By Alena Cradle-Morgan ’19
In the 33rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Art, Essay and Poetry Contest, three students from Ms. Joan Rowe’s class placed top honors, receiving a cash reward and a certificate.
Hundreds of students across Brooklyn entered the contest, ranging from elementary to high school students. The contest required participants to reflect upon the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., address challenges society faces today, and incorporate their own perspectives in either an essay, poem or a piece of art.
“I thought they made a mistake until Ms. Rowe gave me a certificate that said‘First Place-Yamilette Sanchez’,” said Yamilette Sanchez ’19. Sanchez’s essay on how incrimination impacts society won first place.
Sanchez said that she did not know much about the subject but took this opportunity to learn more about incrimination. Despite the topic being new to her, coming up with the content of her essay was not the most challenging part of writing her essay.
“When I first typed the essay I was about a thousand words above the word limit, so I had to cut back a lot of information, ” said Sanchez ’19. Rafaella Bruzal ’18 won second place for her essay on violence in the community.
“It was really an ecstatic and surreal moment and, of course, a great way to start of the new year,” said Bruzal ’18.
Bruzal said that she found this contest to be a great opportunity to voice her opinions about what is currently going on in New York City and nationally.
“The most challenging part of creating my piece was trying to understand what the judges were looking for, as well as, trying to keep the submission true to my thoughts and opinions,” said Sanchez.
On January 13, 2018, the ceremony to celebrate the winners of the contest was held at Medgar Evers College. The winners were announced by grade level, from youngest to oldest. There was a large turnout of people at the ceremony, all of them from various backgrounds and races. The judges of the contest were supreme court judges and council members, making the ceremony more exciting. A band and a chorus performed various songs, entertaining the crowd throughout the event.
“The moment we [the winners] walked in, there was screaming, applause and shin-
ing bright light from all the phones,” said Stephanie Zeng ’18. Zeng won third place in the high school essay contest.
Zeng said her piece focused primarily on how society should react to injustices now and in the future, and how she would respond as a future leader.
“I included the work of MLK Jr. and how his tactics and perseverance was an integral part in the Civil Rights movement,” she said. “I proposed that we follow the steps of MLK Jr. and utilize nonviolent strategies.” During the ceremony the essays contest winners had to recite part of their essay before they received their prize.
“It was good that when they talked about MLK they not only discussed what he did but how what he did connects to what is going on now, ” said Ms. Rowe, who attended the ceremony.
Ms. Rowe told her students about the contest because she teaches a diverse class and likes to incorporate different activities about various cultures into her lesson.
“If you don’t know about the past, how do you know what you want for the future,” said Ms. Rowe.