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2014-15 MLK Essay/Poetry Contest Winners

Lacy Sheppard • 1st Place Middle School
6th Grade
John Trotwood Moore Middle School 

Clouds of teargas billow out,
Where protesters form large crowds
Policemen guard the upset sites
There are many angry shouts

Along the streets of Ferguson
The Michael Brown case lights a fire,
And in New York, a big debate
Over the death of Eric Garner.

These recent events are full of hate,
They’re full of dividing lines
Hate breaks apart and segregates
And causes choosing sides

Not only in America
But across the Earth’s face
This segregation exists and destroys
Of poverty, privilege, race

For instance, in the Middle East,
ISIS’ swords of hate
Cut the throats of their victims
and further segregate

And over in Israel
Walls divide Arabs and Jews
People fighting over land
The segregation continues

With segregation, walls, and hate
A conflict won’t be solved
In order to bring resolution
We must use peace and love

“I have decided to stick to love,
Hate is too great a burden to bear,
”Wrote Martin Luther King Jr.
To people everywhere.

“I have a dream,” said MLK,
And now, so do I
A dream of a more peaceful world
Full of love and delight.

There would not be any money.
So no homelessness, debts, or break-ins
No segregation of poverty
No divisions of ‘poor’ or ‘rich’

There would not be walls nor military
For protection there would be no need
We’d all live in peace and unity
With no war or fighting

What if we were to live this way-
Dismantling all segregation?
For we all know what is right to do
We would be a peaceful nation.


Adric W. Kimbrough, Jr., • 2nd Place Middle School
8th Grade
Montgomery Bell Academy

I Think to Myself—What a Wonderful World

The news is filled with racial and religious division across the globe.  I see a world where


Adric Kimbrough


people are denied basic rights like healthcare, the right to vote, the right to go to school or another public place without the fear of violence.   I see a world filled with discrimination, misunderstanding, and a place where it seems like only certain people have an opportunity to be a part of the world.   In spite of these problems, I still think to myself, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., what a wonderful world this could be.   At my graduation from pre-school, I remember singing these lyrics from a Louis Armstrong tune, “I see trees of green, red roses, too, I see them bloom, for me and you, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”    This is my vision for our world and communities, a world where peace and justice reside for everyone, a world where all lives matter.  A world where red roses bloom for me and you.

When Dr. King preached that we should judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, he meant that all human lives matter.  For this to happen, we must learn to respect and appreciate ourselves.   To make the world a wonderful place, we have to start with the person in the mirror.   We have to love ourselves.  Without self-love, it is hard to appreciate and value the life of someone else.  We have to learn that there is nothing wrong with being a different color.   There is nothing wrong with being from a different neighborhood, or speaking a different language, or having a different smell.  We are all one, and each of us matters and has a purpose.   After my school, Montgomery Bell Academy, won the state championship, I noticed strangers hugging, high-fiving, and patting each other on the back.  We were all one.  I thought to myself—what a wonderful world.  It will take more than winning a championship game to make the world come together like this. It takes us standing against injustices, violence, and any system that divides us.  Together, we can make it a better place.  Sometimes, situations like Emmet Till, Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and the death of the twelve-year old Tamir Rice to pull us together and come against injustices that divide our communities.

Engaging in non-violent protests against injustices will make the world a better place.  Protesters from different backgrounds lying in streets and gasping for air raise awareness of the importance of all lives.   It is NFL football players holding their hands up on the football field.  It is Rosa Parks refusing to go to the back of the bus.   It is Fisk students sitting in at Woolworths.   It is the Freedom Riders who risked their lives to desegregate buses.   It is Dr. King leading a march through police dogs in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote.  This is what I believe will make the world a better place. It starts with one person to encourage another person to make a difference, and one person to love another person regardless of his or her differences.

The world I see is one where everyone matters.   The hungry bellies of men of different colors, ages, and sizes seeking a meal at the Nashville Rescue Mission matter.    The dreams of a young girl living in Casey Homes matters, just as the young girl living in Bellemeade.  The life of a black male matters, whether he is wearing a three-piece suit or a hoody.  The safety of a woman matters whether she is walking down Jefferson Street or headed into Green Hills mall.  The education of someone going to a public school matters just as much as someone going to a private school.  The health of someone who has insurance matters just as much as someone who is without insurance.  Your life matters.  My life matters.  All lives matter.  When all lives matter, we will keep our pledge to America, “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”   Then, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.


