Excerpts from 2014 MLK Essay Winners
This essay was read from the podium as it was written by a member of the MLK Committee and could not be given a monetary prize. Alex Lleras January 2014 MLK Essay, Downing Middle School:
"Due to Dr. King the flame of racism is all but extinguished and the children of this age have accepted the colors of all races. However, the embers are still smoldering and smog hazes the vision of a few who cling to racism like a Teddy Bear. Dr. King has taken their guns but has yet to change their minds. We need is a cleansing rain that will heal even the most ravaged minds in our nation. Flood the plains of discrimination and shower the land with an encouraging mantra that will bring together the broken pieces: Embrace Our Diversity! May this ring true to everyone not just in America but the entire world!"
1st: Sarah Mullens, Heritage ES, Ms. Buchanan: “I cannot even begin to imagine living in the America that once existed! Not being able to go to the same schools, ride the same buses, or drink out of the same fountains… I am thankful to be living in America today! ”
2nd: Zane Hicke, Prairie Trail ES, Ms. Kelley : “I want to ride the same bus as everyone else, swim in the same pool, and use the same restrooms even though I am mixed. I choose to embrace me!”
3rd: Iris Lim, Hebron Valley ES, Ms. Rehfuss: “While I was writing this essay, I realized that while I was born in the United States, I have a different skin color. If dr. king didn’t exist, I cannot imagine how hard it would be for me to live here. He helped a lot of people.”
1st: Tyler Neumann, Prairie Trail ES, Mr. Clayton
“Dr. King believed that love through non-violence can concur all. He believed it so much that he went to jail for it. I am proud to celebrate him today because he let all people help and join hands to make this country better.”
2nd: Josiah Bradley, Valley Ridge ES, Mrs. Rowell
“Dr. King believed in non-violence no matter what you did or what color you are… I love playing football. Many different people come to play. We are all different but in the game we are all the same. Football is a way for me to live out Dr. king’s dream.”
3rd: Emily Reynolds, Prairie Trail ES, Mr. Clayton
“Dr. King’s persistence and determination has inspired me to stand against bullies. By standing up for myself and others, I can help embrace and protect diversity around me.”
1st: Tatum Green, Downing MS, Ms. Clements
“every person is a blank canvas. Races and cultures add color and character to the canvas. The result is a masterpiece where every feature has an important value. Dr. King tried to apply this idea to the nation and knew that to embrace every feature of the masterpiece of nation, diversity not only has to be accepted but celebrated. He encouraged people of all races and differences to unite and create a masterpiece for the future. ”
(Tie) 2nd: Kira Koh, Downing MS, Ms. Rodriguez
“One way to embrace diversity is to accept that is everyone is different and no two people are the same. A common difference is religious belief. Instead of discriminating, we should try to learn about other religions and understand others’ beliefs. Accepting different appearances is another way we can embrace diversity… The final way to embrace diversity is by taking a stand against bullying…”
(Tie) 2nd: Mariah Wheeler, Lamar MS, Mrs. Robertson
“Dr. King taught us to embrace and cherish our diversity and differences that we cannot help having. Embrace our diversity, use it to make good in the world, like Dr. King. ”
(Tie) 3rd: Ryan Morris, Hedrick MS, Mrs. Hicks
“Once there was a family who had a daughter born in 1950. Her dad was a teacher at an African-American school and was very upset about the condition of those schools… One night, they were watching the news on their fuzzy black and white TV and they heard about a man, Dr. King, who was leading a civil rights movement. The family was excited to do their part in helping the movement. Even though the family faced many trials, their hard work paid off . They and many other families were now free. Sadly, in the process, dr. king lost his life. ”
(Tie) 3rd: Sydney Neuman, Hedrick MS, Ms. Winterroth
“Embracing diversity means that we’re happy to have different people and things in the world… It’s always important to be helpful and respectful of all kinds of people.”
(Tie) 3rd: Olivia Oomen, Lamar MS, Mrs. Robertson
“If we create an uncomfortable atmosphere because of hatred then it would be very challenging for our nation to progress… Loving our differences will help to create happiness throughout our lives because it would help us be more independent and not always go with the majority.”
(Tie) 1st: Emily Martinez, DeLay MS, Mrs. B. Williams
“Diversity is beauty. The problem is that people don’t see the beauty that is diversity… The world is filled with experiences from each different face that you meet. Everyone has some talent and something to add to our lives. After all, our world is like a bag of Trail Mix. Some people may be sweet and small like M&Ms, others may be tough to crack like a nut, and some may be fun to have like a pretzel...”
