Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Winning idea: Freedom is thinking

14-year-old earns first place in city essay competition

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Freedom to 14-year-old Markita Robinson is "being able to think.”

        The eight-grader and basketball player at Hays/Porter/Washburn School won first place in an essay contest on “What Freedom Means To Me.”

[photo] Markita Robinson, 14, sits with Bengals player Takeo Spikes before reading her prize-winning essay Tuesday.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        She beat out 490 student writers in Cincinnati. The contest was sponsored by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, in partnership with Coca-Cola and the Cincinnati Bengals.

        Her winning essay reads:

        “Freedom means to me being able to be myself. By that I mean being able to think the way I feel is correct. Also being able to acknowledge my past heritage. By acknowledging my heritage, I am able to know where I came from, to shine a light on where I am going.

        “Martin Luther King Jr. showed me that struggle and determination lead to a future of stability. Although struggle and discrimination still exist, I can still take advantage of every other freedom that most people take advantage of.

        “So to me, freedom means being able to think.”

        Markita read her winning essay to students at the school Tuesday during a short program.

        Evan Greene, 12, a sixth-grader from Eastwood Paideia, was the second-place winner. He and Markita each received an autographed football, a cap and a T-shirt presented by Cincinnati Bengals defensive captain Takeo Spikes.

        Janay Brunson, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Washington Park, took third place. He was not at the ceremony.

        Mr. Spikes told the students that knowing your history is important to your future.

        “The first step in going where you want to go is knowing your past,” Mr. Spikes said. He said the Rev. Dr. King and Muhammad Ali were two who set the standard for recognizing their heritage.

        Carl Westmoreland, a senior adviser for the Freedom Center, told the students that freedom starts with education.

        A former builder and developer, Mr. Westmoreland told the students that he built one of the buildings where Coca-Cola is located.

        “That is freedom, the freedom to do what you want,” he said.

        Markita is captain of her school's girls' basketball team, which has a winning record (3-1).

        “I am excited about winning the contest,” she said. “I love writing, and I love basketball.”

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