Local voices fight bullying with positivity and music

PITTSBURGH — And ever since COVID lockdowns and isolation, the need for support has only grown. Channel 11 Morning News anchor Katherine Amenta shows us a few of those outlets right here in Pittsburgh.

“Living life with kindness, with kindness, with kindness,” sang Gab Bonesso and Josh Verbanets.

The message may sound simple, but these days, this duo says, they can’t sing it enough.

“There’s not one person in this world that could not benefit from a little kindness and a little empathy, and that’s all we’re trying to do,” said Bonesso.

Comedian Gab Bonesso and songwriter Josh Verbanets comprise the singing duo Josh & Gab. They joined forces 10 years ago to spread a message of kindness to Pittsburghers of all ages. Their act not only took off in Pittsburgh, but around the country — and even internationally. But despite their global notability, they say seeing kids open up about bullying and being honest about their struggles has been the greatest reward.

“There’s been moments where a kid came — literally stood up — and was like, ‘I’m the bully you’re talking about, and I want to change today!’ And the whole school was like, ‘What?!’” remembered Bonesso. “It’s just been ... amazing.”

Bonesso also told me she knows all too well what it’s like to get bullied in school and the need for support. She says that’s why she loves speaking at The Second Floor inside the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill, so we went to check it out and meet other positive voices in the community.

“We need to find safe spaces. This is a safe space,” said Rabbi Ron Symons, founding director for the Center for Loving Kindness.

Rabbi Symons oversees The Second Floor, which offers kids and teens of all backgrounds and faiths a place for friendship, encouragement and fun. It’s staffed by peer-engagement interns such as 17-year-old Noa Pinkston, who is eager to reach out.

Pinkston first became an intern at The Second Floor during the pandemic when things were virtual. But now that it’s back in person, she’s finding new meaning and new friendships, like one boy who was recently going through a hard time.

“He stopped coming to The Second Floor for a while because of bullying at school, and so we called him up, and we got him to come back to The Second Floor and hang out with us,” said Pinkston. “It was just really nice to kind of see how much he felt at home.”

I asked Noa what makes bullying so different now compared to prior generations, and she feels it comes down to social media.

“People can make different Instagram accounts making fun of a person, and once you say something to a person, it’s there forever,” said Pinkston.

Pinkston and Rabbi Symons believe that having peers who listen and care will help stop a cycle that is spinning out of control at times.

“We have to figure out how we can live together,” said Rabbi Symons, adding that is important that peers not hurt “each other with word and deed.”

For more information on Josh & Gab and The Second Floor, visit their websites:



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