Bullied on the bus: How is Phoenix Williams now?
When the Local 4 Defenders interviewed Phoenix Williams earlier this year, it was in the wake of a racially-charged bullying incident.
The then-eighth-grader had used his cellphone to record two Bloomfield Hills Middle School classmates calling him the N-word during a field trip bus ride.
Williams and his mother shared the video with the Local 4 Defenders in April with hopes of sparking conversation about how to end racism and bullying.
"I wanted people to see the way I dealt with it, how things would be a lot more different if I were to just get up on the bus and attack them," Williams said.
But what happened next took Williams and his family by surprise. The story made headlines across the county and the NAACP demanded the district expel the students involved.
The students responsible for the bullying were both charged with hate-related crimes. One case is still going through the court system. The other is now resolved after the student agreed to counseling and community service.
"I had to realize, as I think a lot of other parents have to, that these other children are children. They need rehabilitation, they need to be taught and to learn and to be disciplined but not vilified. Not hated," said Williams' mother, Shanari Williams.
Williams and his family decided he would finish eighth-grade at home, and ultimately that he would stay in the same school district.
He is now a freshman at Bloomfield Hills High School, where he is on the varsity tennis team.
"I was a bit nervous at first, but when I went there, you know, I was really comfortable and actually it was just really fun meeting new people," Phoenix Williams said.
The teen hopes his story will inspire others who have been victims of bullying to not let it stop them.
"If you're really afraid to live life and do things, then you're not going to really have such a great life," he said. "It doesn't matter what anyone else says, just to know that you, yourself, are a good person."
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