Milwaukee students write paths to peace in 2022 MLK Essay Contest

  • Grades 4-5
  • Grade 6
  • Grades 7-8
  • Grades 9-10
  • Grades 11-12

In yet another year marked by loss, disease and violence, Milwaukee’s youth picked up their pens to share their hope for change and peace in their city, and their ideas for the future.

This year marks the 40th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Essay contest, which began in 1981 as a way to celebrate, remember and continue King’s legacy. The essay contest is sponsored by the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (Journal Sentinel reporter Devi Shastri was the final round judge for the grade 9 and 10 competition.)

This year’s theme is “Working Toward a World of Peace,” and is inspired by King’s 1966 essay titled “Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom.”

“There is no easy way to create a world where men and women can live together, where each has his own job and home and where all children receive as much education as their minds can absorb … It will be done by rejecting racism, materialism and violence … and especially by working toward a world of brotherhood, cooperation and peace,” King wrote.

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd of about 800 people at St. Joseph's Catholic High School in Kenosha on April 27, 1967. This photo was published in the April 28, 1967, Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel.

Peace is like an unsolved puzzle, wrote fifth grader Mahogany Hill, of Samuel Clemens Elementary, who won first place in her grade category. We each hold the missing pieces ― of peace, love and collaboration ― that are needed to complete the image, Hill explained.

“When we assemble our pieces, we will be closer to having the peace that Dr. King wanted for us all,” Hill wrote. “We didn’t come this far, to only come this far! Dr. King reminds us that completing our puzzle will not be easy, but he tells us to pick up our pieces with courage.  Every piece, big and small, is needed.  Our puzzle for world peace is waiting for your piece!”

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