(Tie) 1st: Zelda Mutoke, DeLay MS, Mrs. J. Johnson
“Have you ever looked at a painting and it’s all shades of gray? One color throughout the whole painting! You’re looking at it like ‘’this needs more color. This is boring!” This would be like to go to a school that all students and teachers were the same race, ate the same food, spoke the same language, same everything. Then you go to high school and you see all different races and colors and foods and personalities you don’t like it. In other words, you were living in a little model of segregation… In today’s world we often get segregated by our neighborhoods. There are even cities with their own race name like China Town. Dr. king’s dream has nearly been fulfilled but not entirely.
(Tie) 2nd: Kiya Brown, DeLay MS, Mrs. B. Williams
“When you think about it, it is like a mother. Whatever you do – good or bad- mothers will still love you. That’s what people should strive to mimic every day… The assumptions people make based on nothing but fear are how discrimination starts. We cannot allow our lives to be based on poor assumptions.”
(Tie) 2nd: Callie Goetz, Downing MS, Mrs. Fields
“We were made to be original. We were made to be unique. We were made to be different. Why is it so hard to embrace our diversity if this how we were made? Dr. King was one of the first to publicly deviate from the lies our world was trying to proclaim at that time. ”
(Tie) 2nd: Yesenia Mortero, DeLay MS, Mrs. B. Williams
“Let’s face it. People may know your name and how you appear but they don’t know your story. The story is important. By learning other people’s stories, you also learn their commonalities. This is how embracing diversity brings us closer.”
(Tie) 3rd: Calvin Clement, Hedrick MS, Mrs. Maimone
“In reality, we are all the same inside. Making fun of someone is like insulting ourselves... Now, we can live together and make new friends and learn about them. That’s what makes our country great. ”
(Tie) 3rd: Nikita Jacob, Shadow Ridge MS, Mrs. Mosher
“Did you know that the health of a pond ecosystem is determined by counting the different number of species that live in it? The more variety, the healthier the pond! Embracing the world’s diversity is about all kinds of people getting along and working together. It’s about not caring whether you’re rich or poor, young or old, or short or tall.”
(Tie) 3rd: Yulyana Clemente, Hedrick MS, Ms. Winterroth
Dr. King had faith that people would realize that they all matter not by their skin but they matter for what’s in their hearts.
1st: Zoe Rodriguez, Downing MS, Mrs. Lentz -- “…society should embrace people’s differences and find ways of weaving together their uniqueness to form a strong beautiful tapestry. In this way, people can finally banish the bitter hatred from their souls and replace it with tender empathy.”
2nd: Zoe Bixler, Shadow Ridge MS, Mrs. St. John -- “The world is not a perfect place and probably never will be. We can at least try to make it perfect by not only accepting ourselves but by embracing our diversities.”
2nd: Kelsey Sullivan, Downing MS, Mrs. Lentz -- “I hope that one day the future generations of the world can live in a discrimination-free environment; one where they are accepted as who they are and people are okay with that, one where people will embrace their diversity instead of rejecting it. ”
3rd: Maleeha Ahmad, Killian MS, Mr. Fletcher -- “By refusing to alienate, we can avoid the darkness Dr. King fought to eliminate… It is necessary to embrace our diversity; it is the key to opening the gateway of freedom and moving toward ‘The Dream’’. ”
3rd: Lindsey Golden, Huffines MS, Mrs. Hadley -- “ He (Dr. King) was the voice for those who were frightened to have one. He was the voice for the generations to come… There is diversity all around me. If it wasn’t for him I might not have gotten to see the outrageous laughs of the ones I love that light up my world. ”
3rd: Brian Tamayo, Hedrick MS, Ms. Winterroth --- “We need a new Dr. King to be part of an “I Dream of Diversity ” speech in the future. Without diversity, the world will be a nightmare filled with fights, wars, and crime. If we embrace diversity the world will be peaceful.”
1st: Dexter Jones , MHS 9th, in honor of Mrs. Rebecca Wilson
“These are not just some random people. These are my boys, my pack, my clique, these are my teammates. These teammates of mine are of different kinds of races including Hispanic, Asian, black, Native-American, and white. I said earlier that we did everything together. That’s how I feel about embracing our diversity. We help each other out and find a way to do it, together.”
1st: Jovesh Zachariah, Hebron HS , Mr. -
“The distinctive array of contrasting characteristics that mold a person’s authentic identity, whether skin pigmentation or various cultural attributes, is what gives every single human a distinctive flavor duplicable by no other.”
2nd: Bumhee Kim, FMHS, Mrs. Knowles
“In addition, we think that people are treating each other equally but are we really? If only everyone would reflect on their treatment towards others, there would be a society which Dr. King would’ve embraced. Not only do we have to embrace the diversities for African-Americans but also towards everyone we encounter in society.”
3rd: Hannah Miller, FMHS, Mrs. Crabtree
“As for the entirety of the world, diversity continues to fuel the successes that occur every day. The world is becoming interconnected now more than ever so embracing people’s differences and unique traits is the best way to move forward.”
