January 16, 2023

MLK Day Community Celebration | Essay Winners

The essays of several Holland High Students were included in today MLK Day Community Celebration, along with the artwork of students from around the district.

  • Emmett Book
  • Lauren Hofland
  • Hannah Maginnis
  • Yanyssa Ochoa

Emmett Book

Holland High School

Grade 11

Mrs. Armstrong

“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” -MLK

 We can’t wait for justice because life is too short to wait for something so fundamental. And justice is incredibly fundamental. We have broken the most impressive technological barriers known to man, but somewhere along the way, we forgot how to treat others fairly. We have built airplanes that dwarf distance, connecting us globally. Scientists have made vaccines that overcome pandemics. We have built skyscrapers that kiss the sky, and gigantic bridges that span the seas. But we can’t treat others with respect? It doesn’t make sense. King writes “When you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park.” MLK references a 6 year old. A child who should be living through all the fantastic experiences of youth. Instead, injustice binds her, and so many others. Injustice inhibits her from living. If this injustice continues, it will dictate lives like hers forever. This is why we can’t wait. Injustice is a killer. And life is a beautiful, underappreciated thing. It should be filled with beautiful experiences, and love, and joy, and laughter. Too many lives have been spent oppressed, burdened by segregation and racism fueled by fear and hate. It is time for change. We cannot wait, for if we wait, change will never come.
“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”” In Letter From BirmingHam Jail, MLK acknowledges a possibility as to why we move at “horse and buggy pace” towards justice; ignorance. It is this ignorance that yields a lack of empathy, and therefore, a lack of awareness. And this lack of awareness results in a delay of freedom ringing from every mountainside. Ignorance derives from an absence of immersion, particularly, cultural immersion. When you are surrounded by people that come from different backgrounds, or look or sound different, your level of empathy increases. You become aware of some of the struggles that people, unlike yourself, battle through each and every day. However, when you surround yourself with those who look and think the same as you, your level decreases. In order to bring justice, we must eliminate this sheltering. We must eliminate this isolation. We must encourage inclusion and diversity, public schooling for example, in order to equip minds with practical skills to interact with anyone in the world. Only then, when we unite, will the wait be over. 

Lauren Hofland 

Holland High School 

10 Grade 

Mrs. Armstrong 

Why WE Cannot Wait 


“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that in one of his most famous writings, The Letter from Birmingham Jail. The Letter from Birmingham jail was written on April 16, 1963, in response to a group of clergymen advising African Americans in the U.S. to go to the courts instead of protesting in the streets to obtain civil rights. Dr. King wrote this letter in hopes of explaining the importance of nonviolent campaigning while waiting in jail for change. There are countless reasons why we cannot wait, and countless examples for what we are waiting for. 

We cannot wait while people of color in America continue to face oppression.  For years we have seen cruel and unjust treatment through slavery and hate crimes that are still taking place today. We have witnessed the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955, a fourteen-year-old African American boy. One in a long line of approximately 6,500 people of African descent through the period 1865 - 1950 died due to the horrendous act of lynching. In today's society, we have seen the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmauded Arbery, and many more individuals who cannot be ignored. These deaths sparked protests and brought communities together to stand up for the injustice that has been taking place and say “No More!” Dr. King wrote in his letter, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” We cannot sit by while our friends, neighbors, family, and strangers we pass on the street, die due to police brutality, prejudice, and inequality. The abolition of injustice cannot wait. 

 We cannot wait idly, the fight for justice needs to be done with urgency. “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever; the yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself,” Dr. King wrote. Throughout the letter, he mentions the importance of peaceful protest. Throughout history we have seen protests take place across the U.S. We have seen MLK’s famous March on Washington, which is a monumental moment in history. There is the Greensboro sit-in where students protested racial segregation by sitting at a lunch counter and the Salma to Montgomery march where MLK and others walked to the capital to protest the suppression of black voters. We have asked for a change toward civil rights and little to no change has been made. 

We cannot wait for future generations to initiate the change we need. We cannot accomplish change if we’re not working together. We cannot let our children succumb to the oppression that has been forced upon us. Injustice ends today. Equality can be accomplished, but only if we do not wait.

