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2023 MLK Day Student Essays

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Written by Sofia A. in 11th Grade

Tik…Tok…Tik…Tok… The sound of the clock is always ticking, everywhere you go. From the doctor’s office to sitting in a classroom the clock is always ticking. Martin Luther King’s waiting room was the United States, traveling from city to city trying to fix the injustices towards African Americans but always having to sit by listening to the clock.

King waited the longest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, though non violent protests, he was put in jail. Spending eight days in jail may have not solved the injustices in Birmingham right away, he was able to, however, write his renowned “Letter From Birmingham Jail”. In his letter King defends himself from the 8 white clergymen who publicly criticized him for leading the protests. He had to explain to the men that he and all the African Americans in the US have had to stand by hearing the constant ticking of the clock, waiting for change to happen.

Within his letter, King writes, “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.” When he talks about how “Wait” has not meant “Never” he is right. The clock has never stopped ticking, never stopped moving forward, which is what the people in Alabama got to experience first hand. They had to wait for MLK to come to Alabama, they had to wait for the letter to be published to finally get justice.

The internal clock that has been ticking in every African American has never stopped, it may have been reset like daylight savings, being pushed back but it has always continued going. King’s clock may have stopped the day he was assassinated but the clocks he allowed to keep going in the Americans of the United States have paved the way for many more justices for the people. From the removal of Jim Crow laws to the election of many African Americans into the US government the clock has never stopped. Tik…Tok…Tik…Tok…



Solid, Permanent, Molded
Written by Amiyah G. in 11th Grade

Centuries ago, Europeans took complete control over West African nations’ economies. They traded weaponry for African slaves, which in turn caused a significant drop in their populations. Desperate to stabilize and regain their glory days, West African tribes started to fight for resources against neighboring tribes. The constant attacks and mistrust affected Africa as a whole and made the nation more vulnerable to European colonization. And so the monstrous, life-changing, Transatlantic slave trade began, with over six million people being packed into filthy boats, stripped of their heritage, culture, and land, and shipped off to various parts of the world, never to see the place they call home again.

The Transatlantic slave trade created a deep-rooted issue in America that killed any chance for our country to flourish; because when our founding fathers were slave owners; when you can look at documents that birthed this country and see African Americans being counted as three-fifths of a person; when years after slavery, we’re still being unlawfully gunned down by police in our own homes, racism is no longer roots in the ground, it’s now a solid, permanently molded to our country’s foundation.

Having said that, not only would it be negligent towards our country, it would be idiotic to wait while the mistreatment of African Americans is still prevalent today. It’s vital that we as a community continue to fight for Martin Luther King’s mission to combat this widespread hate.

Legislation can be passed and new presidents can be elected, but in order for our country to truly chip away at this solid we need to learn to recognize all forms of racism, micro or macro, in our schools, workplaces, and even our own homes, stop the cycle of hate from plaguing generations to come and take the initiative for change. Systemic racism is not an issue that can be solved with one legislation: it’s something that must be forever tackled, something that can’t wait.

Thank you.



Dr. King’s Dream: How should we continue his dream today?
Written by Abby V. in 11th Grade

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” about 60 years ago, in 1963. The letter’s purpose was to respond to the local religious leaders’ statement in the paper accusing King of bringing trouble to Birmingham. In his response letter, he includes his own statement saying, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.” Dr. King’s dream was to end social, economic, and employment inequalities in the U.S. Essentially, he didn’t want anyone to be judged by the color of their skin. Decades later, nothing has really changed. Today, our society still needs to treat everyone the same, equally. Together, we need to stop forming stereotypes about each other based on our race, sex, or beliefs. We are all human. We all live under the same God. We are supposed to be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Public schools in Michigan have students and staff cite the pledge of allegiance every day, but do we really follow through with what we pledge?

About two years ago, racial issues in the U.S. were particularly intense. In 2020, George Floyd was suspected of using counterfeit money at a store, all because of his race. Floyd was then arrested and killed by a police officer because of the suspicion. What was wrong with these American citizens? I think that they did not follow through with our pledge of allegiance. There was no justice, they didn’t let the victim speak for himself, and he was given no justice. I believe that Dr. King would be disappointed with us as a society today. Why are we not listening to what our country established, and what Dr. King fought to establish for his community of people?

You are people wondering what we should do today. I honestly think that the whole U.S. needs a little reminder, at least twice a year, that we are all human, a “nation under God”, and we all deserve to have justice because we are all citizens of America. Yes, I am white, and yes I have black and white friends, but I treat them the same. Why? Because we are a nation under the lord.

We shall all be treated equally. That’s what I believe in. And that is what Dr. King believed in too!



The Importance of Why We Cannot Wait Any Longer
Written by Harrison K. in 11th Grade

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his iconic “Letter From Birmingham Jail” in response to criticism from white religious leaders who were urging him to take a more gradual approach to civil rights. In the letter, King states that the time to wait is over and that the Black community had waited too long for the government to act on the injustices they faced. King’s words have become a powerful reminder of the urgency of the fight for civil rights, and the need to take action now.

