Editor’s Note: The Los Angeles Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) conducted student essay contests revolving around the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration this year at the middle school and high school levels.
Zion Townshend, 12, a sixth grader at the Garvey/Allen School for Visual and Performing Arts was the winner of the middle school competition. An edited version of his winning essay follows:
The world has many problems. Every problem in the world has a solution. Some of those solutions include people being selfless, and not selfish.
Homelessness is a problem. There are many things that cause people to become homeless, such as unemployment and eviction. However, with every cause, there must be an effect. In January 2018, 0.2 percent of America’s population, or in other words, 552,830 people in America were homeless. Only 358,363 of which were sheltered.
Over 40 years, the richest 0.1% of companies have seen their wages quadruple, leaving even the next 1% behind. We can easily reverse this greedy trend. Make the minimum wage a living wage. That way no one has to struggle.
Make the ultra-rich pay their taxes. If 147 of America’s richest companies had paid their 21% corporate tax rate, we’d raise enough revenue to eliminate homelessness and child hunger. The youth can spread the word, telling people what they are causing and how to prevent this from getting worse.
They might stop. Homelessness ruins opportunities and eliminates our chances. Bringing all of us together and actually working together is all it takes for us to fix the problem of homelessness.
Immigration: Many immigrants want to live and become citizens in a new country. In 2009, over 200 million people changed countries. That sounds like a lot of people. Actually, that is only 3% of the world’s citizens. There is nothing wrong with immigration. We can build a beloved community by welcoming immigration and embracing it, thereby easing people’s fears of being deported.
Racism: Not all forms of racism are visible. Example: When an employer refuses to interview a person with an Arabic surname, that’s racism. The same can be said about a black person who is followed by security in the supermarket, suspected of stealing for no other reason than the color of their skin.
We are all humans and should be treated equally in all spheres of life regardless of origin, nationality and or skin color. The youth can help by telling people what they are doing and how it affects everyone. All it takes is unity and selflessness.
Gun Violence: In 2015, 13,367 people lost their lives due to gun violence according to the Gun Violence Archive. The archive also states that out of that number, 693 were children from ages 0-11. That is a problem that needs to be addressed.
The solution to that problem has been debated by many. The solution exists in three parts: Mandatory training and licensing along with more heavily secure gun storage, stricter regulations on the purchasing of a firearm — disabilities and criminal records should be more deeply looked into before transactions — and finally, equipping teachers at high schools with the right kind of weaponry to prevent mass shootings.
To start with, training and licensing should be mandatory for any individual looking to purchase a firearm. The youth can help each other by staying together and not putting themselves into these situations. We can also influence adults to do the same.
Poverty: Poverty in America is severe. One third of our population lives under the poverty line. The poverty line is a family of three or more surviving on $36,000 or less. This transfers to 20.5 million people. Seven million of these people are women with children. About 6.7% of our population has an income of less than $9,000 for a family of three.
These numbers are astounding and on the rise. This means that more families are going without food, which means more children are starving, getting sick and dying. One in four families is going without food.
This is a huge problem. Most people don’t know just how huge a problem poverty has become. Many think it is easily solved just by getting a job.
Minimum wage in most places is $10. Most people living under the poverty line are working minimum wage and struggling to make ends meet. The youth can avoid this by never quitting their goals. Kids and teenagers can do just as much to make money as an adult.
Plenty of kids own their own business, and I myself am currently working on my own. While we cannot all get a 9-5 job, we can still open lemonade stands, or even make apps.
While all of these things exist, anything that is made can be destroyed. The youth can all come together and eliminate gun violence, poverty, homelessness, racism, and welcome immigration. It just takes unity.