Empowering Future Civil Rights Leaders

By Michael K. Browne, Assistant Director – Complaint Investigations

Conlon Olson chats with Mayor RT Rybak

Conlon Olson chats with Mayor RT Rybak

With the Minneapolis City Council chambers full of parents, teachers, educators, and city officials, the student participants in the “2012 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest” were honored for their inspiring compositions that addressed equality and change in their community. Following brief commentary by Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels, and a heart-filled reading of a resolution passed in the winners’ honor, each student received an original copy of the resolution accompanied with a savings bonds certificate. Click here to read the 2012 Essay Contest Winners Resolution (PDF).

In its sixth year, the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights has organized this essay contest in an effort to encourage and empower Minneapolis youth. The contest also serves to motivate Minneapolis youth to contemplate contemporary issues of fairness and equality.

The essays the students wrote told stories of civil rights themes ranging from hunger and malnutrition worldwide to the fairness surrounding the lack of arts in schools. Giselle Duran, the seventh grade first prize winner, explained how funding video games over developing school districts in need was unfair, stating:

…the government should spend less money on dumb things.

The council chambers erupted into laughter. “The bold visions written by the City’s youth are hallmarks of our future civil rights leaders,” Council Member Samuels commented.

Shortly after the award ceremony, Mayor R.T. Rybak and the Minneapolis City Council honored the first black fire chief, Alex Jackson with a presentation of the “Father of Waters” statue. Council Member Don Samuels, inspired by the grade school students’ perspective on fairness and equality, summarized Chief Jackson’s 30 year legacy of combating racism, inequality, and injustice by stating that he is “the story in the flesh.” Fire Chief Jackson will be retiring at the end of February.

Congratulations to today’s honorees!

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