Excerpts from 2009 MLK Essays

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This is the 7th year of the essay contest sponsored by the
University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Commemoration
Committee. The goal is to engage students with the legacy
of Dr. King and how it relates to their lives today. They
are asked to look at their neighborhood, their school,
their community, and write about issues of social justice.
Over 2,000 students have participated over the years.
In this bicentennial year of Abraham Lincoln’s birth,
the contest was sponsored by the U of I’s Lincoln Bicentennial
The topic is, “What is your dream for social justice in
your community? Imagine that you are having a conversation
with President Lincoln and Dr. King. What would
you tell them about the world you live in? Is there an
issue that particularly concerns you? What advice do
you think they would give you? How would you like to
be an activist for social justice?
212 students submitted essays. They wrote about
issues that trouble them in our community, including:
—violence and bullying
—the barriers to college education
—the criminal justice system
—challenges to our environment.
Writers include students in some of our alternative
schools, the READY Program and the Juvenile Detention
Center, and received impressive essays from them this
year. These students talk about the challenges in their
lives with insight and understanding.
A group of 18 readers from the College of Education
and the community worked together to select 15 winning
essays and 7 honorable mention.
Displays that quote many of the essays will be in the
Urbana Free Library for the month of February. In
March they will be on view in the main library at the
University of Illinois.
A huge issue for me is discrimination against the disabled.
It’s an issue that often gets ignored. People with disabilities
are often treated unfairly and they have an extremely hard
time finding jobs. Being disabled doesn’t mean that you
are just blind, deaf, or mentally retarded. There are many
different things people have that make them disabled.
They can have mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.
They can be developmentally delayed or have learning disabilities.
They can be in wheelchairs due to accidents or
because they are paralyzed. There are many physical and
mental disabilities.
This topic specifically interests me and it is something I
can relate to because my mom is legally blind and she’s
been disabled her whole life. She works for an agency that
helps disabled people. They help them find jobs, they help
them earn money and they help people who struggle living
day to day. I’ve seen some of the people she works with
and they are some of the nicest people. They are just like
anyone else in the world and it doesn’t matter if they have
a disability or not. It makes me upset how bad they are
discriminated against and how a lot of people don’t realize
that this is an issue. They can do most everything other
people can. They are just reaching out for help because
they have a hard time. They get turned down trying to find
jobs because of their disability. Some just need assistance
getting around or they need to learn how to do daily
things like cook or clean. I wish there were more employers
that were open-minded about employing people with
disabilities. I wish that they were treated like everyone else
in the world.
I have a dream, a dream that is almost the same as yours
and a dream where we live in a world with no more discrimination
against Muslims.
The world is going through tough times. Especially
where a lot of nations suffer from war. Imagine every second
in your life a lot of children live in fear, surrounded by
bombs, gunshots, and dead bodies.
I am a Palestinian American girl. I have a dream that
Palestinian children would play outside without being
scared for their lives. What I wish is that every Palestinian
child feels safe in their country, and their parents feel safe
for them. Their parents would have big smiles on their
faces all the time with their hearts widely opened to other
people’s lives, greeting them happily instead of crying into
each other’s shoulders.
I am a Palestinian American but that isn’t all; I am also a
Muslim. I am proud to wear one of the symbols of my religion;
it is called hijab. It is a scarf worn by women that
cover their hair, ears, and neck. In addition to hijab, a
woman should wear loose shirts and pants. Sometimes
when I am at school, the mall, the library, etc. I get the looks
of disgust, hatred — the looks of people when they check a
person from top to bottom. These hurtful looks try to tell
me I am a bad person. I go on my way ignoring them.
Mr. President and Dr. King, you’ve taught us not to
hold our fears inside, so I will let them out. If I think
something is right then I will say it. This is what you did.
I would like to follow in your footsteps and be a social
activist in my community because I want to bring peace
and justice for all.
I think that the head of the police, which is probably the
government should handout police handbooks, which tell
us what they can and what they cannot do to us when they
stop teenagers on the streets. I think that the police should
send all of their trainees through more practice and try to
get them to be the best police officer that they can be.
In my school I am in the Gifted and Talented class (GT). I
noticed that there are just a few African Americans in GT
and a ton of African Americans in the regular class. Like,
maybe even 90% of the regular classes are black, tan, or
Asian and anything you can think of besides white. So tell
me Why? Why are there 90% more African Africans in
regular than GT? I just don’t get it.
