Paige Gardner, a fourth grader at Lincoln Jackson Arts Academy, waits for the judging to end after reading her speech Friday at Lincoln Jackson Arts Academy during the Martin Luther King Jr. observance day contest. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.
By Jack King
For Paige Gardner, a fourth grader at Clovis’ Lincoln Jackson Arts Academy, the essence of Martin Luther King’s dream was that “people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Wednesday Westbrook, a fifth grader at Zia Elementary, said a lesson to be learned from King’s life is that “we can all make a difference if we just try.”
And, echoing King’s famous 1963 speech in Washington, D.C., Angelynn Arrington, a fourth grader at the arts academy, said, “I have a dream. I want everybody to be treated equally.”
In the last few weeks, Clovis students from schools all over the city have made speeches, written essays and created posters about King and issues related to racial harmony, in a contest sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Clovis as part of events celebrating King’s birthday Jan. 19.
Finalists in the contests were judged Friday night at Lincoln Jackson Arts Academy and results will be announced at the schools on Monday, said Joyce Pollard, president of the commission.
Some of the winners’ works will be displayed at a commemorative breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Clovis High School cafeteria, she added.
Gardner, Westbrook and Arrington were contestants in the speech contest at Lincoln Jackson Friday, standing before an audience of their fellow students, judges and parents to present talks they had written and made earlier at their own schools.
Chelsea McClelland, a sixth grader at Zia Elementary, also a speech contestant, noted that King as always “on” — “on” working for the rights of his people and “on” the stage making speeches for harmony between races.
Cameron Stewart, a fifth grader at Zia Elementary, reminded his audience that the works of great leaders are often forgotten.
“I want this to be remembered for centuries,” he said.
Shanell Childress, a sixth grader at Bella Vista Elementary, noted that, despite threats and bombings King was not deterred from his mission to free the world from segregation and racism.
“We are still a long way from that world,” she added.
Other contestants concentrated on different aspects of the problem of racial harmony. In the poster contest, Ashley L. Span, a 12th grader at Clovis High School, created a poster that shows a gang shooting at its bottom. Above the shooting float the faces of King, civil rights heroine Rosa Parks and 19th century anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass. Beside each head is a caption.
“This was not the dream I had for my people,” King is shown to be saying.
“I refused to give up my seat to a white man to stand up for freedom — but not this kind of freedom,” says Parks.
“Violence is not the type of knowledge I want for my people,” says Douglass.
In the essay contest, Shanna K. Wight, a sixth grader at Zia Elementary, wrote that “We Americans remember (King) each year on a special holiday dedicated to him, but we should remember his message always, not just on the third Monday in January.”
Callie L. Span, a 9th grader at Gattis Junior High, wrote, “All we have to do is practice what we preach and there will be less people hurt, less people crying and killing one another.”