In the letter, King pleads for people to “realize that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice.” This statement is as relevant today as it was in 1963, as we continue to fight for justice and equality. Racism and inequality are still pervasive throughout society, with Black people disproportionately affected by poverty, police brutality, and other injustices. We cannot wait for the government to act, and we need to stand together and fight for a better future.

King emphasizes the importance of nonviolent direct action, and how it was necessary to push for real change. He stresses the need for people to take action and stand up for their rights, rather than waiting for the government to do something. King asks community leaders to consider the pitfalls of delay if the forces of progress are not actively engaged, time itself will become an enemy of progress. We as a society need to take action before it’s too late. We needed to then, and we need to do so now. Through nonviolent protests, equality and justice can be achieved quicker and in a timely manner.

King also asserts that unity is critical in the fight for civil rights. He appeals to people’s emotions when he talks about the need for people to come together, despite their differences, and to stand up for what is right. This is particularly relevant in the 2020 decade, as we have seen a resurgence of the civil rights movement with people of all races, genders, and backgrounds coming together to fight for a better future. We need to continue to unite in order to create real and lasting change.

In conclusion, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” powerfully argues for the necessity of immediate action in the struggles for civil rights. King is able to convey his message to his audience and serve to illustrate the importance of immediate action in the struggles for civil rights. King’s potent words and persuasive arguments make it clear why we can’t wait for the civil rights movement to take hold. The civil rights struggle is not just an issue of justice, but a moral issue. King’s words remind us why we can’t wait for justice and equality; evoking action among readers.



If Not Now, Then When?
Written by Claudia K. in 11th Grade

People of color can’t wait for racial justice because white people didn’t have to. People of color can’t wait for justice because racism kills. People of color can’t wait for justice because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Letter From Birmingham Jail is a message advocating equality, fundamental human rights, and social reform. Its author, Martin Luther King Jr., had been detained in Birmingham jail due to his status as the leader of one of America’s most significant civil rights movement groups.

During his stay, a newspaper report written by eight clergymen was published, condemning his peaceful rallies, and labeling him as an extremist. This sparked a sensation of disappointment so eminent in King, compelling him to pen the letter on scraps of paper and napkins that were snuck into his confinement. King was known not only as a civil rights activist but also as a person of the Christian faith. His assertive reply was hope for a better world where relationships aren’t damaged by the impacts of racism and discrimination. Despite the letdown, he felt from the clergymen’s writing, his response was benevolent and sincere, revealing his good and genuine character. He strives to create a community joined by not only blood but also the brotherhood of Christ.

“If not now, then when?” A question that haunts every individual that’s faced with inequality and discrimination. We want a change. An improvement in our civilization. A community where people are reckoned through their character, not the amount of pigment in their skins. Not only does racism influence people psychologically through feelings of isolation, but also takes away loved ones from families. Systemic racism is bigotry embedded in society and its structure. It takes many forms, such as; unfair medical treatment, discrimination in justice systems, and workplace prejudice. Study reveals that in pre-trials, 7 out of 10 convicts are people of color. 43% are black, 19.6% are Hispanic, and 6.4% are Asian. Black individuals are 7.5 times more likely to be wrongfully sentenced for a crime they didn’t commit than those who are white. The death row count in the United States is made up of 41% of black people.

Waiting is procrastinating. In the subject of racial injustice, the longer our society bypasses addressing it, the more arduous it will be to correct it. Treating everyone equitably plays a vital role in creating a progressive community. A place where everyone feels welcomed and has access to equal opportunities. Neglecting and dismissing racism normalizes it. That is why we must act now rather than later.



Why We Can’t Wait
Written by Madalyn D. in 11th Grade

Martin Luther King is known for his fight against segregation through protests, speeches, letters, and marches. All are used powerfully to spread his message across, however one letter sticks out to me in particular. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written by King when he served time for peaceful protests. This letter conveyed his response to the troubling racism and segregation statement given by his fellow clergymen. The message that King is yearning to shine through, is the need for social change as well as inclusivity.

The need for change builds everyday, everyday there is a new event that divides the people of the world farther. We have waited long enough, King made extravagant progress, going backwards from his progress is not an option. Included in Kings letter are rhetorical questions.

These questions highlight the plead for change, by asking the audience for change. In the letter, King asks, “Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

King is referencing the clergymen in this question, but I can also see this question pointed towards anyone that is not striving for change. King is a model in which the people in the present and future can use to make a change.

King is pleading for the world to become united through love and trust, leaving behind all of the hurt and anger. There is so much progress made, but so much more to go. Protests, speeches, even just conversations can make all the difference. If you start now, no matter how big or small of an effort, it is one step closer to silencing the hurt and enhancing the love.

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