No matter what race you are, you have a right to be treated
with respect. That also means treating others the way you
want to be treated. But some people have problems with
that. They just can’t get it right. Sometimes things get so
serious, hearts are broken leaving a scar in the spot forever.
Racism is nothing but pure darkness. I think racism is a
horrible thing that should have never even come into
being. The police officers are the ones who do it. I mean
the police officers are just going to jump to conclusions
and say that someone has done something wrong, only
because they have a different skin color then people who
have “peach” colored skin.
Domestic violence kills a person’s courage and spirit. It
leaves people with scars that may last a lifetime. If a child
is getting abused at home, they may react severely at
school because of all the pain it has cost them.
I’m here to talk about a lot of school education. I’ve been
to a lot of schools in Champaign and there is a lot of stuff
that needs to be fixed, like when you are not in classes,
maybe sick or something. When you get back in class it’s
like Spanish. They should have an area where the kids that
aren’t there can catch up on their work and don’t have to
pass something they don’t even know.
Second is the jail’s education system. There are things
that should be changed like the education level taught. I
know if you’re in jail you had to have done something to
get you there but we as people make mistakes and should
get the right and equal level of education. Now I know that
every kid is not on their right level of education, but why
do the ones who are up to par have to suffer.
Third is students not graduating from high school and
not going to college. I think that schools, mainly public
schools, are here for you to get the education needed for
the upcoming life. I see that when I get back to my school
I’ll work hard and learn as much as I can about whatever I
get taught because I might need that education later in life.
Then I think about going to college. Teens after getting out
of school should to start to think of their future. If you
could earn your own money to put yourself through I
think it’s worth it. Think of college like an investment
that’s going to have you set for years to come.
Last but not least is scholarship grants. I think the
scholarships should not just be for sports. It should be for
your grades and your test scores. It’s too much money for
people to have to pay for the education they want. All students
on honor roll should be able to attend college for
free because if they got on honor roll they worked hard to
get on it.
These topics are very important to the world and these
topics are a part of social justice that need to be corrected.
Social Justice is the key to the American Dream
It is also the key to liberty
So don’t hate, appreciate
what me and my friends are about to make
A special idea from the heart this is a good start
Social Justice is a very practical art
We can make it in into a poem because we are smart
So grab some pop-tarts and
wait for the revolution to take place
it’s already started and we are late.
Are you tired of racism in your community?
we sure as heck are like a shooting star.
People shouldn’t be neglected for skin color
it’s hard when you put down a brother
it’s even harder being represented by color
it isn’t funny hurting each other we are all
born from a mother equal in fame and color
we can’t have different races disrespecting
each other we are all one race so you racists
out there think of this, we are the human race
So that’s not cool that’s cruel
it makes people drool just like
when you snooze you LOSE!
Segregation is amputation
you cut one side from another
it’s like separating a brother from their mother
it’s separating people by their color
when they loved each other.
it makes them wonder why life is how it is,
It keeps people away from the things they like
and when that happens the people start to fight
Segregation is not alright
it needs to stop that’s why we make up these songs
Segregation is when two people get
separated from each other
it’s hard losing a brother
I went through it I just had to do it
We need to stick together through all kinds of weather
through thick and thin
It can be fixed my friend,
we can change social justice
for future people to think about how we helped
you know we didn’t yelp
we worked on this by ourselves
rocked it to the core
we keep on our roar right on down to the floor
we can fix it if we twist it
and that’s all, remember about social justice
sitting on a wall!
Are you an illegal immigrant, or do you have a friend that
is an illegal immigrant or a family member? Have you ever
been separated from your family for a long time? Then if
you have that’s how most illegal immigrants feel. That’s
why I wish that someday illegal immigrants could go were
ever they want.
Teens are having babies too young and are expecting their
parents to take care of them. This is causing parents to be
poorer and not have enough money to live the way they
want to live. To help stop teenagers from getting pregnant
at a young age, all high school students (boys and girls)
should be required to take a child development class. This
might not stop kids from having babies at a young age, but
it might help stop some and maybe help some teenagers be
better parents if they get in that situation.
Sometimes I wonder how the world got this way. Why
people are scared to live life their own way. Why must people
discriminate, not even know the person and still hate.
I just wish acceptance came as easy as the hate. But sadly,
we’ve made our own fate.
I have a dream
To become somebody
That nobody believes
Can make it to the top

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