A group of around 15 elementary and middle school students were entertained with a magic show at the Merrill Community Center in Pine Bluff on Tuesday afternoon and in the process learned a valuable lesson on the dangers of drugs as part of Red Ribbon Week in the Pine Bluff School District.

A group of around 15 elementary and middle school students were entertained with a magic show at the Merrill Community Center in Pine Bluff on Tuesday afternoon and in the process learned a valuable lesson on the dangers of drugs as part of Red Ribbon Week in the Pine Bluff School District.


Richard Davies, who is retired from the Pine Bluff Police Department where he served as a public information officer and school resource officer for Jack Robey Junior High School, used several sharply presented magic tricks to illustrate how dangerous drugs are and how crucial it is for the students to help each other stay away from drug addiction.


"I use magic tricks as a way to get the kids to remember what I am telling them," Davies said. "If I can reach even one student, then what I do is worth it."


Davies set up a display board that depicted various drugs and explained what makes them dangerous.


"I know that some of this will go over the heads of the younger ones but as long as it reaches some of them then I have been successful," Davies said before his presentation.


Davies set up a row of empty plastic foam cups and held up a small plastic bottle filled with water.


"Now I am going to test your memory here," Davies said. "See if you can keep track of which of these cups has the water in it."


Davies poured some water into one cup and then set it on the table beside him.


"OK so far you know where the water is. Right?" Davies asked to an affirmative answer from the children. "Now I am going to pour it into another cup."


Davies continued with the variation on a shell game until finally he asked the children to tell him which cup the water was in.


The trick was that the water seemingly vanished from all of the cups.


"Now, I pulled a magic trick on you today but the people who try to sell you drugs are trying to trick you as well," Davies said. "Now, remember the drugs that are prescribed for you by a doctor to make you well when you are sick are not the kind of drugs we are talking about today. But it’s also important to remember that taking drugs that are prescribed for someone else but not you are also very dangerous."


Davies said the children need to be vigilant and on the lookout for people trying to introduce them to drugs on the street.


"Just as you needed to concentrate to try to keep me from tricking you with the water you must all make sure that you are aware of people trying to trick you into taking drugs," Davies said. "The best anti-drug advice is just say no. Nobody wakes up one morning and says ‘I want to be a crackhead.’ If you make bad decisions you just end up being one."


Davies next introduced the children to a card trick and asked for a volunteer from the audience.


"OK, now put your index finger out when you want me to stop," Davies said as he began to flip his stack of cards.


Kamilla Beasley, a seventh-grader at Bel Air Middle School, did just that and Davies handed her the card that she landed on.


Davies then had Beasley place her chosen card back into the deck. He shuffled the deck and then stepped over to the side of the room and picked up a sealed white envelope.


"Is this your card?" Davies asked Beasley and to her amazement as well as that of the audience the card he held up was indeed the card that Beasley had initially picked.


"OK, so here I was able to do this trick because I know what I’m doing and you don’t," Davies said. "So if I was someone trying to sell you drugs I might be able to trick you if you didn’t know what you were doing."


For his next trick Davies has one boy and one girl come up to assist him. He held up a felt pouch and asked the girl to reach in and show him what was inside. Her hand emerged from the pouch with two scarves — one yellow and one red.


"OK, now put them back into the pouch," Davies said as he turned the pouch in the boy’s direction. "Now you reach in."


The boy did as he was told and his foray also netted two scarves; yet the colors were blue and pink.


"Oh wow, you need to try to think like a girl in order to get the same scarves," Davies said.


He then turned to the girl who again retrieved a yellow and red scarf followed by the boy who again removed a blue and a pink scarf. This continued as Davies continued to urge the two to learn to think like the other.


"There you go!" Davies said as the boy finally retrieved the yellow and the red scarves.


"Don’t sell yourself short," Davies said to the children. "It’s difficult to do the right thing but it shows that you are strong. Remember that you are never weak because you asked somebody for help."


Davies used a final card trick to demonstrate that the best results happen when friends work together to help each other.


"If you work as a group and ask somebody for help when you need it then you will be able to keep drugs out of your life," Davies said.


Beasley enjoyed the magic and received the message loud and clear.


"I liked being a part of the magic trick and I know to stay away from drugs," Beasley said.


Andriannia Graydon is a third-grader at Oak Park Elementary School.


"I thought about how it is important to be drug-free," Graydon said. "I enjoyed being a part of the magic trick, too."


Graydon assisted Davies in his last card trick.


Jackie Robinson is the co-director of the Merrill Center.


"It is really important for the children to hear this today because society as we know it now has so much negativity," Robinson said. "They need some positivity. It’s easier to walk away from making the wrong choices when you have people supporting you. We really nurture the kids here."