MLK Day celebrated

Students share essays about Martin Luther King, Jr.

ALPENA — In order to follow the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. people can be kind and speak out about inequality and discrimination said Emeline Hanna.

The 15-year-old is one of four Alpena students who recited an essay to celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The students, two from Thunder Bay Junior High and two from Alpena High School students’ essays were chosen to be read. They were asked by the Alpena MLK Committee to describe why King’s message is still important and how everyone can honor his message of equal rights for all today.

Clover Bailey, 12, said what was so remarkable about him is how he dealt with changes in society and how he chose to create a non-violent message as a civil rights activist.

“I’m glad many people have learned how to deal with their issues and problems in a non-violent way. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the many people who wanted us to come together and celebrate our differences,” she said.

She added he is her hero.

News Photos by Jordan Spence The winners of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day speeches with the Martin Luther King Day Committee; Cooper Bright, 14; Clover Bailey, 12; Emeline Hanna, 15; and Lara King, 16. Clover Bailey, 12, reads her speech about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a celebration of the civil rights leader at Alpena Community College, Monday.

Cooper Bright, 14, said there were many instances in the past year where non-violent protests were warranted or needed.

“I believe to honor Dr. King’s message we should do as he did and refraining from certain conflict in protest. We should treat everyone equally and express what we feel using words instead of using weapons,” he said.

In her speech Hanna discussed the murder of former Northwestern University basketball coach, Ricky Byrdsong, during a hate crime killing spree. She detailed how his community came together to create the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate to honor his life.

“Ricky Byrdsong was murdered in front of his children because of hate and his community successfully began a non-violent protest to improve humanity,” Hanna said.

Lara King, 16, said Americans have adapted his ideas in the modern age to combat, protest and raise awareness of inequality using non-violent, yet effective methods.

“Instead of marching the streets of Birmingham, activists and citizens alike conduct virtual campaigns such as the Black Lives Matter movement through social media to raise awareness of inequality. Including problems that would otherwise be overlooked. For example, the Me Too movement empowers victims of sexual assault to share their stories about a rampant problem that has been largely ignored in society,” she said.

She added his non-violent approach remains effective.

“First-hand perspectives about inequality weaken generalizations about the government, society and even the president. Martin Luther King’s peaceful standards keep citizens and activists engaged in the fight against inequality without inciting violence,” she said.

She added his strength continues to inspire hope and determination within the country.

“By humanizing the oppressed and using love to combat hatred, King’s approaches are successful in the present day. As Americans fight for equal rights the words of Martin Luther King will motivate us. ‘If you can’t fly then run. If you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,'” she said.

Jordan Spence can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687.