Greater Lansing students Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest winners

The Dr. Martin Luther King Commission of Mid-Michigan held its annual essay contest for Greater Lansing juniorand high school students, including the Mark S. McDaniel Legacy Scholarship for graduating seniors. This year’s theme is the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” Below are essays of the scholarship winner and finalists and the winners of the junior high and high school essay contests.

King calls on us to act now and together

Upon reading these words, one feels empowered to fight with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for civil rights. The dramatic visual he has created by comparing racial injustice to quicksand, and brotherhood to stone, juxtaposes the present danger of racism with our future of a stable, just, and equitable world. It’s vivid and beautiful, yet I’m most drawn to two simple, three-letter words that encapsulate his argument: “now,” and “our.”

NOW. Dr. King calls upon us to take immediate action, to engage, to protest against inequality and discrimination in our country. No longer can white citizens stand idly by while they witness microaggressions. No longer can political leaders ignore acts of violence against the Black community. No longer can we accept unjust laws rooted in centuries of systemic racism. When Dr. King wrote his famed “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” earlier in 1963, he emphasized the necessity of immediate action: “This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’” The United States has made progress towards “liberty and justice for all” since the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s, but our work is not done.

OUR. As a community, we must collaborate at even the smallest levels to foster respect and support and enact change. Growing up in my small town of DeWitt, I learned early on the importance of looking out for and taking care of people: from involving new freshmen in swim team traditions, to bringing sick friends care packages, to tutoring struggling middle school students. When we look out for only ourselves, we lack the foundation of unity and compassion that working within a community offers. King encourages us to work together in our fight for civil rights, focusing on the common good rather than individual benefit.

Ultimately, national change begins locally. The social and political stability that King desires, “the solid rock of brotherhood” rather than the “quicksand of racial injustice,” cannot be achieved without dedicated and cooperative communities. King’s words urge us to act NOW against injustice, and strive towards acceptance and cooperation within OUR society by taking small steps at the individual level.

Abigail Frushour, DeWitt High School, scholarship essay winner

Thanks to Dr. King for opportunities to thrive

Dr. Martin Lurther King truly has done a lot for not only the Black community but other minorities in general. He has given us great speeches and inspirational quotes that have impacted us for years and will continue to impact us. For example,” Now is the time to lift our nation with the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” I know that God put Dr. King on this Earth for him to be a leader for the minorities before his time, during his time, and in the future. Dr. King was letting us know that now is the time to rise, now is the time to stand up against our enemy, and now is the time to stand up for your people. He knew what our weaknesses were, who our enemy was, and he knew what we would face in the future.

Zytearria Hall of Bath High School was a finalist in the 2023 Mark S. McDaniel Legacy Scholarship essay contest.

I think that’s why he used the word quicksand in this quote. We all know that “quicksand” is that sand that once in it, you cannot escape. The more you move, the harder it is to get out, but it is possible to escape with the help of others. That’s how I see the world, that’s how I see racism, that’s what I’ve seen during the Back Lives Matter movement. I’ve seen quicksand in live action. Quicksand is the police brutality, quicksand is slavery, quicksand is the hard discrimination my generation has felt, what my ancestors felt, and others will feel in the future. Quicksand is the racism the Black community faces every single day until the day they die.

Unfortunately, I can go on and on about how much quicksand we have stepped in. King knew what our enemies expected us to do, and what our enemies expected to happen but he knew that we would always continue to fight. Now, let’s talk about what King meant when he said “to the solid rock of brotherhood.” The solid rock represents God and how stable he is and how he will never break. For “brotherhood” to me brotherhood is more than just your blood brother. Of course, you have your blood relative that you’re actually related to but I feel like brotherhood is more than that. Brotherhood is a bond you have formed with somebody or a group of people, brotherhood is your support system for all of you to have, brotherhood is having a group of people that help you stand up for what each of you believe in. Brotherhood.

