Two students from Stratford STEM Magnet High School took top honors in the Tennessee Bar Association’s 2013 Law Day Essay Contest. Desire B. won 1st place and will receive $300 as well as recognition by the Nashville Bar Association next Wednesday, May 1 at the Renaissance Hotel. His essay will move on to the state competition. Read his essay below.
Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.
I grew up in a house made of sticks, mud, and dried grass in the middle of the Congo (also called the Democratic Republic of Congo.) My family of five lived on less than $1 a day. My school had no computers, no technology, and even that meager of an education wasn’t guaranteed. Several of my classmates were taken out of school and forced to fight for the army at a young age. I witnessed them carrying guns and with big smiles, fighting for a country that forced them to believe that the killing and raping of our people was something to be proud of. As luck would have it, my small frame and its perceived weakness kept me from being forced to fight at a young age. When I got older, my mother fought to protect me from the only consequence for young people who refused to fight…death.
When I was 8 years old, my mother began to talk about leaving the Congo. She began to speak of moving to a country of better opportunities. This concept was so foreign to me. I had only known the dictatorship, violence, and fear that I had grown up with. My family and I had no choices. We could not speak against the corruption that still oppresses the people of Congo. We were poor and black in a war torn country where there were no opportunities and no equality. It was hard enough to keep alive and safe and fed.
It took seven years for my family to obtain a visa to come to America. I arrived to America in 2010. I was told that not only was education free, but that the government required for me to be there. It is hard for me to believe that there was a government that would take a homeless child and feed him, clothe him, and make sure he had somewhere to stay. In the Congo, our homeless children remain homeless unless someone in his family or community steps forward to take care of him.
If America is the land of opportunity and freedom, the Congo was certainly hell.
I learned my new school in America, with its computers and books, about the US Constitution and how Americans have been guaranteed certain rights. Americans have rights not because of how much money they can bribe the government with, but just because they are American citizens. I learned about how the dream of equality may be hard to obtain for all citizens but because of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, it is much more attainable here than in my home country of the Congo. Equality is a dream for every man, woman, and child that lives in the world. Unfortunately, that dream has varying degrees of actually coming true.
Sometimes equality is not just about getting equal pay for equal work. Or making sure that there are a certain number of minorities in a job. Sometimes equality is about having an equal opportunity under the law. I now have a chance to succeed, to become a doctor or lawyer if I wanted to. As a young black teenager, I realistically know that in the eyes of many I will never be equal to a young rich kid from one of these private schools in Nashville. I have an African accent that speaks volumes before I’ve even completed a sentence.
My journey through poverty and war has made me into the man I am today. While I may never be truly equal to the rich or to white people, I have opportunities in America that I would not have had in the Congo. That is truly something to be grateful for.