Eyes on Austin, 5519 W. North Ave., recently honored the winners of its 2007 Black History Month Essay Contest. Excerpts from the first, second and third place winning essays and their authors are below. All of the entries were from Austin elementary school students. For more information about the contest call Eyes on Austin, 773/479-1569.

First Place winner
Kadedra Murph
McNair Academic Center
4820 W. Walton

Out of Darkness, into Light

The great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated this great quote: “Black History has had a great effect on my life and my future as well. It has afforded me the opportunity to witness what it takes to have the greatness of strength and determination.”

For example, outstanding figures such as, Sojourner Truth, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, Frederick Douglas and other famous people have had an enormous influence on all African Americans, as well as other ethnic groups.

Reading about these great figures, or just hearing about what they have done, has inspired me as well as many others to live up to our potential. These fascinating figures have shown us courage and self-dignity. For example, Sojourner Truth, she ran away from her enslaved plantation to get her freedom. Sojourner encouraged others to desire freedom and equal rights. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. conducted a speech that not only affected black America many years after, but also subsequently left a permanent mark that still rings from ear to ear today.

Black History has definitely affected me by showing me the pros and cons of what it would be like to be in a segregated school. It is more than just an honor to have integrated schools; it introduces diversity and gives us an opportunity to meet people of different cultural backgrounds.

Second Place winner

William Hezekiah-Onwukwe
Lovett Elementary School
6333 W. Bloomingdale

What Does Black History Month mean to me now, and in the future?

Black History Month is a cramp of achievements. What I mean by that is; the achievements in black America did not happen in one month. Sure, I’m grateful for what we have, but to me, it’s not fair. Black History Month is still occurring, and it will not stop. So, “Black History Month” is not a celebration of the achievements of black people. It’s a label they stuck on a month and threw at us to keep us quiet. Some people in America are so centralized that Black History Month often is forgotten or is celebrated in a very contrived manner. Black History is happening as we speak.

For the first time two black coaches went head-to-head in the Super Bowl. If Barack Obama wins the 2008 presidential election, he will be another first in black history. So, black history isn’t just in February (the Super Bowl happens EVERY FEBRUARY). It’s always happening. This is what black history (I’m not using month anymore) means to me now.

Some try to limit our history to a month but our history can not be told in one story, or even a hundred, for it is a living experience, ever changing and ever growing.

Third Place winner

Kyle Davis
Lovett Elementary School
6333 W. Bloomingdale

Black History, now and then

The way black history affects my life now and in the future is by showing me that African American people do have the same intelligence as every race, and we think in a very special way. We always try to do the best we can because as African Americans, we have had to live above the influence and the way they think of us. African American people in the past had a very unique way of thinking, and they used that to the best of their ability.

The ones who came before us tried to make a difference and now it is my turn to make a difference. The past figures of history made a difference in my life so that I could have the same privileges and rights as everyone else. When they were suffering segregation, they couldn’t go to the same places and do the same things as the other people. They were trapped in a cage of segregation and hatred because of the color of our skin. Dr. King, Rosa Parks and Frederick Douglas fought for us so that we can say as a people “We have won the war, we can do that same things as everyone else.”