Each January the Morristown Task Force on Diversity and the Citizen Tribune partner for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Essay contests.

With four categories open to students in Hamblen County, the winners are recognized at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and given a $100 award.

This year’s winners and their essays are”


K-2 winner  Sharing is caring

by Ares Cid  Hillcrest

What are acts of kindness and how does it affect the people around you?

Let me begin by telling my story about what sharing is caring means to me.

First, at the age of 4, I donated toys to the school I attended for pre-k. It made me feel so happy and peaceful inside to see that one act of kindness could make so many other kids like me so happy.

Second, sharing is caring is not only about giving things its also about making time for others. Giving for the first time made me feel happy. Now every year I give to others making them happy, which is the best act of kindness and will always make you feel at peace.

Third, being kind to others has made me lots of friends but there are always going to be bullies. I have went through being made fun of and having my feelings hurt. I learned not only do I need to stand up for others but I need to stand up for myself and as long as I remain peaceful and kind the world around me will be a better place.

Fourth, turns out one act of kindness can go a long way and the best way to spread love is through peace. I am always going to try to be that one person who will bring change to the world, that being said sharing is caring is what kindness and peace are to me and my family.

Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. had his ups and his downs just like me but he believed the world could be better. His acts of kindness and love for people will be remembered forever and as he said “What are you doing for other?”

K-2 honorable mention

By Carson Kohler


This is why I think its better to be kind to everyone.

Being kind is one of Gods golden rules. You should treat people the way you want to be treated. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is everyone should be treated the same.

That if everyone would act peacefully and kind there will be less fighting and less crime.

The Civil Rights Movement was to make it so that it didn’t matter what color your skin was you were treated equally.

3-5 winner

By Lucinda Chao


African Americans wanted to make their point of being treated the same as white people.

According to the text, James Lawson taught nonviolence as both a theory and a practice, believing as he told students at Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) founding conference that sit ins were “a judgment upon middle-class conventional, half-way effort to deal with radical social evil with also a religious ideal.”

This means James Lawson started classes to teach people how to do sit-ins without violence. So when they did a sit-in at a store, they knew how. Even when the white people burned cigarettes on their necks, threw pepper in their eyes, poured sugar on their head, they never fought back because James Lawson taught them to fight back with love, not violence.

In conclusion, James Lawson’s classes taught the African Americans how to do sit-ins without being violent which led to the success of the Nashville sit-ins to end segregation.

6-8 winner  Here I am, send me

By Armani McGowan

West View

The Civil Rights Movement in 1959 was an intense time for a generation who grew up knowing the change only comes by sacrifice. The leaders during this time, knew whatever it takes, must become their means to an end. Particularly who would be a means, to end this degradation of a human race.

The question, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” posed by John Lewis, Civil Rights leader to college students in Nashville, TN pondered on their minds, “what must I do, to change the society that I live in.” A society where lives are being shaped by the warped mindset of leaders blinded by deep-seeded hatred, which produces an air of death and destruction for the oppressed.

The students were so impacted by John Lewis’ question, that they took action on Jim Crow segregation, by calling out all that was wrong and taking every step to see it through. Much like the question God asked Isaiah in the sixth chapter, eight verse, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I sad, Here am I! Send me.”

Here the students determined the severity of the moment and the realizations that they were needed to bring forth a change where all men are seen as equals, which my family and I experience today.

Their work was planned and executed by the guidance of James Lawson who taught them how to fight a war with the weapon of truth and non-violence, which in turn helped to build a nation up to understand that segregation was at its end.

6-8 Honorable mention

By Shaelynn Brown


Has someone ever told you that actions speak louder than words? If I could agree more than I would.

John Lewis, a Civil Rights leader, has stated “if not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

And students from Nashville took those words to heart and made actions upon what they thought needed to be fought for. These students went to certain places in Nashville and pushed those words forward with sit-ins.

Believe it or not, this world used to be a cruel world, and some people just didn’t tolerate it. And John Lewis was one who was the start of people who took a stand to make this world a better place. They knew that they had to do something about all the hated and racism so they did. Maybe it would make a difference, and maybe it wouldn’t. But one thin I know is that they weren’t giving up no matter what.

They fought until the result of winning their rights for freedom came out and show how important everyone really was no matter what color their skin was or not matter what religion they were.

These students not only kept fighting even after all the arrests, and violence towards them, but made an impact on what they were looking forward to changing.

And to think all of this had started by them being impacted by just a couple of words some man had said.

But that is simply because words mean way more than they show. Those words had a whole story being them to show that if they didn’t do something about what was happening and do it then, then who else would be the one to take a stand and do something, and when even if they would.

