to me at The411@whas11.com.

Sherlene Shanklin, an multi-Emmy nominated, two-time 2018 Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Winner for Sports Writing & For Best Use of Social Media and multiple AP Awards currently works for WHAS11 Television. She created a segment The411 and is a regular contributor to whas11.com.  You can hear her on Thursdays at 11:30 am on WLOU/104.7FM as well as WHAS11 Noon Show at 12:50 pm, Fridays at 4:25 pm and Saturday mornings on Good Morning Kentuckiana at 6:25 am and 9:25 am.  You can also read her stories on this site The VIPP Report.  Sherlene’s podcast Giving You The Vibe, (GUTV) will begin in the first quarter of 2019.  
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The VIPP Report: Louisville restaurant named top 12 breakfasts in the country

teamsuperchefs and roger mooking

The Cooking Channel’s Man’s Greatest Food will tackle who has the greatest breakfasts in the country.  Of course, a Louisville restaurant is on that list especially when you reference anything that mentions the “GREATEST”.  Can you guess who’s on that list?  Host Roger Mooking chose “Superchefs” owned by Darnell “Superchef” Ferguson located at 1702 Bardstown Road right in the heart of the Highlands.

Mooking visited chefs all across the U.S. and went into their kitchens to learn about their top dishes and some of the secrets behind it.  The show did visit Superchefs and they ranked the restaurant on their 12 greatest breakfasts list.  Mooking was looking for the best combinations of eggs, gravy, breakfast meat and fried dough.  You could put a check mark next to each one of those criteria when it comes to Superchefs Louisville.

Ferguson says “What a way to start the year by being placed in this prestigious ranking for breakfast.  I won the Thanksgiving challenge in November of last year.  It just gives me the confidence that the restaurant caters to any taste bud you may have.  Stop by and tryout some of the fantastic items we have on the menu.  This is really shaping up to be a great year for myself and Team Superchefs”.

Man’s Greatest Food will air on the Cooking Channel, Tuesday, January 15th at 7:00 pm (EST).

If you would like to setup an interview and/or check for availability for engagements, contact Sherlene Shanklin with VIPP Communications at sshanklin@vippcommunications.com

Here’s a link to a promo video: Cooking Channel’s Man’s Greatest Food

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The VIPP Report: Holiday message

Season’s Greetings,

As we approach Christmas 2018, we at VIPP Communications would like to say thank you for giving us the opportunity to work with you. We understand and appreciate how important business relationships are and we thank you for your confidence in our talented staff to bring your vision to life.  We take pride in successfully executing your goals and/or projects. 

We have a wonderful team of professionals that handle your projects as if it were their own. 

Thank you for your continued support as you begin to plan for 2019.  Consider our full service public relations,marketing, branding, booking and video production firm.

Again, we appreciate your business and thank you for choosing VIPP Communications, VIPP Style Accessories, The VIPP Report & SherleneShanklin.com. 

We look forward to working with you in the coming year. Secure your date(s) with our VIPP Communications booking agent.  Check out our new site for a complete list of services by visiting http://vippcommunications.com

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate contacting our office at info@vippcommunications.com

Happy Holidays to you and Merry Christmas!

Sherlene M.Shanklin, CEO/Sr.Partner 

https://vippcommunications.com

http://www.vippstyle.com–www.sherleneshanklin.com–https://thevippreport.com 

The VIPP Report: Will the Academy have to replace Kevin Hart due to remarks made in 2009?

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By Sherlene Shanklin

Just two days ago, Hollywood was all a buzz with the announcement of Kevin Hart serving as host of the 2019 Academy Awards.  Just 48 hours later social media is buzzing in a negative way causing Hart to say that he does not want to be a distraction and he will step down as host.  

It allegedly stems from social media postings dating back to 2009.  Comedian Hart referenced the LGBTQ community in a negative manner.  He was referring to an action his son did that Hart categorized as negative. The alleged anti-gay statement(s) (referenced alleged because they are no longer available for review) are commonly used in a despairing manner to anyone who identifies as a member of the community.  

Hart apologized for the comments years ago and thought it was behind him but it was brought back to the forefront after he made his Oscar announcement. 

Hart says he’s stepping down and giving up his life-long dream to host the Oscars but will the Academy make him honor the contract or accept it based on extenuating circumstances? Or will they help “right” the “wrong” and ask him to stay on?  Hart went back on social media after his staff made him aware of what was being said.  He referenced that he had apologized previously and that he had evolved and was going on 40.  Stating that he had matured and was in a different place. 

So, what should the Academy Awards do? Hart only stepped down from the hosting opportunity because he did not want to take away from the actors/actresses who’ve worked for this special moment to be overshadowed.  Note, that’s a definite sign of maturity that he didn’t want to take the focus off the purpose of the celebration which is to honor those in the film industry for the hard work and dedication and likely the one shot many have to be nominated for an Oscar. 

The Academy has not made a statement at this point but I will monitor and report when they do. 

With a little over two months of planning left, will Hart rescind Thursday’s announcement or will the Academy scramble to find a new host? 

The 91st Academy Awards will be held in Los Angeles, CA live on Sunday, February 24, 2019 on ABC.

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If you have a story idea, send it to me at the411@vippcommunications.com.  Follow Sherlene Shanklin on Twitter @Sherlenemediapr and Instagram @Sherlenemediapro.

