Niagara Falls, N.Y. -- Before Mike Epps performed at Seneca Niagara Casino on Friday night, the well-known actor, comedian and producer took time out of his nationwide tour to talk to young students in Niagara Falls about ending bullying.
Epps, who has starred in movies including The Hangover and Next Friday, told the packed crowd at the Niagara Falls Housing Authority that he, too, grew up in an inner city and got bullied. He gave the kids advice on how to handle bullies and urged them to follow all of their dreams, because, in his words, if he can make it anyone can.
"It's important for me to be here, you know, these kids watch me in the movies all the time and I think it's one of my responsibilities to come back and let these kids know that they can make it, too, and somebody cares about them, even in Hollywood, we care about them right here in the inner cities," Epps told WGRZ-TV.
Ernie Bivins, a Buffalo comedian, is friends with Epps and asked him to talk to the Niagara Falls youngsters.
"Mike's really sincere with helping kids out with bullying, so it was only right that I have him come here," Bivins said, who coordinated Friday's talk with a local anti-bullying movement. "And he's excited, I'm excited, and it's a good thing for the city."
At times, Epps made the crowd laugh during the 15-minute talk, and joked that students should "throw salt" at bullies to defend themselves. But, he was mostly serious, advising the students to combat bullying with kindness, and suggesting most bullies pick on others because they have been picked on.
Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of following one's dreams, despite any obstacles – including being bullied.
"Anything you want to do in life, I'm a perfect example," Epps told the crowd of dozens of young students and their parents. "I grew up poor, on food stamps, hungry, being bullied ... Sometimes, when things are hard on you, it really makes you stronger. Stand strong and get through that storm."
Before Epps headed out to perform at the casino, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster gave him the key to the city. Epps responded by saying he was humbled, but the true reason he was there was to spread the important message.