Students keep the dream alive

King: Three young writers explain why the society envisioned by the late civil rights leader is still a worthy goal.

January 17, 2001|By Laura Dreibelbis | Laura Dreibelbis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Three young writers who put their dreams on paper were honored this week at the 16th Living the Dream Awards Ceremony sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Howard County Holiday Commission.

The youths entered an essay contest, "The Dream, The Dreamer and You," that challenged writers to express King's vision. The challenge was presented to high school seniors, high school underclassmen and middle school pupils from Howard County public and private schools.

"Our responsibility is to keep the dream alive," said Mabel B. Canada, chairwoman of the Holiday Commission, referring to the goals of the contest. The observance of the birth of King is not just another holiday, Canada said, adding that young people need to know why the civil rights leader is honored more than 30 years after his death.

The ceremony, held Sunday at Long Reach High School in Columbia, provoked serious thought, as speakers prayed and shared impressions of King and his contributions. At other times, the atmosphere was festive, as the audience enjoyed inspirational musical and dance performances.

In his greetings, Howard County Executive James N. Robey congratulated the young writers on their essays and jokingly told them, "Some of you write better than I do."

J. T. Thornton, awards committee chairman, said he was "proud to present Howard County visionaries" when introducing the essay winners.

Julian Elijah Martinez, an eighth-grader at Harper's Choice Middle School in Columbia, was the middle school winner of a $300 savings bond. Pupils were asked to choose a quote from King and describe why he made the statement and why they think it is important. Elijah chose the quote "I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustration of the moment, I still have a dream," from King's famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Elijah said it showed the type of person King was.

"That first line hit me," Elijah said, explaining that it showed King had the ability to turn the other cheek and keep going when he was surrounded by hate.

"He was ready to forgive everything," wrote Elijah in his essay. "He wanted peace. He was ready to call everyone his friend. Can we do the same thing?"

An aspiring writer and marine biologist, Elijah has written various essays. He also is writing a comic strip with a friend and hopes to have it published. Writing is fun but hard, Elijah said, adding that he enjoyed getting his ideas on paper and reading them over and over.

"I was so excited -- it felt really good," said LaTia Douglas, a high school winner who received a $400 savings bond. LaTia answered the question "How has Dr. King's influence in race relations made a difference in your high school experience from that of your parents?"

"Through his nonviolent movement, Dr. King laid the foundation that allows me to live in a community and attend a school with a diverse population and enjoy real friendships with people from different cultures and backgrounds," LaTia wrote.

LaTia attends Howard High in Ellicott City and plans to study pediatric medicine.

Centennial High senior Nancy Linthicum, who performed at the Holiday Commission King ceremony two years ago singing with her madrigals group, was onstage Sunday accepting a $500 savings bond for her winning essay in the high school senior category.

"It's good to be a part of the celebration," said Nancy. Her essay assignment was to identify a main point in King's philosophy and describe how it would be used in future endeavors. Nancy tackled hatred and injustice in her essay. She said hate comes from fear, ignorance and lack of understanding.

"Sometimes this fear can control a person, and instead of confronting and replacing this ignorance with knowledge, people allow their fears to manifest into hatred," Nancy wrote in her essay.

She sees injustice in society and wants to make a difference, she said.

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