1st: Kourtney Foster, Hebron HS , Ms. Mayo
“The key to embracing one another starts with empathy. In Kindergarten, we learned “to treat others the way you want to be treated.” In elementary school, no one had harmed our trail of thought, no one had told us about a traumatic history that could change our view of our best friend.”
2nd: Hector Hernandez, Hebron HS, Mr. Stroud
“Trade and commerce embodied the primary form of interaction with diversity. Where there was trade, culture followed. Acculturation and globalization are not 20th century phenomena… Dr. King’s success as leader in the civil rights movement catalyzed social reform, advanced legal milestones, and sparked public support from all demographics.”
2nd: Wesley Jones, MHS, Mrs. McKenelly
“Each and every day, the sport of Football provides all with a deep seated brotherhood whose grasp surpasses that of any prejudice one might hold in their heart…Embracing our diversity is not about simply tolerating others’ beliefs but learning to respect them.”
3rd: Victoria Davis, TCHS, Mr. Blodgett
“Dr. King believed in the ideal of non-violence, that a non-violent person has control of himself spiritually, mentally, and emotionally... We are a people of many cultures, of many backgrounds, and many histories. We come from all over the world and we embrace it.”
3rd: Melani Shi, FMHS, Mrs. McMichael
“Moreover, appreciation of diversity metaphysically circles back to self-dignity: in order to acknowledge the worth of others and the benefits they bestow upon our lives by living their on idiosyncratic lives, we must carry true self-respect. Embracing others has the prerequisite of loving ourselves enough to extend that love to the diversity around us.”
1st: Farhan Ahmad, Hebron HS, Mr. Shelton
“Dr. King envisioned that his fight would culminate in a nation that embraces – rather than suppresses- its diversity… We must realize that Dr. King sowed the seeds for equality and it’s our duty as the next generation to bring that idea to fruition. ”
2nd: Lakshmi Menon, FMHS, Mrs. McMichael
“As I look out the window of my room I see children jumping into a pile of vibrant leaves. Flashes of green, yellow, and red fly through the air like confetti. Different ages and races are mixed in a boisterous group as black hands clasp white ones, a stunningly beautiful contrast. ”
3rd: Kristen Brehm, FMHS, Mr. Kenny
“I am thankful that God filled the world with a people who would lead black society to freedom. It is unbelievable to me that the world could have treated God’s children in such a way... Dr. King maintained a Ghandi-like perspective refusing to give society a dose of its own medicine but instead a dose of the forgiving, loving attitude he was fighting for. ”
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards
These awards are open to all high school and college students in the Pittsburgh area and any remote CMU locations. We seek personal narratives dealing with individual experience of racial or cultural difference or personal reflections on Dr. King's legacy that rely on concrete detail. The top three winners receive cash prizes.
Jim Daniels, Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English, established the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards in 1999. The program builds on Daniels’ commitment to writing about race. He edited "Letters to America: Contemporary American Poetry on Race." In 2001, the event expanded to include a separate category for Carnegie Mellon students, working on the premise that the voices of college students, and their varying experiences, could and should interact with the young voices from the Pittsburgh community.
Help us continue to have these important conversations on racial and cultural differences. Please consider donating to the Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Awards. Your donation will go a long way in helping us continue to reflect on Dr. King's legacy. Make a gift today.
Media Coverage and Photo Gallery
Watch 2018 MLK Jr. Day Writing Awards Founder Jim Daniels talk about the awards and hear students Emma Steckline, Dietrich student Mariah Barnes, Carnegie Mellon University School of Music student Marina Lopez talk about their award-winning entries on Pittsburgh Today Live.
Read Jim Daniels discuss the origins of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards and his experience in a writing class with James Baldwin in Poets & Writers.
Watch Javier Spivey's short film, based on his poem "some assembly required" which placed third in the college poetry division at the 2017 MLK Jr. Writing Awards.
Read the Mayoral Proclamation that acknowledges the special role of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards in the City of Pittsburgh.
Watch this Pittsburgh Post-Gazettevideoto learn what identity means to the 2015 MLK Jr. Writing Awards winners!
The MLK Jr. Writing Awards is also accompanied with a performance by musical theater students from Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama. You can see more photos from the 2019 event here.
The contest guidelines specifically request personal narratives on race. We believe that if we learn each other's stories, the barriers begin to break down. We begin to see each other asindividual human beings, struggling the way we all must, to live good lives and treat each other decently. We are all parts of different communities, and we reach out and cross over in strange, often surprising ways. The King Writing Awards provides a common ground for all these communities. Aspart of the University’s day-long schedule of panel discussions and performing arts presentations, the winners of this contest read in the University Center’s main lecture hall to an audience of hundreds.
In addition, each year, a book of award winners' work is published and distributed at the event. This archive of those books is meant to keep the discussion going by making this writing accessible to an even larger audience. Past winners and their work are listed in the award booklets below, starting with the current year.