Dymond Harding has a voice, and she knows how to use it. The 16-year-old songstress recently hit the right note with more than 140,000 voters to win the PAVE the Way Project, a songwriting competition designed to spread awareness of the harmful effects of dating violence. Her winning song “Selfish Love” is a tribute to a close friend who’d experienced an abusive relationship, and now Dymond will have the opportunity to record another song alongside Grammy winners Carlos and Salvador Santana. We chatted with Dymond to learn more about her mission to use the power of music for good:
Please share a bit about your musical background and how you got started.
Dymond: I’ve been singing since the age of two, but I started recording my own music at the age of 13. I co-wrote my first song “See You Tonite” with my dad/manager Rickey Harding that was originally supposed to be for a boy group that was based out in Virginia where my producer Chuck Slay lives. About two weeks later, we got a call from Chuck Slay informing us that the boy group had broken up and if I wanted to take the song for myself. I immediately said yes! I had always dreamed of being a recording artist and pursuing my passion but my shyness had always gotten in the way of that. But this time was different. I knew what I wanted and I was ready to make my dreams come true.
How did you first hear about the PAVE the Way project?
Dymond: I first heard about the PAVE the Way Project through my producer Chuck Slay, who was actually the one that submitted my song “Selfish Love.”
Watching a friend endure dating violence inspired your winning entry, “Selfish Love.” Tell us about this experience and why you felt moved to write the song.
Dymond: Having to experience watching a friend endure dating violence was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I felt helpless not knowing what to do or where to go for help. This is why I’m so grateful to be a part of a campaign like the PAVE the Way Project because it allows me to share and direct others to their website for resources they may need whether they are involved in an abusive relationship, are trying to help someone else that may be involved in one, or simply just want to educate themselves on the topic.
Watching the experience my friend had, as well as other teens around me that may have been showing the signs of an unhealthy relationship, was really my inspiration to give a message to my peers. Just because you may start out in an unhealthy relationship doesn’t mean you have to continue being in an unhealthy relationship and give your individuality away. There are ways to confront it and take yourself away from unhealthy situations/relationships and redeem one’s individuality, trust, and understanding again.
What did you learn about spotting the signs of relationship abuse? Did anything surprise you?
Dymond: I learned that abuse comes in not just physical, but mental and emotional forms. As I watched my friend’s experience, I noticed that there was a lot of manipulation and ridicule of the mind. I realized that this made my friend start to think that the wrong-doings of her partner were actually okay, and of course, this made her partner believe that he could now get away with anything and she would stay—no matter what. This all surprised me because my friend and I are really close and she really is a smart, strong, and independent girl. But I learned that even though all that may be true about a person, anyone could end up being a victim of abuse.
How do you think that schools and/or families could do a better job of curbing dating violence?
Dymond: I think schools and families could do a better job of curbing dating violence by being more approachable, understanding, less critical, and making sure to have resources available to students/children so that they feel comfortable speaking/learning about how to handle important issues they may be experiencing in their life such as dating abuse.
Do you have any advice for abuse victims or people who know someone going through this?
Dymond: My advice for abuse victims or people who may know someone going through an abusive relationship is to simply speak up about it and don’t be afraid to seek help for yourself or another who may be a victim. Look for resources/help at websites like the Pave the Way Project website. You will find other helpful websites for resources and hotlines for abuse victims or the people who know them such as Cornerstone Advocacy Services. Reach out to others, find help, and stay strong because a better day will come.
What other issues would you like to bring to light through your art?
Dymond: Other issues I would like to bring to light through my art are all the violence going on in the world and just encourage peace & love amongst everyone. I’m sure that as I grow as a person and an artist there will be more issues that I would like to bring to light in the future.
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