Follow The VIPP Report on Twitter @thevippreport and @vippcomm.

To read my original story on the Hart’s Oscar announcement. Click on the link: https://thevippreport.com/2018/12/05/the-vipp-report-will-he-win-the-hart-of-oscar-fans/

 

The VIPP Report: Will he win the “Hart” of Oscar fans?

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By Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 Louisville, ABC Affiliate

And the hosting duties of the 2019 Academy Awards goes to none other than comedian/actor Kevin Hart.  The Academy did not get to make the announcement but the man with 64.9 million good friends also known as his Instagram followers received the “exclusive” announcement.

Hart announced Tuesday evening by posting an Oscar with the message saying “The day has finally come for me to host the Oscars. I am blown away simply because this has been a goal on my list for a long time….To be able to join the legendary list of host that have graced that stage is unbelievable.”

KevinHart tour media photoThis is not the first time the academy asked Hart to be the host but Hart feels like this is the right time for him to take on this task and mark it off his bucket list.

He thanked his fans for their support and of course his close friends and family but what was so powerful was acknowledging his late mother by saying “I know my mom is smiling from ear to ear right now.”

The 91st Academy Awards will present some 20 plus awards for their artistic and technical merit in the film industry.  You can see the show live on Sunday, February 24, 2019 on ABC.

If you have a story idea, send it to me at the411@vippcommunications.com.  Follow Sherlene Shanklin on Twitter @Sherlenemediapr and Instagram @Sherlenemediapro.

Follow The VIPP Report on Twitter @thevippreport and @vippcomm.

The VIPP Report: On Veterans Day the FIRST African American to hold the rank of “Colonel” in the U.S. Army will receive a permanent memorial in Louisville

The Charles Young Veterans Memorial

The memorial will be at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage

Today, (Sunday 11th), veterans , officials and community leaders will gather at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage Center, (KCAAH) located at 1701 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd for the official unveiling of the Charles Young Veterans Memorial. This is the first project of the Freedom Flag Initiative. It works through Public-Private Partnerships to install American Flags throughout communities and states across the nation and build memorials to honor our nation’s veterans. The public is invited to attend the Veteran Flag Memorial Project ceremony which takes place at 2:00 pm.

The memorial will be named in honor of Colonel Charles Young.  Col. Young was born a slave in 1864 in Mason County, Kentucky.  He was one of the first African Americans to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point and the first black colonel in the U.S. Army.   He also served as a member of the 9th Calvary also known as the Buffalo Soldiers.  Young died in Liberia in 1922. Charles.Young.1919

The Veteran Flag Memorial Project was created by the Region VI Commanders of the National Association for Black Veterans as an opportunity to unify people and communities by providing beautiful spaces to reflect on a symbol that can unify us all.

If you are unable to attend but would like to have photos of the event send your request to info@vippcommunications.com and we will give you a summary of the event and photos of the groundbreaking.

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VIPP Communications is a full service public relations, event management and production firm headquartered in Louisville, KY with clients and/or projects all over the U.S. We can create, maintain and sustain your brand.  Our clientele range from small businesses, non-profits, corporate leaders, entertainment to current and retired professional athletes.  Contact one of our team members to see if we can assist you at info at vippcommunications dot com.

 

The VIPP Report: Chef Darnell “Superchef” Ferguson advances to the second round of Food Network’s Thanksgiving Challenge

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By Sherlene Shanklin, VIPP Communications

(Louisville, KY) Chef Darnell “Superchef” Ferguson advances to the second round of the Food Network’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge.  There were five and now it’s been narrowed down to four top chefs from all over the U.S. hosted by Chef Giada De Laurentiis.

Darnell Superchef FergusonThis week’s challenge, (Episode 2) all about pies, sides and leftovers surprise.  What judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Christian Petroni and Carla Hall are looking for is who can take Thanksgiving classics to new heights.  After this show there will be three remaining chefs.  Will Darnell make the “cut”?

The show started with five top chefs facing off to create ultimate Thanksgiving dishes challenging them to think out of the box to create delicious dishes and desserts that the whole family can enjoy.  The winner of the Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge carves their name in the turkey day history books, bragging rights for a year and $25,000.  The chefs will need more than a wishbone to advance.  They must impress three renowned chefs.  will be the judges for the show.

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge airs on Sundays 9:00 pm (EST) and 8:00 pm (C).  So, how far will Darnell “Superchef” Ferguson go?  You will have to watch and see. For showtime changes and/or to follow Darnell as he competes in the Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge. You can follow him on his social media platforms.20181104_210137

For additional information and/or to setup an interview with Darnell “Super Chef” Ferguson, please direct all inquiries to VIPP Communications at 502-295-0435 or by email at info@vippcommunications.com.

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Super Chefs located at 1702 Bardstown Road in Louisville, KY.  For additional information about Darnell “Superchef” Ferguson visit:  www.eatsuperchefs.com/.

Food Network link to the Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge: https://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/ultimate-thanksgiving-challenge.

VIPP Communications is a full service public relations, event management and production firm headquartered in Louisville, KY with clients and/or projects all over the U.S. We can create, maintain and sustain your brand.  Our clientele range from small businesses, non-profits, corporate leaders, entertainment to current and retired professional athletes.  Contact one of our team members to see if we can assist you at info at vippcommunications dot com.