Shane Koyczan was bullied as a child and a teen. But he didn’t let the ghost of his past stomp out the flame inside him. The Canadian poet created an animated spoken-word poem named “To This Day,” and it has gone viral.
Koyczan posted the video to his YouTube account on February 19th, and since then it has been viewed over 4.6 million times—a number that keeps rising. In the beautifully animated video, Koyczan tells his own story of getting his first nickname, “Pork Chop” and living with the bullies who labeled him.
“To This Day” also tells the stories of other bullied children, including a girl with a birthmark on her face and an orphaned and depressed boy. In just under eight minutes, Koyczan takes us through their struggles and makes us feel a tiny fraction of the pain they must have felt (and still feel) being victims of ridicule. But he leaves us with hope that things can change, if only we will stop discounting bullying as some sort of sick rite of passage all children go through.
Because the truth is, not all children do go through it. Many find themselves on one end or the other—the bullied or the bullies. Koyczan calls particular attention to the common phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Of course words hurt, he says. They can cut much deeper and linger much longer than physical wounds.
Koyczan has also started the “To This Day” anti-bullying project, which aims to raise awareness about the problem.
“My experiences with violence in schools still echo throughout my life but standing to face the problem has helped me in immeasurable ways,” he says on the site. Since the release of his video and the start of the site, many kids and parents who have experienced bullying have reached out to Koyczan, sharing stories and thanking him for the awareness he is raising.
In just one short week, this poet has managed to completely reshape the way millions view bullying.