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Touring magician spreads anti-bullying message to youth in rural Alaska

Brian Glow performs on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, at Mountain Village School.
Ryan Dean Syvertson
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
Brian Glow performs on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, at Mountain Village School.

While there is no easy solution to bullying, Brian Glow believes magic may be part of the cure. The Winnipeg native recently wrapped up a tour bringing his brand of illusionist and comedy magic to youngsters across western and northern Alaska.

Glow describes himself as a victim of severe bullying growing up in Canada. He’s not shy about sharing those experiences with kids when he’s touring.

“I'm pretty real. I mean, I go right down to telling them about, you know, how I was choked out on the field and no one said anything,” Glow said.

He acknowledged that positive changes have been made in the way that bullying is treated in schools and communities.

“If someone's pushing you around or calling you names, that's general bullying. I'm talking about when anything gets physical, that's not bullying anymore. That's a crime,” Glow said. “When I was a kid, it was oh, man up and everything will be okay. Just toughen up is exactly the wrong thing to do.”

Glow got his start in magic when he performed at his own 8th birthday party, and that led to performances at friends’ birthday parties.

“Just those little baby steps got me to do something. And that can be done with basketball, that can be done with art, that can be done with singing,” Glow said.

According to an online promotional video, Glow has performed for Fortune 500 companies in more than 40 countries. In 2008 when the financial crisis hit, he said he was looking for something else to do. That idea came to him on a flight back from China.

“There was a news report on the radio on my way back that had said that the worst suicides in the world were happening in Arctic Canada and Arctic Alaska. I said, you know what, I have some of those skills and I can do something about it,” Glow said.

In addition to performing at Gladys Jung Elementary School in Bethel, one of the villages that Glow visited on his recent tour of the Y-K Delta was Tuntutuliak, where he performed for the whole community, as well as for elementary and high school students at Lewis Angapak Memorial School.

“It was a really great experience. He had a really great message that he was providing to the students as well,” said Dean of Students Katie Chearney.

Glow uses a two-fold approach to communicate an anti-bullying message, combining his personal experiences with symbolic illusions, for example, using three different-sized ropes to represent children at different levels of maturity.

“And in between it, I'm telling the stories of things that have happened to me when I was a kid, how they can learn to talk to bullies, turning those bullies into buddies,” Glow said.

Glow said that his favorite part of the performances is the point when youngsters “just get it”.

“It's just this epiphany of like, ‘wow, I can do this myself.’ That's awesome,” Glow said.

KYUK’s Sunni Bean contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: this story was updated to include mention of Glow's performance in Bethel.

Evan Erickson is a reporter at KYUK who has previously worked as a copy editor, audio engineer and freelance journalist.
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