I truly believe that everyone is capable of making an impact on life somehow to make it better, whether it starts by them hearing other voices point it out, or whether they just have the confidence to. Somewhere inside the students, there was something telling them that they can do it, and they did. And to think of what a difference it made.

Voices are heard, actions are seen, and in that, differences are made. I know that it’s hard to do things you believe in knowing what the result could be. But people our there like John Lewis say things like “if not us, who? If not now, when?” showing that there needs to be someone who stands up to make a change, and a good one.

And these students just so happened to be the ones who listened and they were heard and they were seen, and they got some civil rights. Just know, anything is possible, even if it starts with the words of someone else.

9-14 Winner

By Hannah Barnard

East High

In the late months of 1959, students from four African-American college made plans to arrange a large-scale sit-in campaign targeting segregated stores and restaurants. James M. Lawson was the leader of the movement and helped to prepare all the participants through workshops that showed them how to handle certain situations. Once the campaign was put into action, local police responded to the sit-ins and started arresting participating demonstrators.

Despite the arrests, students continued the movements by sending waves of students to take the places of those who has been arrested. The sit-ins continued until April 19th, when a bomb was placed at Z. Alexander Looby’s house.

Looby was an African American attorney who was one of the main lawyers for the students arrested during the sit-ins. The incident caused demonstrators to come together, march on city hall and meet with Mayor Ben West. When publicly asked about his own position, he was opposed to segregation.

The students participating in the sit-ins had the biggest impact because they began the desegregation movement. By standing their ground and participating in sit-ins, even if it meant getting arrested, they made desegregation possible in Nashville.

These students were determined to get the attention of the nation and prove just how wrong it was to treat people differently just because of their skin tone.

If it wasn’t for these students, segregation could have gone on for several more decades.

Mayor Ben West had a lot of power to influence others, since he was the mayor; yet, he still chose to sit back and watch as students got arrested trying to prove a point that he could’ve easily made. It took a group of innocent students getting arrested for sitting somewhere for Mayor West to come out and voice his opinion on the sit-ins and the desegregation of the city. Although his words had the biggest effect on the opinion of others, the students still worked harder and sacrificed more to prove their point on the situation and end segregation's.

9-12 honorable mention

By Jackson Neill

West High

“Who had the larger role in the desegregation of Nashville - the students sitting in or Mayor Ben West?”

You read book about it.

You watch television accounts, read newspaper articles. Both sides. The good. The bad. The ugly. Then you sort it all out.

It’s how you answer, “right.”

Fifty-four years ago, the people of Nashville played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement, becoming the first in the south to desegregate lunch counters.

Lunch counters? Who would have through lunch counters would be symbolic of this shameful part of our history? When I think of lunch counters I see moms, kids and ice cream. That’s why I do the research, I didn’t live it.

Nashville’s black community took a page from Gandhi’s playbook, showing the world the best way to stand up for yourself and create change is to first take a seat and refuse to give it up.

John Lewis, who began the nonviolent campaign, emphasized “Sticking our necks out to make the point, sometimes you have to put yourself in harm’s way. In the process, you may stir up some violence, but you don’t participate in any violence.”

John’s mother thought it would dishonor the family to get arrested. She wrote, telling him “to get out of that mess,” He answered: “I am doing what I think is right.” After it was all over, Lewis recalled, “I held my head high. I felt free, liberated, like I had crossed over.”

James Lawson, Vanderbilt professor and workshop leader for the protestors, moved non-violently to help people see that they could engage in what was extremely militant behavior by walking into restaurants and stores in Nashville, sitting where they were not supposed to, and asking for service.

People became fearful and though they couldn’t do it but, after that first sit-in, they came back empowered, inspiring 4,000 to march on City Hall. Dr. King called Nashville “the best organized and most disciplined in the South ... I came to Nashville not to bring inspiration but to gain it ...”

“If we can muster up the will to do the right thing,” Lawson said, “then the action will confirm within us the power that we need to continue. Action helps us to become new people more radically than thinking.”

According to Nashville TV-4, Tennessee University student Novella Page, who occupied Woolworth’s fourth stool, said coming back was an eerie, but satisfying felling.

“It’s important that all students, regardless of race, know the story of this struggle.”

The talk and the thinking are critical, but it is the willingness to step up and act, or in this case, to sit down, to make change.

Mayor West led Nashville to become the first southern city to desegregate. His role was necessary. He had the power to appoint, push legislation and to call for change.

However, it was the protestors who sat-in, those who mustered the will to “do the right thing,” who were the immovable force, the energy and the “radical doers” who made history.