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2013 MLK Essay Contest Winners

Read the winning essays:

Kaytlin Killion • 1st Place (Tie) High School
Spring Hill High School

A Child Bursts Bubbles in the Air

Kaytlin Killion

A child bursts bubbles in the air-

Too young to vocalize his thoughts,

Too young to care.

A mere infant, unprejudiced, unaware…

Unaware that because he was born black,

He’ll always be labeled a criminal.

Unaware that his color classifies him “stereotypical”

Society still focuses on his pigment, rather than the individual.

A child bursts bubbles in the air-

Believes she’s a princess, a crown in her hair.

Completely oblivious to what the media blares…

It blares that if she’s overweight, she’s not good enough.

It blares she must starve herself to correct her “bluff.”

It will make this princess believes she’s ugly,

But the media won’t acknowledge that it’s corrupt.

A child bursts bubbles in the air-

Practically a baby, can’t comprehend what is fair.

This baby cries because his brother’s blood has been shed everywhere…

Everywhere his brother went, he was bullied for play.

His brother was ostracized because he was labeled “gay.”

His brother decided his life wasn’t worth it,

His brother committed suicide today.

Society will discriminate for anything you are.

No matter how well you’re doing

You’ll never be “up to par.”

Nearly forty year ago, a man “had a dream.”

To eliminate racism, change his current scene…

When then, in hatred are we still bound?

When will we tear the walls of discrimination down?

A child bursts bubbles in the air-

Many years from now, with no more walls to tear.

The weight of injustice they will no longer have to bear.

Their world is a blank slate, to be filled by pure imagination…

Because we, as Americans, chose to end segregation.

Because we, as Americans, united as one nation.

Brittany Paschall • 1st Place (Tie) High School
Middle College High School

“The Presence of Justice: Bursting Our Silent Bubbles”

In seventeen years of existence, I have learned how easy it is to live in our silent bubbles. It

Brittany Paschall

really all started before I realized it. For instance, the mumbles and stares of older family members as two men holding hands passed us. Maybe even the swiftness in the feet of a Caucasian parent removing her child away from me at the playground. Naturally, when I inquired about the situations I was told it was “nothing”.  Fortunately, about two years ago I realized that it is and was indeed something and that the same mumbles lead to prejudice, avoidance, and even genocide, they in fact aide in the creation of our silent bubbles. Silent bubbles that drive human beings to hate, isolation, and fear because of who they love, what they are, or who they are.  I could go on and on about the existence and creation of silent bubbles, but the real question is what can others and myself do to burst them? Bursting the silent bubbles will take a variety of things. Most importantly, it will take us asking the hard questions, educating ourselves, redefining justice, and having a personal willingness and commitment to live outside of our own silent bubbles.

Asking the hard questions is essential in bursting the silent bubbles. It all starts with something as simple as the question why. “Why do I think this?” or “Why am ashamed of this?” Not only will asking the hard questions deepen our personal growth, but these questions will allow us to become less complacent in our bubbles. It is only after we ask the questions that we can begin to search for answers, to burst our silent bubbles.

Next, we must educate ourselves and others. Though this point seems cliché, education is critical. Education may be as formal as a diversity relations seminar or as informal as engaging in dialogue with someone of a different race, gender, or socio-economic class. Education also means accepting the fact that we are all teachers and that what we teach is up to us. Regardless of the setting, education will help us realize the limiting lenses that our silent bubbles place over our lives.

The most important step to bursting our silent bubbles is having the willingness to change and to embark on a journey for the presence of justice. First, we must redefine our meaning of justice. This is a very personal part of each person’s journey. For me, justice is no longer what the law says or what the nine Supreme Court justices decide. Justice is the right to live my life as who I really am, which takes my personal willingness to change how I previously lived in my silent bubble.  After we redefine our definition of justice we must act on it, thus creating the presence of justice. We cannot stop here at the creation, for it is where the journey begins. Now it will take commitment and dedication to continue our lives in the presence of justice.

By now you are either tired of reading or convinced that I am striving to become a world peace activist, maybe both. While on a journey for the presence of justice myself, I can only pray that you will soon realize that who we are was never meant to be in a bubble. It is easy to hide any evidence of our true identities from the world. However, I am convinced that it not the life we are called to live. Living this life is realizing that I am a human being with needs living in a world of other human beings with needs like power, belonging, freedom, fun, and survival. It is realizing that bursting my own silent bubbles liberates others to do the same. I am a student, daughter, friend, writer, lover, heterosexual, African-American, able- bodied, young, Christian, middle class, woman who is on a journey. A journey that has been risky, scary, and even uncomfortable. One that has brought tears, laughter, freedom, friendship, love, victory, and even defeat. A journey makes me who I am and for that I am eternally grateful. Will you join me on this journey or continue your life in a bubble?

Elizabeth Kimbrough • 1st Place Middle School
Overbrook Middle School

The Pathway to Freedom

Elizabeth Kimbrough

National statistics show that homicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10-24, and that 650, 843 young people ages 10-24 were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries sustained from assaults.  Locally, the number of my peers in the Nashville juvenile courts for violent crimes is on the rise.   I believe that my generation has the ability to change these statistics.  We have the power to burst the bubbles that make us think violence is the answer. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the only road to freedom is nonviolence.

