Friday, January 26, 2018

Tragedy Doesn't Stop a Community from Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Melinda Palacio
Sojourner Kincaid Rolle Preps the Contest Winners

What would have been the welcome sound of rain falling on trees, rooftops, and pavements turned into an unprecedented disaster. Half an inch of rain in five minutes fell on Montecito. The death toll has reached 20 and there are still two missing.

While mud emptied out an entire city and turned the 101 freeway into an impassable river, those who lived west of Milpas in Santa Barbara were spared the horrors of having their community swept away. Santa Barbara was sparsely populated for the duration of the 101's shutdown and the isolation of both Montecito and Carpinteria. On the Santa Barbara side schools and businesses went on as usual as people felt an eerie sense of survivor's guilt. Many who didn't heed voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders were able to ride out the fires and storm from the comfort of their homes. This was not the case for people who lived and worked in Montecito. What was it like to wake up in Montecito to find no neighbors on your street? Read T.C.Boyle's account in the New Yorker.

What should have been an all-inclusive celebration in honor of Martin Luther King, turned into a much smaller celebration because people from Montecito, Carpinteria, Summerland and beyond could not get into Santa Barbara due to the total shutdown of the highway.

Every year, I have had the pleasure of assisting Sojourner Kincaid Rolle with Santa Barbara's annual Dr. King celebration. One of the highlights of the program, held at the Arlington Theater, is the Essay & Poetry Contest. Local youth and teens, ages 6-18, participate. This year, the missing participants, parents, and audience made it clear that a disaster had befallen the community. The march from De La Guerra Plaza to the Arlington Theater was also cancelled due to lack of available police.

The program at the Arlington began with a moment of silence in honor of the mudslide victims. The MLK celebration continued and names of the winners of the poetry and essay contests were announced. Many of the students also had difficulty turning in their contest entries because the Thomas Fire had upended their lives. The deadline was extended until just days before the celebration due to the many school closures from the fire preceding the mud slides. One student from Carpinteria High School, Max Coppel, lost all of his poems in the fire, but managed to rewrite his entry for the contest and took 3rd place for his poem, "Life in America Has Changed," along with Jeanette Fantone and her poem, "For the Opressed," also from Carpinteria High. The winner was Kundai Chikowero from Dos Pueblos High School for her poem, "Follow the Legacy."  

2018 Contest Winners


Ages 13-18

1st Michelle Qin "The Human Right" Dos Pueblos High School
2nd Gabriel Ohedo "Martin Luther King, Jr." Carpinteria High School

Ages 6-12

1st Olivia Battles "Speak Up" Roosevelt School
2nd Noah Zakrzewski "MLK" Monte Vista School
3rd Noah Slotnick-Lastrico "MLK" Washington School
        Connor MacPherson "MLK" Montessori Center School


Ages 13-18

1st Kundai Chikowero "Follow the Legacy" Dos Pueblos High School
2nd Hali Schwasnick "Colors" Carpinteria High School
3rd Jeanette Fantone "For the Oppressed" Carpinteria High School
      Max Coppel "Life in American Has Changed" Carpinteria High School

Ages 6-12

1st Zachary Horne "My Dream for Our World" Roosevelt School
2nd Aspen Newhouse "Democracy" Montessori Center School
3rd Tessa de Albergaria "Living a Nightmare" Roosevelt School
         Tali McPeters "Democracy" Roosevelt School
            Quinn Davis Roosevelt Elementary

1 comment:

Sojourner The Poet said...

Thank you, Melinda. This year's celebration of the King Holiday was indeed a challenge. We are grateful for the students who submitted entries in the midst of a disaster that affected all of our lives, We are especially grateful to the teachers who persisted in making sure that we received the work their students had produced and for the parents who delivered work even when the schools were closed.

Speaking of gratitude, you, too, are due a cup of thank you for making it home to Santa Barbara from your various road journeys to help with the Poetry and Essay component every year. Its wonderful to introduce a nationally-known and experienced author to the young people. Your coaching help with the winners prior to their on-stage readings is invaluable. I'll be sending your "La Bloga" to the teachers and to the students. Onward and upward, Sojourner