By Reneé Leta
Members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission honored nine Utah students for their artistic entries in an inaugural art and essay contest to honor Dr. King’s principles of nonviolence.
The commission, a program of the Division of Multicultural Affairs, launched the contest seeking art and essays from students in 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students. “When understanding spreads, so does friendship,” says Ashley Johnson, a 9th-grade winner from Bluffdale, Utah. “This is a job we are all responsible for as human beings.”
For her painting, Ashley Johnson selected the second principle of nonviolence from Dr. King — that nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. She wove a gold strand through her artwork as a way for viewers to consider the value of friendship. The artwork’s blue background represents the peaceful world we want to live in.
“Friendship is still spreading,” she says, “and you can add your hands at the bottom of the piece to see how.”
Students winners were selected from Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties. Each winner received a Chromebook computer, courtesy of a partnership with Comcast, and were lauded by Gov. Spencer Cox and First Lady Abby Cox at a ceremony at the Utah State Capitol on April 5, 2023.
“It is our job and duty to make sure that the generations to come don’t have to suffer injustice and discrimination,” wrote Aroosh Kaleem, from West Valley City, in his essay. “We should keep in mind the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. and fight violence with peace, and hatred with love.”
The commission annually promotes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, held the third Monday of January, now celebrated as a state holiday. Part of the commission’s charge is to continue Dr. King’s vision of creating “beloved communities” for Utah residents.