The leaders of the Civil Rights movement, including Dr. King, did not resort to violence because it would result in the loss of life.     They utilized love as an alternate solution to violence.  They strategized and used nonviolence to make change in our community, including marches, boycotts, sit-in demonstrations, and prayer meetings.    One of the main ways Civil Rights leaders resolved these problems was using their minds to negotiate solutions.   They tried to communicate and come up with answers that would benefit both sides.   Tactics like Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus, burst bubbles of segregation on the buses and in the voting polls.

Civil Rights activists fought back without using physical blows.  They used nonviolence to gain freedom for African Americans.  Instead of using fists to fight back, the Freedom Riders fought back with nonviolent resistance.   They were trained how to protect themselves and not use physical violence to fight back.  Boycotters, marchers, and churchgoers used nonviolence to fight against being spit on, called names, sprayed with water hoses, and dogs attacking them.  Attending church, praying, and singing songs gave them strength to keep on the pathway to freedom.  My generation can learn a lot from Dr. King, Dianne Nash, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Representative John Lewis on how to fight back without using violence.  They taught us that our power is not in how hard we can hit or whether we can beat someone down, it is the power to love.

We still face equal, but not equal schools and housing, racism, and being stereotyped for the color of our skin, and what we are wearing.    Division, hate, and anger in my generation often results in unnecessary violence.   Like the protestors, we, too can fight back without a fist, gun, or knife.  Fight back by getting an education, not by joining a gang.  Fight back by getting a job, not by robbing a bank.  Fight back by attending church, not by swearing at your homeboy’s house.  Most importantly, fight back by keeping Dr. King’s dream alive, not by letting all his hard work go to waste.

I believe if my peers are willing to speak out against the wrongs, bullying will stop.    I believe that if my friends would join together and use their minds to strategize about bringing racial harmony in our schools and communities, we would be the example of how people can come together regardless of whether they are black or white, Hispanic or Asian, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or Muslim, rich or poor.  There would be no need to be a Crip or a Blood.  Instead of Generation X, we will be Generation C, the Generation of Change.

A famous writer said, to change the world, you must first change yourself.  Michael Jackson said if we want to make the world a better place, we should start with the man in the mirror. I am going to start with this woman in the mirror, Elizabeth Adria Kimbrough.  I am going to be the change that I want others to be.  I am going to speak out against injustice.  I am going to learn all I can learn, so I can be all I can be.  I am going to help others.  I am going to love everybody.  I am going to keep Dr. King’s dream alive.  I am going to stay on the pathway to freedom.

Adric Kimbrough, Jr. • 2nd Place Middle School
Overbrook Middle School

Let Freedom Ring

I have a dream that freedom will ring throughout our land.  My dream is rooted in the dream of

Adric Kimbrough, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had a dream that people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.  We may be different, but we are all human.   Every human wants to be free and deserves to be free.  Let freedom ring. This is my dream.

Freedom is not for “blacks only,” “rich only,” “Hispanics only” or “men only.”   Freedom is for everyone. Freedom’s purpose it to make dreams come true so that the city of Nashville, the state of Tennessee, and the United States can be a better place.  Without freedom, we cannot feed the hungry person, clothe the naked, or welcome the stranger.   Without freedom, we cannot speak out against injustice.   Without freedom, we cannot live out the American dream of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Without freedom, we could not have voted for President Barack Obama. Let freedom ring.  I have a dream, today.

Langston Hughes wrote, “What happens to a dream deferred?  Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore– And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over– like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.  Or does it explode?”   My dream is that the American dream of freedom will not explode or come up empty for the poor person, someone who does not speak English, the woman who cannot afford health insurance, or the father who struggles to feed his family.  Let them hear freedom ring.   People often question my dream of becoming a professional golfer because they refer to golf as a “white” sport.  Golf is a sport.  It is not a “white only” sport.  Anybody can play.   In fact, Tiger Woods has stayed the number one golfer in the world longer than any other golfer. We cannot limit what we can do based on what we look like or what we have, we deserve to play any sport, be any profession, hold any position, even the President of the United States of America, if that is what we want to do.  The sky is the limit.  Let freedom ring. I have a dream, today.

Freedom will ring if we are willing to work together.  Disunity is an obstacle standing in the way of each of us being able to let freedom ring.  The truth is we are all in this together.    We cannot be free until everyone us believes that each one deserves to be free.    Like the Three Musketeers, we must be united we stand, and divided we fall.  We are one body.   As President Obama expressed when he accepted victory of a second term as President of the United States, when the black joins to the white, the Asian to the Native American, the gay with the straight, the able with the disabled, the poor with the rich, and the Democrat with the Republican, we will realize that we are “more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”  The only way we can join together is to love one another.  Let freedom ring.  This is my dream.

Everyone should have the opportunity to get a good education, everyone should have a chance to raise their children, everyone should have a fair shake at getting a job, everyone should be allowed to live in a safe place, and everyone should be able to go to a doctor.   This is freedom. So, let freedom ring in every school.   Let freedom ring in every university whether it is the Black and Gold of Vanderbilt University, or the Blue and White of Tennessee State University.  Let freedom ring from the Bethlehem Centers of Nashville to Montgomery Bell Academy. Let freedom ring from Casey Homes to Bellemeade. Let freedom ring from Baptist Hospital to Meharry General Hospital.  Let freedom ring.