Hannah Maginnis

Holland High School

10th grade


Why We Cannot Wait for Social Change

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested during a peaceful protest in Birmingham, Alabama. During his time there, he wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail” which became a staple in writing, and continues to be remembered for its impact on the civil rights movement. The reason that he wrote the letter is because of a news article he read while in prison. Eight of King’s fellow clergymen wrote about his practices, calling them “unwise and untimely.” Appalled at their words, King proceeded to write “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to explain why waiting for injustice to fix itself is counterproductive, and how it is not an option. This sentiment still holds true today, with political and social issues sprouting up around us constantly. I believe that the fight for civil liberties and justice is a continual thing; it’s never finished, and will continue to be a force of change for our world.

And so that begs the question: why should we not wait? My most basic answer would be that if we don’t do something now, then when are we going to do it? This topic, however, goes much deeper than that. We cannot wait for injustice to be cured on its own because the ones in power, the oppressors, won’t let that happen. Very rarely in history does the oppressor take away the oppressed rights, and then give them back. Do you think George Corley Wallace, the former governor of Alabama during the civil rights era, would have ever given African Americans the chance to thrive in this country? The simple answer would be no, he wouldn’t. This can be said for almost all the segregationists during that time. The oppressors will do anything in their power to keep the oppressed below them, groveling at their feet. 

Further, the act of waiting for social change will ultimately amount to no social change happening at all, and that delays the progression of society. Imagine if MLK and other civil rights activists, such as Malcolm X, decided to wait on the civil rights movement back in the 60s. Where would we be today regarding equal rights? What if Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had never advocated for women’s rights and suffrage? If these heroic individuals had never done or said anything, our society would have most likely not changed at all. Our stagnancy on these pressing matters only prolongs revolutions and rebellions and wars and death. 

As I understand it, many people today view the fight for civil rights as a thing of the past. They believe we have fixed all that we could, and shouldn’t keep perpetuating problems that don’t exist. However, it is clear from our current political climate that the subjugation and persecution many marginalized peoples face in current society needs to be taken seriously and spoken about. Women suffer from misogyny and discrimination in the work place, black people in the Americas are killed and exploited because of their skin color, queer people are murdered in the streets for loving who they love, and transgender people are hated and made out to be predators just for trying to live as themselves. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of discrimination present in our society, but we must start the discussion somewhere.

The reason for why we cannot wait is written in the history books, scrawled upon the yellowed pages of our species' influence. MLK and his works of literature will always stand as a pillar of hope and inspiration for people crushed under the tyrannical grip of those in power and will forever serve as a reminder as to why we cannot stand by and let the terrors of oppression continue to haunt our world. 

Yanyssa Ochoa
Holland High School
11th grade
Mrs. Jeanine Behrendt

I Won’t Wait

January 31 marks the 158th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 13th amendment abolished slavery in our
country. Not quite as long ago, in the 1960’s, people of color were still being discriminated against. In Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” he wrote, “we know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”. He goes on to explain that “‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never.’ [That] we must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied’”. For many years the oppressed have tried to raise their voices and speak out against injustice. Yet still,
there are many injustices that need to be spoken out about.

We must not wait, like Dr. King said. It is urgent for the newer generations to speak out about injustices they have seen or experienced. If we, the newer generation, don't do something about a problem now, why would society be any better in the future? The First Amendment gives us the freedom of assembly, religion, speech, press, and petition, something we are very fortunate to have. To every young person: don't wait to exercise your first amendment right. When you see or have experienced something that's not right, say something. Don’t wait till you're an adult, because “‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never’”.

The youth of today, have learned to speak out with passion on behalf of what they believe in. On June 2, 2020, many people partook in Blackout Tuesday. Pictures were posted on social media with a black image, and many included the caption of #BlackLivesMatter. This was a protest against police brutality, which started with George Floyd’s death in May of that year. There are many other instances where the youth took charge to speak out for what they believe in. Last summer there was a protest here in downtown Holland, against Roe v. Wade being overturned. Many of the youth showed up on these streets to protest what they believed in. They made sure to not wait to express their opinions on Roe v. Wade after the 2022 midterm elections. They made sure to show up at the polls and vote for what they believed in. They took their chance to speak out, instead of waiting for a change that may never happen. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Dr. King expresses the importance of taking action now, and not waiting to see change. He also encourages all of us to demand the oppressor to give us our freedom. Using one's voice to accomplish the changes we want to see in this world is the only way it may truly ever happen.