If it wasn’t for King I wouldn’t have these types of opportunities. I wouldn’t have an HBCU to apply to, I wouldn’t be able to go to a school with great education, I wouldn’t be able to go to any place without looking at signs to see if it says “Colored Only’ or “Whites Only.” I thank everybody who has stood up and helped “lift our nation with the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

Zytearria Hall, Bath High School, scholarship essay finalist

Dream can be reached, but no one can do it alone

“This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children” (Dr. MLK Jr.).

Kennedy Duncan of East Lansing High School was a finalist in the 2023 Mark S. McDaniel Legacy Scholarship essay contest.

This excerpt from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is deep, challenging, and inspiring. Dr. King gave his speech as an appeal to end racial and economic inequality throughout society but what Dr. King did was much more powerful. He managed to impact nations and generations, past and future, by inspiring people to put aside their differences and come together. The “solid rock of brotherhood” is the common place where everyone has equal opportunities. In order to get there, the nation must be pulled out of the “quicksand” or the state of danger and despair. At my school, I am the co-vice president of the Unicef Club, and as part of my role, we raise funds for people in need. In my time as an officer, I have learned that children across the nation need help but we alone are not enough. There are thousands of Unicef Clubs in thousands of high schools that raise money to help get children out of poverty and war zones. This is a direct representation of how one man cannot do it alone but with the help of many, lives can be changed for the better. Dr. King expresses the importance of working together because one man is not enough to pull the nation out of its current state. Without the help and encouragement of our community, the nation will continue to sink. In the wise words of Dr. King, “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. These words are still relevant in today’s society as we see injustice and inequality in every nation. It seems as though something worse happens every week. It feels as though the world is on fire and not enough people are doing anything about it.  If we do not come together as a brotherhood we will look back on our foolish actions when we fall as a nation. Dr. King’s dream is reachable but it cannot be reached alone. The words of Dr. King never fail to inspire. We must carry his legacy and complete his dream.  It is time to lift our nation and rejoice as a united community.

Kennedy Duncan, East Lansing High School, scholarship essay finalist

‘Our destinies and freedoms are inextricably bound together’

“Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.» – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Quicksand is a semi-liquid that can easily shift and pull you under. Quicksand traps and consumes its victims quickly – just as hatred can consume us if we are not careful.

Nia Long of East Lansing High School was a finalist in the 2023 Mark S. McDaniel Legacy Scholarship essay contest.

“Here we go again!” I thought as I watched the video that captured a white female University of Kentucky student striking and calling Kylah Spring, a Black UK student the “N-­word,” simply because Kylah denied her after-hours access into a residence hall that she did not reside in. While excruciating to watch, the saddest part of this incident was Kylah stood alone despite the presence of many observers. Kylah remained poised, never reciprocating her attackers’ actions. The only obvious emotion was the pain on Kylah’s face suggesting she had been here before. Kylah was being consumed by the quicksand of racial injustice.

Like Kylah, I have experienced racial injustice simply based on the pigmentation of my skin. In those moments, what I most recall is standing alone. It would only be after the fact that messages of “support” or “comfort” would come from those that called themselves allies. Kylah’s attacker did not believe the rules and laws applied to her. Even in her wrongness, she would turn on the tears, weaponize her victim, and ultimately not be held accountable for her actions. We have seen this before. This is entitlement, this is privilege. This is “Karen” in a pejorative sense, using her white privilege to demand her way.

Dr. King is saying now is the time for the nation to terminate weak, inconsistent, and unjust laws. We must create a nation that gives everyone an equal and solid foundation. These changes must occur as one diverse body because our destinies and freedoms are inextricably bound together.

We dismantle weak and inconsistent systems by calling those in positions of privilege out for unjust behavior. Some may call it canceling culture, I call it accountability. We challenge companies and universities who highlight diversity strategies yet have no people of color in decision-making roles. We stop being a safe place for others to share inappropriate racial, ethnic, and gender jokes. We stop “going live,” instead we stand with the victim and speak for them when their voice has been silenced. WE are the solid rock!

In 2022, we are still running from the quicksand that threatens us when basic civil rights for women and people of color are on the ballot.

The time is still NOW. We cannot get tired or avoid the quicksand. We must build our foundation on the true Rock, who calls us to love one another.