Rebecca Hood • 1st Place High School
11th Grade
Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School

Rebecca Hood


Racial Cleavage of Society

The overt cleavage of American society between our respective corners lingered,

Blacks here whites here, never to intertwine.

A movement arose, the people united, the surface of sin washed away,

But a residue was left behind.

At work we are one, at school we are one, yet the corners remain intact

Decades after blood was shed and souls were imprisoned so that color no longer was discriminated against,

Race is still all that matters.

The profiling, the name calling, the thought of superiority over others is still here in the present

Although equality is a promise, will it ever become something greater than an abstract ideal?

The simplistic colors that we see on each other dictate the daily actions of populations in the world

The underlying understanding that “you” are “them”, and not “us”

That “we” go here and not there

That “y’all” do not belong in these parts

That the culturally distinct masses intermingle only and exclusively when necessary

When will it end?

When will the vision seen from the mountaintop become a reality

When will the eyes no longer view color, but only the integrity and goodness of man

When will the social interactions between all ethnicities and races surge beyond the doorways of office buildings and schoolhouses

When will we all rally for each other despite our differences

When will children be allowed to matriculate without the poison of societal separation through racial discrimination being sprinkled into their minds

When will the places for “us” and “them” be disintegrated and replaced by places for all

When will it end?

The corners must be shifted together,

The damages done by the cleavage patched and apologies dispersed,

As a union we must move forward with cooperation and participation

We must outlaw the comfort zones.

We must embrace and appreciate the colors.

We must get to work.

We must want the change.

We must become the change.


Sydney Pinson • 2nd Place High School
11th Grade
Spring Hill High School

Sydney Pinson


Society is Rotten

We live in a world

where people are torn apart and hated

for things they can not control.

Whether it be the color of their skin,

or the size of their body.

Society will find anything to make you feel

like you are worthless,

like your voice does not matter,

like you are not a person.

There are too many colored people wrongly dying,

and white men getting away with their murder.

There are too many black families losing loved ones,

because a police officer felt “unsafe”.

There are too many girls skipping lunches,

and forcing out whatever they actually took in that day,

so that they could fit society’s definition of beauty.

When we think of “segregation,”

what often comes to the mind is: Blacks v. Whites.

When what we don’t realize is there is so much more to it than that.

It’s our gender,

It’s our sexuality,

our body type,

how much money we make,

our social status.

We are picked apart and put against each other for more than just our race.

I have a friend who is receiving death threats

because maybe she is a little bit bigger than some people.

Since when does her weight

define how much of a person she is?

make it okay for society to tell her to

kill herself?

Just because she’s bigger

doesn’t mean she is any less of a person.

Just because he likes other guys

doesn’t mean he is any less of a person.

Just because he is a little darker

doesn’t mean he is any less of a person.

Just because she is a woman

doesn’t mean she is any less of a person.

We tend to blame society.

We say things like things like,

“Oh, society can be so cruel sometimes.”


“Why can’t society learn to love everyone for who they are?”


“Society is rotten.”

But, ladies and gentlemen,

we are society.

We are the ones

causing people to kill themselves.

We are the ones

discriminating against races.

We are the ones

making little girls pick themselves apart,

trying to fit some definition of beauty,

but to only end up hating the way they look.

We are the ones

forcing gay people to stay in the closet,

because they feel unsafe otherwise.

Yet, we are also the ones who say,

“All men are created equal.”

The ones who wonder why

there is so much hate in the world.

The ones who wonder why

nothing is getting better.

Why are we spreading hate,

when we could, so easily, be spreading love?

But there is a difference between

asking for something

and making something happen.

God forbid something have to happen

to your children,

your grand-children,

your nieces and nephews,

for you to wake up and realize:

This is going on.

This is actually happening.

Hate is real.

Because by then,

it would be too late.