COLUMBIA — Nearly 400 Columbia students ranging from grades 4 to 12 submitted their poetry, essays, music and songs to the city’s Human Rights Commission, and tonight , they’ll have a chance to perform those works on stage.
The “2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Speak!” event kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Cherry St. Artisan. Nanette Chun-Ming Ward, program coordinator and human rights educator, said it was a great way for Columbia’s youth to be heard on issues related to diversity.
“The public doesn’t always have the opportunity to hear the voice of the young people,” Ward said.
Of the 400 or so submissions the committee received, 36 were published in a booklet recognizing the event’s topic, “The Garden of Humanity: Cultivating a Community of Diversity.”
Steve Hollis, community services manager for Columbia and Boone County, staffed the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration Planning Committee, a subcommittee that selected the works published in the booklet.
Each subcommittee member read every entry, choosing 10 to 15 favorites. From there, the works were selected based on quality, with the goal of creating a diverse group of entries.
“All the entries were excellent,” Hollis said. “If we could afford to print them all, we would.”
Event organizers invited all 400 students who submitted work, but Ward said they don’t expect everyone to participate. “Youth Speak!” is free and open to the public.
“The invitation is extended to any student who has original music, song, rap, poetry or essay that speaks to the themes represented in the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Ward said.