Nia Long, East Lansing High School, scholarship essay finalist

Reach out to those still in quicksand

On August 28, 1963, a business owner in Washington D.C. was getting ready to open her store. She was playing the radio and singing along to the songs. She thought that it was a normal day. But she would later come to realize that this day would go down in history and change her life.

The radio stopped playing music and started playing what sounded like a speech. She thought she had heard the man’s voice before but wasn’t sure. She heard people cheering. Why was this guy so popular? She thought. Why are there so many people cheering for him? As she listened to the speech, she didn’t change the channel or turn it down, she turned it up. She got swept away in the words as he spoke. But this one sentence hit her hard, “Now is the time to lift our nation out of the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

Addisson Schroeder of Haslett Middle School won the 2023 middle school essay contest sponsored by the MLK Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan.

This sentence made her stop what she was doing. She thought about it. Was she the quicksand? Was she pulling people down instead of lifting them up? She thought about all the things that had happened. She thought about times when Black people were harassed and sprayed with fire hoses. She thought about times when Black people came into her shop tired and in need of a job, and she turned them away. She realized that she was part of something she didn’t like. So, she started hiring African Americans to work for her. She was frowned upon by many but she didn’t care. She lost some people but strengthened relationships with others. She was proud to be helping hardworking people and their families live a better life on the rock of brotherhood.

Many people connected deeply with Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In the speech, he used repetitiveness to compel his point across. He mentioned racial injustice and freedom numerous times . He used the sentence “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood”. This quote helps to demonstrate that America is slowly sinking and drowning in the racism that revolves around us; suffocating us. The solid rock of brotherhood that Martin Luther King Jr. refers to is America rising out of the quicksand, no longer sinking, no longer drowning, no longer suffocating. This is the dream that MLK wanted us to see.

Each day we rise more and more out of the quicksand and get closer and closer to the solid rock, reaching toward equality. Yet we are never quite there. There are always people holding us back from the dream. They are the ones drowning, sinking, and suffocating in the quicksand. We are the ones who have risen up. We have pulled ourselves out of the quicksand and are now standing on the solid rock of brotherhood. We are no longer drowning, sinking, or suffocating. We are free of racial injustice. We must help the people who are still stuck in the quicksand reach solid rock. We must show them that we can all be happy. We must show them that we can be free, and equal, and live the American dream.

Addisson Schroeder, Haslett Middle School, 8th grade, 1st Place, Essay

Full and accurate history should be taught in schools

January 1, 2005, 17 years ago, my history textbook was published. There are 36 chapters in total, and more than 20 of those chapters cover the history of white people in America and Europe. The remaining 15 or so chapters cover the histories of the people and nations of South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As you can see, the lack of history taught about other races and cultures within the learning curriculum is an issue that has gone unnoticed for many years.

Zeinab Alrabiah was the high school essay winner for the 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Day essay contest.

Many schools in the  United States focus primarily on the history of white Americans, while other racial and ethnic groups get a week or a month if they are lucky, for their history to be taught. This narrow focus on the history of white Americans means that the historical contributions of people of different races and ethnic groups are being disregarded. In turn, this causes students to believe that their history is not as significant or distinguished as that of their white peers. The few times it is mentioned in the classroom, however. it is treated as a mere afterthought, or it is the same bits and pieces every year.

Overall, this prevents children from understanding the numerous racial injustices that have occurred not only in America but also those that are currently occurring around the world. By not providing these students with accurate knowledge about different races, religions, cultures, etc., we deny them the ability to better understand their peers and those around them. Students would feel more confident and engaged in school if they were able to see themselves and their history reflected in what they are taught.

Martin Luther King once said “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” To be able to do this, we must first become knowledgeable about other people’s racial history and background, so we can better understand them. We can do this by properly integrating other racial and ethnic groups’ history into what we are teaching inside the classrooms. When we fail to provide students with a comprehensive and accurate understanding of others’ races and ethnic history in the United States, schools are perpetuating a cycle of ignorance and inequality. Ignorance is the first step of an ascending staircase that opens the door of racial injustice.

Zeinab Al Rabiah, Sexton High School, 11th grade, 1st Place, Essay

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